The Basics of Shopping for Green Furniture The Basics of Shopping for Green Furniture
What harm could a little furniture do the environment? As it turns out, plenty. The process of manufacturing furniture releases harmful emissions into the atmosphere and depletes natural resources. With this in mind, manufacturers have started to produce green furniture—furniture that is produced with low emissions, recycled materials, and with sustainability in mind. You can also go green simply by reusing old furniture, or by buying locally-produced furniture.
Conventional Furniture’s Environmental Impact
Traditional furniture manufacturing processes require a lot of glues, finishes, flame-retardant chemicals, paints and stains, all of which contribute to harmful emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at the factory and in your home. There are claims that VOCs can cause birth defects, endocrine disruption and cancer, and are a known contributor to smog. Eco-friendly furniture is manufactured to give off less VOCs.
Additionally, the wood used to construct furniture comes from trees, and of course, the world needs its trees. Often, trees can be harvested in ways that are harmful to the earth, depleting species and disrupting ecosystems. So, if you are buying any furniture, green or not, check for certified wood from sustainable forests. You can also look for reclaimed materials and salvage.
At the end of conventional furniture’s manufacturing process comes packaging (plastic, Styrofoam and cardboard) and shipping hundreds of miles by truck, plane or train.
What to Shop for in Green Furniture
When you are purchasing green furniture, look for the following materials and certifications:
- Purchase furniture made from Sustainable Certified Wood or reclaimed wood. Stay away from exotic woods unless they are certified.
- Look for furniture and fabrics made from bamboo—one of the world’s greenest plants.
- Find or make furniture out of recycled metals and plastics.
- Buy durable furniture that can be repaired. This way, your investment will have a longer life and stay out of the landfill.
- Look for Greengaurd Certification ensuring low toxicity.
- Get furniture covered in organic, untreated natural fabrics. If dyed, look for solution dyed fabrics.
Many leading furniture lines offer environmentally friendly options. They may cost a little bit more, but in the long run, they are better for the environment.
Other Ways to Get Green Furniture
Buying new might seem like the only way to get “official” green furniture, however, the greenest furniture is furniture that is recycled. That means finding a vintage or antique piece that you love, and bringing it into your home. You can find this type of green furniture in second-hand and antique shops, yard sales, and websites like Ebay, Craigslist and Freecycle.
Another option is to buy refurbished furniture. Refurbished furniture is used furniture that is refinished by a manufacturer and resold like new. This is a great idea for office furniture, where you might need to buy dozens, if not hundreds, of desks, filing cabinets and chairs. Each year, companies in the United States purchase about 36 million pieces of furniture, from desks to chairs and filing cabinets. Half of this amount is thrown out yearly in office dumpsters throughout America. Buying refurbished is not only cost-effective, but can also keep rolling chairs out of the landfill.
Last but not least, buying furniture from local carpenters and craftspeople is also green. Buying local supports the local economy and gives right back to the neighborhood where you live. You’re cutting a lot of process out—there’s no middleman, and you can ask how the piece was constructed and what materials were used. Lastly, if you buy local, your piece of furniture won’t need to be packaged like Fort Knox and shipped hundred of miles in a tractor trailer.
Acquiring green furniture—whether it’s new, used or refurbished—is a great way to promote better indoor air and renewed health. Plus, it helps to protect the environment.