How to Practice Sustainability With Your Furniture

Garden bench made from recycled driftwood

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Sustainable furniture might also be described as eco-friendly, better for the planet, or environmentally safe. There are certain characteristics that make furniture sustainable, including the materials used to make it and the manufacturing process itself. For example, a piece of sustainable furniture might be made using renewable energy and composed of recycled materials. Moreover, how the furniture is transported from its place of manufacture to its retailer is a consideration. And the function and longevity of the furniture are a factor.

Here's what to look for when shopping for sustainable furniture.

Sustainable Furniture Materials

Sustainable furniture is made from materials that have certain eco-friendly characteristics. These materials often are recycled or repurposed. Sustainable furniture can also be made from materials that are easily renewable. For example, bamboo grows quickly and easily, so it's a good choice for a renewable resource. Furthermore, sustainable furniture commonly avoids the use of hazardous chemicals and instead consists of products that don't off-gas or emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as nontoxic paints and stains.

Sustainable Manufacturing Practices

Using sustainable materials is only part of producing sustainable furniture. Responsible manufacturing practices matter just as much and have a great impact on our planet. Such manufacturing practices have to be safe for the environment, which means manufacturers must limit carbon emissions and other pollution. Sustainable manufacturers also often practice fair trade and don't harm communities or environments to gather materials for their products. Look for certifications on the furniture from authorities such as the Forest Stewardship Council.

Eco-Friendly Transportation

Because transportation of finished products and even raw materials for manufacturing uses energy, eco-friendly transportation methods are also part of producing sustainable furniture. Aim to buy locally produced furniture created with locally sourced materials whenever possible to minimize its carbon footprint. For imported furniture, look for companies that transport their goods efficiently, including how they package their products. For instance, furniture that can be shipped in pieces flat and tightly packed together often is more eco-friendly than shipping bulky items with lots of packaging.

Furniture Function

Another key factor in sustainable furniture purchasing is the furniture's function. Make sure the item will meet your needs, and it's something that you will be happy with for a long time. If possible, look for something that's multifunctional, such as a sofa bed, to conserve furniture production resources. Also, check the furniture quality. It should be a durable piece that can stand up to your lifestyle without needing to be replaced anytime soon. This will help to limit the amount of furniture that ends up in landfills.

Cradle to Cradle Certification 

Not all sustainable furniture will have it, but a Cradle to Cradle certification is often added to products with environmentally friendly designs. The certification covers factors such as eco-friendly materials, renewable energy use, water use, and impact on people and communities. It is applied to products around the globe, including furniture, flooring, window treatments, clothing, and more.