3 Tips for Buying Green Furniture
When shopping for furniture with the planet and your health in mind, weigh your priorities. Are you chemically sensitive? If so, among other concerns, you’ll need to find furniture with fewer bonding agents and reduced formaldehyde content. If ecology is your priority, you may want furniture made from materials that are completely natural and biodegradable or made from recycled materials. Once you’ve identified your key motivations for buying green furniture, consider the following three tips.
Reuse makes good green sense.
Recycled-content furniture is an integral part of the ecological picture because it makes great use of the unfathomable amount of waste we create each day on our little planet. Don’t discard material because it’s not natural; it’s already here, transformed from its original, natural state to the plastic (or whatever) it is now. Keeping it in the loop and reusing it is the best we can do in our existing situation. We’ve become very good at recycling, but if we don’t actually use recycled materials, they end up right back where we’ve always sent them, piled up at the dump or floating at sea.
Antiques are also good ecological choices—longevity is an important aspect of being green. Because antiques have been well cared for, valued and used through the generations, acquiring an heirloom is an excellent method of recycling. Instead of making inexpensive purchases, consider saving up for a special piece of furniture whose quality and beauty will be valued for generations to come.
Look for sustainable, nontoxic new materials.
If you buy new wood furniture, ask whether the wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which means the wood was sustainably harvested and has a documented chain of control. Other elements to consider for their health and environmental impacts include wood finishes, adhesives, batting, upholstery fabric, fire retardants, and coatings for waterproofing and soiling prevention. It may seem that there is more to bear in mind than can possibly be addressed, but most companies that are eco- or green-minded have addressed many of these issues—at least in their thinking, if not their products—and can speak intelligently with you about them.
Consider the production chain.
Be aware, as well, that the decisions you make affect the people who manufacture these products and materials. Synthetic materials and adhesives that may be relatively benign by the time they make it to your home can be quite toxic during manufacturing or cultivation. For example, conventionally grown cotton represents only 6 to 10 percent of the world’s crops but uses 35 to 40 percent of the world’s pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. The cotton in most clothing is produced this way, and the same is true of linens, bedding, and upholstery fabric.
As consumers demand and purchase more organically grown and untreated cotton and other fibers, destructive agricultural practices will gradually shift to sustainable ones. And with greater consumer demand, the cost of sustainably grown fibers will decline. This is better for the planet, the farm workers, and you and your family.
Incorporating environmentally sound and healthful green furnishings into your home is much like eating a healthy diet: if pieces are organic, untreated, and made of natural materials, they’re better for you, the planet, and the people who created them.