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Consider the Earth When Choosing Furniture

March 31 2010

As consumers today, we have more and more opportunities to consider ways in which to limit our impact on the environment through the purchases we make. Purchases for the home are no exception, and furniture is a great place to start. Whether you are refurnishing an entire room or looking for a single, special piece, the following tips will help ensure that you keep the Earth in mind as you make your selections.

Look for FSC Certification

When considering a furniture purchase, one way to know that your choices will help support the environment is to look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo. FSC is an independent non-profit organization established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests.

To earn FSC certification and the right to use the FSC label, an organization must first adapt its management and operations to conform to all applicable FSC regulations, which include 10 principles and 56 criteria governing responsible forest management, environmental conservation, and the protection of indigenous peoples’ and workers’ rights. Furthermore, furniture that bears the FSC logo has been constructed from materials harvested from well-managed forests, controlled sources, and/or recycled wood or fiber.

Opt for Products Made from Green Materials

There are an increasing number of green materials being used in the production of furniture today.  For example, many companies are opting to use bamboo – a durable, fast-growing grass that doesn’t need to be replanted after harvesting – as a substitute for wood in furniture construction. Linoleum, too, is considered a green material because it is made from all natural products – linseed oil, limestone, cork flour, rosin, wood flour, pigments, and jute – that require relatively little energy for extraction. Traditionally used for flooring, linoleum is now finding its way into a range of desk products and bulletin board materials as well.

Cork, recycled glass, and agrifibers – fibrous material generated from agricultural/bio-based products such as wheat stalk, sunflower husks, or hemp – are some other green materials to look for in current furniture production. By paying attention to the materials from which your furniture is made, you can make a tangible difference in supporting the Earth and reducing negative environmental impact.

Recycle or Upcycle Whenever Possible 

Another sure-fire way to consider the Earth with your furniture choices is by looking for opportunities to recycle. Does a friend have a gently-used sofa that doesn’t fit his or her space but would look perfect in yours? Have you looked to Craig’s List or used furniture stores as an alternative to purchasing all new items? Baby and children’s furniture, for example, can provide a perfect opportunity for recycling, since much of it still has plenty of useable life left long after a child has outgrown it.

And then there’s “upcycling,” a sustainability method in which waste materials are used to produce new products. One such trend is the incorporation of former seat belt straps into the production of new furniture pieces. In fact, many environmentally conscious furniture designers are today basing their businesses exclusively around fashioning new products from reclaimed consumer furniture materials.