What is sustainable furniture? There are many other terms to describe it, as you can call it eco-friendly, better for the planet, or environmentally safe. These terms may be better at defining what it is than the term sustainable itself.
But there are certain characteristics that make any furniture sustainable. We need to look at things like materials that were used to manufacture it and the manufacturing process itself.
We also need to look at how it was transported from the place of manufacture, and how useful it is.
Let us explore these in a little bit more detail.
Materials in Sustainable Furniture
Sustainable furniture is made from materials that have certain characteristics. These materials may be recycled or re-purposed. Anything that is made from materials that had previously been used for something else and are then re-used in the making of new furniture.
Sustainable furniture can also be made from material that is easily renewable. Bamboo grows easily, and can be replaced very quickly, so it can be used as a renewable resource. This is just one example.
The use of safer materials also makes furniture sustainable. The use of finishes that do not off gas or are low VOC contributes to its safety in everyday use.
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.
Manufacturing practices have to be safe for the environment, which means that manufacturers should check carbon emissions, and make sure that they do not pollute the environment. They should practice fair trade and not harm communities or destroy sensitive environments to gather material for their products.
Look for certification from authorities such as FSC, or the Forest Stewardship Council.
How Was it Transported?
Since transportation of finished products, or even raw materials for manufacturing also uses energy, responsibility in transporting is also part of producing a sustainable product.
- If your furniture was imported from somewhere else,find out how it was done. Furniture that comes to you from anywhere else does that by using and expending energy. Look for companies that are transporting their goods efficiently, and those that do not use excessive space and energy during transport.
- The most energy efficient way is to buy locally produced furniture which has been constructed using only locally-sourced materials. This will have a reduced carbon footprint.
How Useful it is
The piece of sustainable furniture should also be useful for the buyer or user. That means it should be designed in such a way that it offers maximum functionality, comfort, and ease of use.It should also be durable, so that it does not need to be replaced quickly.
- Any furniture that increases efficiency by providing greater utility for the user, such as multifunctional furniture is always preferable. It will take up less space and effectively solve the problem that it was meant to address. For instance, a sofa bed that is made to operate easily is a very useful piece of furniture.
- The durability of the piece also matters because well made furniture will have a longer functional lifespan. That contributes to the health of the planet by not adding to the landfills.
Look for Cradle to Cradle Certification
Not all sustainable furniture will have it, but Cradle to Cradle certification tells you that the product has an environmentally-intelligent design, that will have a positive effect upon the environment, human health and do something for social equity. The product will at the end of its lifespan be either completely waste free, or can be absorbed into manufacturing something else.