What images are conjured up when you hear the phrase “eco-friendly furniture? “ Angular wood furniture? Couch cushions lovingly and magically crafted from newspapers? Or maybe when you think of green home furniture, you imagine modern looking rubber furniture that almost looks like it’s from the future!
The truth is, there are a lot of different types of furniture that you can choose for your home that is green, sustainable, and eco-friendly.
Eco-friendly furniture is furniture and home goods which promote sustainability. Green home furniture isn’t just limited to organic upholstery or pieces crafted from wood, bamboo, metal and glass – though those are great options. It also includes reused furniture like vintage pieces and antiques.
Finding eco-friendly furniture isn’t always as cut and dry as checking for the “100% eco-friendly” stamp. But there are key indicators that will help you to know when you’re found sustainable furniture pieces.
Natural, Sustainable Materials
- Wood. Recycled wood pulled from previous project, construction sites and landfills is a good place to start. When it comes to new wood you want to make sure you’re not contributing to deforestation. Yes the wood has to come from somewhere, but the goal is to ensure that the ecosystem from which your wood originates hasn’t been permanently disrupted or destroyed altogether and to ensure that the workers, some of them half a world away, responsible for harvesting the wood haven’t been exploited. The Forest Stewardship Council assumes the responsibility of identifying wood that has been sustainably managed. You can feel confident that wood marked with FSC’s logo is eco-friendly wood.
- Bamboo. Bamboo is a strong, fast-growing grass that lends itself nicely to furniture design. It’s generally grown with little or no pesticides and the rate at which bamboo grow helps to ensure that it is sustainable.
- Glass. Glass is a fantastic choice for sustainable furniture. Of course, millions of tabletops the world over are made from glass. Glass is a strong, stable material. It can be recycled without destroying its form and characteristics. As well, glass can be recut and reshaped for reuse.
Eco Friendly Finishing Touches
- Upholstery. You can make sure your covered or filled furniture is eco-friendly by looking for natural, organic fabrics. Go for organic cotton because they are durable and have not been treated with chemicals that could be toxic to your system. Aim for natural latex foam to fill cushions.
- Finishes. Make sure that any stains and finishes used to treat your furniture is free of any toxins. That means your wood stains and paints should not contain formaldehyde and PBDEs. As tempting as it is to ignore this one, steer clear of stain-resistant fabrics, which often contain Teflon. Teflon is convenient, but it contains chemicals that are dangerous to humans. According to TreeHugger.com, the chemicals present in Teflon have “been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals and is in the blood of 95 percent of Americans, including pregnant women.”
Where to Start
If you’re excited to start adding eco-friendly furniture to your home, don’t start by throwing away all of your current furniture and going out to buy all new items. That’s not “green” at all! Instead, replace furniture as needed with sustainable options.
You’ll want to consider focusing particularly on those items that your family members are in contact with most often. For example, we spend a third of our lives sleeping, so it makes sense to have a bed that is as non-toxic as possible. This is especially true for small children and babies, which is why an organic crib mattress is always a wise purchase.
Green home furniture is growing in popularity because of its sustainability and because there are some savvy and artistic furniture designers out there who have perfected a million imaginative things to do with environmentally safe resources like wood, bamboo and cotton, wool.
These days, you can pick up eco-friendly furniture from the catalogs of rising stars in the home décor space, or you can take a trip to your local mall and check out Pottery barn’s latest. Whatever your choice, trust that eco-friendly furniture provides an excellent alternative to traditional furniture.