In all areas of our modern lives, we’re going green whenever we can—including our household and office furnishings. Furniture makers are now producing bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom furniture made of renewable or recycled materials with an eye to environmental friendliness. With eco-friendly furniture getting easier to find, more varied in style and more affordable, greater numbers of people are opting for the natural, the recycled, the organic and the sustainable.
Buy used or antique furniture, if it is available, affordable and fits your lifestyle. Although the supply of recycled old furniture that fits into today’s lifestyle tends to be low, this is a tried and true way to buy eco-friendly furniture.
Choose new furniture made with sustainable materials whose production has a minimal impact on the environment. The array of choices is wider than you might expect. Experiment with furniture made with unconventional materials such as wheat, sunflower or hemp. Did you know that hemp produces over twice as much fabric and twine per acre than cotton or trees?
Avoid furniture crafted of new wood, which contributes to deforestation—all wood furniture should be from sustainable resources, such as recycled wood or bamboo. Technically a grass, bamboo has many of the aesthetic and workable properties of wood and grows quickly without pesticides. Wrought iron and recycled metal and plastic add essential durability to eco-friendly designs.
Foam cushioning is susceptible to off-gassing over its lifetime. For cushioning in sofas, love seats and beds, opt for natural materials such as organic cotton padding, kapok or latex—or seek out ergonomic designs that negate the need for plush filler.
Ask questions of the furniture-maker to determine whether the production processes is eco-friendly. Opt for furniture made using a process that is nontoxic to people and that’s less resource-intensive on the environment. Avoid furniture made with toxic paints, epoxies, stains and varnishes.
Take stock of your practical needs before buying—don’t get seduced by an item of furniture simply because it’s gorgeous. Dressers, desks and other functional furniture should have the capacity and ergonomics that match your needs.
Test-drive the furniture before making a purchase. Make sure the bed, sofa, table or chair you’re considering is comfortable, ergonomic and durable. Pick out classic styles that are not just attractive, but enduring and practical, too.
Look for furniture that can be taken apart and put together again and repaired with ease. This increases the longevity of the furniture and the chances of reclaiming its parts.
Buy quality, with an eye to the future, considering the length of time the furniture will last when comparing prices. Follow the example of the Depression-era generation, who learned during the Depression years and World War II to conserve scarce resources and make them last. Picking furniture you’ll use over the long-term and avoiding a constant turnover of “disposable” furniture is important to being eco-friendly.