We export furniture around the world
10th July 2012
When people shopped for furniture in the past, the main decision points were usually around color, style and price. Nowadays, more and more consumers are looking at a piece of furniture’s environmental impact before they buy, and the materials play a huge role in furniture’s carbon footprint. So what exactly is the greenest stuff to make furniture with, do you know? Let’s take a look at 3 materials that furniture is most commonly made from - wood, metal, and plastic and explore how each stacks up in terms of health, environmental impact and durability.
Health and safety should be a top concern when it comes to the furniture we buy for ourselves and our families. Since our average time indoors can be 90% of the day, good air quality is a must. Poor indoor air quality is often related to toxins in furnitures, and can cause all sorts of health problems like emphysema, asthma, headaches and fatigue. The two biggest culprits found in furniture that could foul up the air in our homes are VOC’s from glues, paints, varnishes and adhesives and PVC from finish materials. A good general rule of thumb here is that the cheaper the product is, the more toxic it most likely is. Check out Green Guard for more information.
Where does your furniture come from and where is it going to end up? Forward-thinking furniture companies have taken the consumer’s growing concern about recyclability to heart and endeavor to design and build their products to be reused or recycled at the end of their life span. If you want to make sure that the pieces you’re buying are truly responsible, look for the cradle to cradle label.
Where we get our raw materials is crucial when we consider that some sources may be depleted in our lifetimes if we abuse them! Sourcing wood responsibly is especially critical for the state of our biosphere, and the most trusted certification system in the U.S. for responsible wood sourcing is the Forest Stewardship Council or FSC. The FSC certifies responsible management of forests, and has a proven track record for keeping our thirst for wood from endangering the land it is harvested from. If you see an ‘FSC’ label on a product, this is a great sign of eco-consciousness in your material supplier, but since less than 12% of global forestry is part of any certification scheme, it is not yet a definitive standard. There are plenty of sources of responsibly managed wood that are not certified by the FSC or any other forest management organization. When seeking renewable materials, rapidly renewable products made from bamboo, cork or agriboards are another great option.
Build quality is the real sustainable choice in the end - it’s more than “you get what you pay for,” it’s about your acknowledgement that there is no away in throw away and that what you fill your life with is a reflection of the quality of the life you want to live. Celebrate quality materials and design as a way of keeping yourself connected with your immediate and larger environments.