It’s easier than ever to furnish your home and be eco-friendly at the same time. The benefits to going green with your furnishings are vast: from a healthier home, to longer lasting pieces of furniture. Like making any purchase decision for an eco-friendly buyer, you just need to be well informed about what to look for! As with many other products, companies are well aware that society increasingly prefers green options, so it’s gotten much easier to find them. With that said, there’s no global standard for what eco-friendly really means, so it’s still very important to learn the facts and be an informed shopper.
Where to start? Signs of a good product:
Companies that truly care about the environmental impact of their products will make it a priority to be certified for their good standards (like FSC certification); however, though a smaller business may have wonderful environmental standards for the materials they use to build their furniture, they might not have enough money to apply for certain certifications to prove this. So, don’t be deterred if you don’t see any type of environmental certification, but take note if you do.
An eco-friendly piece of furniture (of the highest standard), will be built with materials that do not support illegal logging, are non-toxic, organic, reclaimed, and locally made. Don’t be surprised if you can’t find a couch that embodies all of those specifications…! Buying something that fulfills at least one or two of these qualities is a better choice than one that doesn’t.
- Non-toxic varnishes
It’s incredibly important to watch out for toxic chemicals in your home, as they can persist in the air and cause heath problems. Luckily, there are plenty of online furniture retailers that refrain from using harsh chemicals for the purpose of painting and varnishing.
- Eco-friendly woods
Unfortunately, deforestation and illegal logging have heavily depleted the Earth’s rainforests. Therefore, it’s important to buy furniture from companies that commit to using sustainably sourced wood. Unless it’s an antique, be mindful of the type of wood used for the furniture you’d like to buy. Typically, these types of woods are often the safest choices: bamboo, beech, ash, pine, or oak. Any new pieces of furniture made with “old growth” woods are more endangered, and less sustainable options: mahogany, teak, and merbau. Make sure you shop around and do your research before you buy.
- Organic Materials
In the same way that organic food is healthier for our bodies, organic fabrics have their benefits as well. Plants (like cotton) that are grown and spun into threads come in direct contact with our bodies. Choosing organic fabrics will ensure that they are not treated or grown with toxic chemicals…a serious health concern.
- Buy local
Artisan made products and furniture are on the rise. It’s not uncommon to be able to find local craftsmen again- people employing traditional methods to make hand made goods. Being sustainable means always trying to utilize what’s closest before you look elsewhere. This will avoid huge carbon footprints for shipping products in from far off places. In addition, you can feel good knowing that you’re supporting your local community, often meaning small businesses that truly need your support.
- Buy second hand or reclaimed
- A good rule of thumb is that no matter what, if you can find what you need second hand- you’re making an eco-friendly choice.
- Not to say that good, environmentally minded companies don’t deserve your business, but there’s so many wonderful pieces of older furniture that are sitting idle. More often than not, antique or vintage furniture will be made from more durable and high quality materials, (some of which aren’t as easy or sustainable to source nowadays).
- Unless you’re big into that “modern” look, older pieces of furniture often have wonderful design qualities to them…I like to think of them as one of a kind preservations of history.
- If you have materials from an old table or desk that’s falling apart, use it to make something new! There are more resources than ever showing you how to create a DIY piece of furniture. It’s not only fun, it’s rewarding!
At the end of the day, it’s important to do your research. If you aren’t sure if something is an eco-friendly choice, see what its maker has to say. If they don’t seem to have it as a priority, your call might incentivize them to do so.