Environmentally conscious interior design is seeing a huge surge in growth as more and more people demand the products they purchase be sustainably, responsibly and ethically produced. We’ve put together this quick guide to sustainable furniture building materials to help you make better-informed choices when shopping for furniture and decor items.
Recycled, Salvaged or Thrifted
Perhaps the most sustainable pieces of furniture are those made from recycled or reclaimed materials such as reclaimed wooden pallets, recycled fabrics and salvaged wood from abandoned barns, bowling alley floors or even old boxcars. Reupholstering furniture you already own is another inexpensive and sustainable way to breath new life into old furniture without having to buy something new. Purchasing second-hand or antique furniture and decor items is also a great green choice. Vintage pieces are often handmade and built to last many years and have likely been treated with fewer chemicals than many modern large-scale manufacturers. These items are also easily accessible to many folks through Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, Ebay and yes, even Amazon.
Bamboo and Rattan
Rattan (wicker) is made from weaving fibers milled from the core of rattan pole and is a lightweight yet sturdy material for everything from baskets to sofas. The stalks of rattan are solid, making it highly durable, and has a quick growth period that is much faster than trees. Similarly, bamboo has one of the highest rates of self-generation and is widely accepted as one of the best eco-friendly building materials and can be used for flooring, cabinets, furniture and more.
Down Feather Fill
In a recent study down was found to have significantly less impact on the environment than other synthetic fill materials, such as polyester. The study found down has about an 85%-97% lower impact on the envionment when compared across environmental categories such as human health, ecosystems, natural resources, cumulative energy demand and effects on climate change. Down is a naturally occurring byproduct of the food industry and is also renewable and biodegradable.
Natural Woods and Metals
It is estimated that less than 20% of the wood sold in the America is sustainable. With that in mind, some of the most sustainable woods you can buy include white ash and maple, both of which grow natively and abundantly in North America, as well as Black Cherry, which is a good substitute for the harder to ethically source Mahogany. Pine is another great option as it is widely available and highly sustainable as it grows faster than many other types of trees. Metals such as aluminum, steel or wrought iron are also excellent choices for furniture building materials.
Locally Sourced Materials or Locally Built Pieces
Locally sourced building materials and/or manufacturing processes are an environmentally conscious choice as it saves on transportation. Sourcing items from all over the country or world puts a strain on the environment. According to oceana.org, shipping is responsible for over three percent of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. That may not sound like much, but emissions from shipping are growing rapidly every year, especially with more people shopping online due to the pandemic. If possible, source your furniture and decor items from local businesses.
Why is Sustainable Furniture a Better Choice?
Eco-conscious furniture not only puts a lesser strain on the environment it also makes your home environment safer. Using natural materials found in nature you expose yourself and your home to fewer chemicals, pollutants and toxins. Some paints, fabrics, carpets, furniture and other building materials can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) over time into your home’s air potentially causing allergies, migraines and asthma. Purchasing green items cuts back your exposure to VOCs and makes your home environment and the larger environment healthier.