How to Buy Beautiful Sustainable Furniture
I was recently sitting in a waiting room with nothing to do...so I reached for a copy of Fast Company magazine and started reading an article about Stella McCartney's crusade to integrate sustainable materials into the fashion industry. I didn't realize this but most of our clothing sits in landfills for 200 years before it breaks down! This is of course because most of our clothing is made from synthetic materials....essentially plastic. On the flip side there is a growing movement to ensure that the natural materials used in clothing is harvested in a sustainable manner....thus ensuring that we don't deplete our resources...and leave our grandchildren with a barren planet....but rather a thriving healthy planet that they can live with harmoniously.
This magazine article really resonated with me because....over the past few years I've been paying more and more attention to what I consume. I changed my toothpaste to one made from 100% natural ingredients and have been slowly working through the rest of my life.
As a result, I've started following a similar though less publicized movement in the home decor world. I've found that there are some really fabulous furniture companies out there making furniture using sustainable materials and eco friendly methods...and I've decided to not only start integrating as many eco-friendly pieces into my room designs but also to help my readers understand the phrases and terms flying around so that you can make an informed decision when buying your next piece of furniture.
So What Does Sustainable Furniture Mean?
Furniture that is sustainable means that it is made from materials that are:
repurposed or recycled
renewable (i.e. that they grow very quickly and therefore don't leave the land barren long)
non-toxic (i.e. the materials haven't been sprayed with harmful chemicals)
made using low emissions practices
not harvested from endangered plants or fragile ecosystems
So What Do the Certifications Really Mean?
Once you start paying attention to how your furniture is made you'll start seeing a couple of terms and certification titles used by major manufacturers.
A certification provided by the Forest Stewardship Council it "ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits." The council does a wide range of work that ensures that getting this certification means that the manufacturers have really done their due diligence. The council also certifies forests as responsibly managed and chains of custody.
....so this certification is great for wooden furniture but it still does not ensure that the furniture was assembled using non-toxic materials, etc.
Cradle to Cradle Product Standard
A level-rating provided by the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute that "guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories — material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product receives an achievement level in each category — Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum — with the lowest achievement level representing the product’s overall mark."
From what I could find getting a Platinum C2C standard is the holy grails of eco-friendly furniture; however I've had a hard time finding stylish furniture that uses this standard.
Most of the proclaimed eco-friendly furniture I've found is simply advertised that way...much like the organic industry. So it's a little fuzzy...but I get the impression that there are a lot of new companies that are really dedicated to really improving furniture standards...there's also a lot of established furniture companies that are making small changes....so in one example I found the wood frame of a sofa was EFT-certified but the upholstery was microfiber (a synthetic material).
As I wade further into this world I'll be sure to share my findings with you...
Where can you find Beautiful Sustainable Furniture?
Upon investigation it turns out that there are a lot of great manufacturers of sustainable furniture...though varying in their degrees of 'sustainability'. I found an amazing article in Good Trades called 14 Eco-Friendly Furniture Sources For A Stylish & Conscious Home that will give you a ton of choices.