As more people become aware of environmental issues, interest in products which have a smaller impact on the planet is growing. Not only are green products healthier, but they are also less damaging to the environment. This trend towards sustainability is also influencing furniture choices.
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when choosing eco-friendly furniture. The aware buyer should consider not only the pedigree of the materials but also the impact of production and disposal when outgrown.
Repurpose Existing Furniture
The most environmentally sound choice is to reuse an item that has already been created. Perhaps an outdated item can be reupholstered or refinished to extend its life. With a little imagination the possibilities are endless.
Vintage and antique furnishings fall into this category. By using older furniture in new ways, the pieces are kept out of the landfill. An added advantage is that older pieces may have historic or monetary value, and they are frequently more solidly constructed. Some pieces lose value if refinished or altered, so research before changing antiques.
Choose Green Materials
There are a number of eco-friendly materials from which furnishings can be constructed. Look for wood products that carry the Forest Stewardship Council label. The Council has stringent environmental and social standards that assure wood is produced in a sustainable manner.
Other good choices are metal, glass and bamboo. Bamboo is particularly popular because it grows quickly and has a warm inviting feel similar to wood.
Look for Organic Fibers
Treated fabrics can contribute to indoor air pollution and potentially cause health issues. Many upholstered pieces are treated with flame retardants and stain repellents. While these chemicals contribute a degree of security and convenience, they contain perfluorochemicals and other toxic substances. Organic cotton and other natural fibers are a safer choice.
Where was it Created?
Even furniture made from green materials can be detrimental to the environment if it is constructed on the other side of the world. The massive amount of petroleum products used to transport items from Asia may cancel out the sustainability of the item itself.
Consider locally-made furnishings. Most areas have local craftsmen who can customize pieces to suit the buyer’s taste. Artisan-made furniture in Illinois and Indiana or any other state keeps money in the local economy and avoids the environmental toll of foreign-produced goods.
Consideration should be given to disposal of unwanted existing items. Rather than placing old furniture at the curb, items can be donated to thrift stores or sold. If the only choice is disposal, place a prominent “free” sign on the item.
By opting for easily reused or recycled materials like wood or glass, the chances new items will end up in the landfill are lessened.
Choosing eco-friendly furniture requires some research, but the benefits are worth it. Indoor air quality will improve, and damages to the environment from unsustainable production are lessened. With growing interest in green furniture, more choices are available than ever before at reasonable prices.