What is sustainable furniture?
Sustainable practices should not just extend to the food we eat and the power we use, though they are a great place to start. Every action we take to preserve the earth’s natural resources and reduce our carbon footprint on the earth, so we should embrace and make it work for us. Choosing furniture is a long term purchase, so it needs to be a smart decision with the lowest impact on the environment as it’s going to be a decision that lasts for a long time.
If you want to create a healthy home and contribute to a healthy planet, then you have to do some planning. Standing in the middle of the furniture store is not the place to start doing your research or making decisions about what is good for the environment. Know what you want for materials before you go, then you can concentrate on the design when you find them.
The FSC, or Forestry Stewardship Council, have stringent rules on wood production. All their operations meet strong environmental, social and economic standards that you can rely on. If you are buying new furniture, be sure to find it to make sure that the wood used is being replaced and harvested sustainably. Older, second hand pieces may not run by these standards, but by buying repurposed furniture you are reducing your footprint to nearly zero any way.
Other Eco-friendly Materials
Bamboo has shot to the forefront of everyone’s eco memory as it is so versatile. It grows rapidly without the need for chemicals, is easily replanted and can be made into a solid wood, fabric or plastic type material. Not all bamboo processes are as earth friendly as each other, but all in all bamboo is a great option for furniture. It has been totally embraced by designers and has been made into wonderful sustainable designs that look good – and are good! Metal and glass are also great materials to choose as they are both recyclable and long lasting.
Furniture made of recycled material is becoming more common across the globe. Some are as simple as new covers, but others are made from raw material reclaimed from other projects. This is another great way to reduce your carbon footprint to zero, but be aware that before 1978 it was legal to use lead in paint so the paint may be toxic, and foam that has been treated with flame retardant releases more chemicals into the air as it gets older.
Furniture can taint your indoor air through toxic finishes or adhesives. Choose paints, stains, and other finishes that are water based, with the lowest possible volatile organic compounds (VOC). And look for formaldehyde-free composite wood. A single piece of high-emitting furniture can elevate formaldehyde levels enough to cause eye, nose, throat, or skin irritation or headaches, fatigue, and respiratory problems. Placing a piece of furniture outside when you first get it can minimize the fumes, since emissions are generally highest right after furniture is manufactured. But the emissions may continue at low levels for a couple of years.
If you find nothing else sustainable, make sure you buy local, if you can, from local artisans that do not spend money shipping in resources from across the country. Cut down the transport and save greenhouse gasses, as well as the cost of the furniture.
Plan ahead to make a eco-friendly purchase and know what you need ot do to save the environment, but also have a cleaner, greener, healthier home.