In an era where activists and everyday people are becoming increasingly aware of, and concerned over the challenges posed by environmental change, “sustainable” has become an important buzzword – even when it comes to furniture. This raises the question, can there really be such a thing as “sustainable furniture”?
In fact, there is! Experts describe sustainable furniture as a form of furniture that is eco-friendly, environmentally safe, and made of materials that are better for the health of the planet. Beyond this initial definition, there are a number of other characteristics that help define what exactly sustainable furniture is.
Not only does this definition involve how the materials are created, but also the materials that the furniture is produced from, as well as how it is transported, and how useful it is.
Even before a sustainable furniture item is created, manufacturers first consider how useful it is for the buyer and all the users of that item. Manufacturers consider a series of questions about functionality (and specifically multi-functionality), comfort, durability, and whether the item is being made in a way that maximizes its usage.
These days, these factors are especially relevant to those who are living in small spaces and are especially interested in purchasing furniture that takes up much less space – as in the case of a sofa that can double as a bed and thereby have more than one purpose throughout the day.
By considering facts such as durability and lifespan, customers are able to invest in items that first identify in protecting the planet rather than contributing to the ongoing problem of growing landfills.
Sustainable Furniture Materials
The first element of sustainable furniture is the materials from which they are designed. Materials might include recycled items that had a previous life, or even repurposed items as well. Many sustainable furniture products are also made of renewable items as with the case of bamboo, which grows easily and can be replaced very quickly.
Finally, sustainable furniture can also be determined based on the level of safety that comes with the sort of materials used. Experts argue that sustainable materials include finishes that do not off-gas or are low VOC, meaning that they are low in volatile organic compounds, which may be harmful to the environment and humans. These items include paints and other products such as sealants, adhesives, and cleaners.
Practices That Are Sustainable
Producing sustainable furniture also involves transforming the practices and ensuring that they are responsibly-minded and are needed in order to produce the products. Along with using sustainable materials to make furniture items, manufacturing companies also need to ensure that they are engaged in practices that do not add pollutants to the environment or increase carbon emissions into the ecosystem so as to prioritize sensitive environments and encourage protectionist practices.
Aside from taking advice on crafting sustainable strategies from organizations invested in the science behind it and are certified in that knowledge, sustainable practices also include economic strategies such as practicing fair trade.
Sustainably Transporting Materials
Along with the production practices and materials that make furniture sustainable, we also must consider how this furniture is transported from production spaces to showrooms that make it a sustainable practice.
Given that transporting completed furniture requires the use of energy, sustainable furniture companies are mindful of how to get their products from where it was created – whether it was an imported item or not – to the consumer.
These companies are committed to moving their products in an efficient manner and in ways that do not use excessive space and energy during transport. One really effective way to ensure that your furniture is transported in a sustainable manner is not only to buy locally produced furniture but to ensure that those products are also made by using locally-sourced materials.
Seek Out Cradle to Cradle Certification
Determine whether the furniture has cradle to cradle certification. This form of certification is a globally recognized measure that makes sure that when products are made, they are produced for the circular economy in ways that are both safer and sustainable.
Cradle to cradle certification ensures that your furniture items are made in a way that reflects environmentally intelligent design, a commitment to human health, social equality, and a commitment to protecting the environment.
This interest extends to what will happen to your furniture item once it reaches the end of its life-span – meaning that the item is considered to be completely waste-free, or, if it is to be disposed of, it can actually be used to manufacture an entirely new item.
While purchasing sustainable furniture can require that a consumer has to think about everything from the item’s lifespan to the materials and processes used to make that item, and even how it is transported from the place it is made to the place you first see it, all of these steps are necessary for generating the most sustainable furniture items on the market.