When buying furniture, have you ever thought that the new bedroom set or dining table that you have just bought is actually environmentally friendly? If you’re eco-conscious, you must have had one or two thoughts about your purchase and therefore prefer to buy furniture that has been produced more sustainably. But how do you tell if the furniture you’re about to buy is environmentally friendly? Here are 5 things you should know before you buy eco friendly furniture.
Wood doesn’t automatically mean eco friendly
One of the most common misconceptions that we have in mind when we buy eco friendly furniture is that avoiding anything having metal and plastic will automatically make it more eco friendly. However, the reality is far from this.
Most furniture made today uses Cedar or Sai. Cedar trees usually take around 20-30 years to fully grow, and even if they’re grown in the perfect environment, they still take no less than 10 years. A tree that took around 30 years to grow with the purpose of supplying oxygen and providing animal habitat, is chopped down within a matter of hours, just to make a dinner table and a few chairs.
If you truly want to buy furniture that is environmentally friendly, but prefer it to be made from wood, choose a type of furniture that is made from wood that doesn’t take years to grow; aka bamboo! Bamboo is one of the most sustainable plants on Earth, and after its initial sprouting period of 5 years, it can literally provide an unlimited supply that can be used to make all kinds of furniture. Find out more about what makes bamboo so environmentally friendly.
Try to find things made from recycled materials
If you’re going to buy eco friendly furniture that involves materials like glass and metal, try to find furniture that uses recycled raw material. Glass and metal are in most cases fully recyclable and, when recycled, can be used exactly like the new thing. In fact, you and your guests won’t even know the difference! Recycled materials help reduce the wastage of non-renewable resources like metal, and help lower the demand for them as well.
If you’re lucky enough, you may even get a better deal on furniture made from recycled materials than furniture made from new materials, since the cost of production is lower than that with newly sourced raw material, so it’s eco friendly and helps the wallet too!
Ensure what you are buying can be recycled
One thing that you should make sure when you buy eco friendly furniture, regardless of whether it is made from new or recycled material, is that it can be recycled. Every few years, we plan on changing our furniture and in the process of bringing our new sofa or bed we ignore that we have to get rid of the old one. Therefore, we casually throw the old furniture out which then, in most cases, spends the rest of eternity in some landfill across the city.
If we buy recyclable furniture in the first place, we can potentially avoid adding more garbage in landfills, and saving resources that can be used elsewhere. Furniture has a combination of various materials such as fabric, metal, wood, glass and even plastic. If all (or most) of those materials are recyclable, one piece of furniture can be used to produce several different products such as bags, cans, and even more furniture.
Make sure there are no toxic chemicals involved
Furniture goes through a complete process before it can be ready for sale to the public, which includes cutting, painting, polishing, laminating etc. During this time, furniture is often treated to increase its shelf life, and to prevent fungi or rust from building up (depending on the type of material used). This treatment mainly involves a combination of chemicals, which in most cases are deadly when exposed to humans.
However, that’s not the main problem. The toxins are highly unlikely to cause deadly effects to people since the chances of them being released into the atmosphere are fairly slim. The main problem lies in the flame retardant being used on the furniture, which according to both Times and BBC, are directly related to cancer.
Flame retardants are highly toxic chemicals and can easily release from the furniture and be inhaled by your family members as well as pollute the air around you. So if you’re buying eco friendly furniture, make sure it doesn’t have any fire retardant treated onto it, or better yet, any toxic chemicals infused during its manufacture.
Don’t buy what you don’t need
Last, but not the least: Don’t buy furniture (or anything) that you don’t really need. As soon as you enter the furniture store, you’ll be overwhelmed by the various “shiny objects” that you simply MUST have. Before you know it, instead of a single chair that you originally planned to buy, you’re now buying 3 full sized couches!
Buying more stuff isn’t really the problem here though; since you bought the last 3 couches (that you didn’t need), someone else who NEEDED to buy those would now order more. More orders mean more furniture built, which needs more raw materials, which means more sourcing, which ultimately means production of plastic, extraction of metal, and chopping down more wood, all of which are harmful to the environment.
This whole scenario would have simply been avoided if you’d just bought what you originally planned to. So the next time you’re buying a chair, let that temptation go and just buy a single chair!
Buying eco friendly furniture helps ultimately reduce the impact of your home on the environment, and as a bonus, it also helps promote environmental sustainability to your friends and family whenever they visit. Knowing the proper concerns before you buy eco friendly furniture is key, and if done correctly, it can prove to be the best purchase you ever made.