The Brundtland report published in 1987 by the ‘World Environment and Development Commission’ introduced the concept of sustainability. However, it was only at the end of the 1980s when the first attempt was made to design sustainable furniture in the USA and Europe.
What is sustainable furniture?
Sustainable or eco-friendly furniture is manufactured by wood or other raw materials from renewable sources and has minimal negative externalities on the environment. In producing this type of furniture, only a negligible amount of chemicals are used.
Types of sustainable furniture
There are many types of sustainable furniture, and one can choose among them. A few types of environmental friendly (or environmentally sustainable) furniture are:
Eco-friendly furniture is made either from recycled material or from wood sourced from suppliers who use eco-friendly ways to grow and harvest it.
Producing this type of sustainable furniture uses substances that don’t cause pollution, and also resources used are kept to the bare minimum.
Up-cycled is refashioned furniture made from old or discarded materials. The process does not involve breaking down the materials like in the recycling process. Furthermore, the quality of upcycled items is of the improved or same quality.
This type of sustainable furniture saves the materials from landfills and also requires less resources.
Organic furniture is made from pieces that are harvested locally without using pesticides. Non-toxic dyes and glues are required to produce organic furniture and producers do their best to purchase from local stores.
It has a slightly better effect on the environment because it does not require transportation, uses minimum resources to produce raw materials and does not contaminate soil as non-toxic dyes and glues are used in it.
Most sustainable furniture companies offer green furniture. This type of furniture uses materials from eco-friendly forests, are manufactured locally, uses minimal toxic items and is very durable. It can be easily disassembled, recycled and repaired.
Due to its durability, it can be used for a lifetime, saving on raw materials, energy resources, dumping of furniture and transportation.
Reclaimed furniture is made from the wood that is retrieved from factories, old barns and warehouses. The wood used in this kind of sustainable furniture usually can’t be repaired and are discarded.
The beams, roof trusses and joints are generally reclaimed and processed into furniture pieces.
Non-toxic furniture mainly includes cushions that are made from natural materials like wool, sustainable latex and cotton. Some brands also use solid wood which is not filled with formaldehyde.
The cushions or wood used in non-toxic furniture is not treated chemically, and no stain-resistant or water-resistant coatings are used.
Eco-friendly leather made from sustainable material is sometimes also used in this type of sustainable furniture. The leather typically phases out the use of toxic dyes, varnishes and glues.
Fair trade furniture
Fair Trade furniture is made from wood that is traded between producers from developing countries and companies from the developed world. The trade ensures that the producers get a fair reward from companies to build their business and prosper.
What to look for when buying eco-friendly furniture?
What makes furniture environmentally safe? There are a few key points that will assist you in deciding what to look for when buying eco-friendly furniture.
The first thing you need to check is the material used to make the furniture. Sustainable furniture is usually made up of eco-friendly or renewable materials. It can also be recycled and repurposed.
Go for furniture made out of wood that matures fast, like bamboo. Bamboo takes only five years to mature as compared to Oaktree wood which takes seventy years to grow.
Only using eco-friendly materials doesn’t mean the furniture is sustainable. You also need to check the manufacturing process of the product. If the manufacturing plant of furniture releases carbon emissions or other harmful gases into the atmosphere, then the furniture is not sustainable.
Electrical energy, which comes from diesel generators or a coal plant when producing furniture, is also not eco-friendly furniture. Consider choosing brands that use green electric energy to manufacture furniture like energy from hydro plants, solar or geothermal sources.
Eco-friendly transportation for raw materials and finished goods is also considered to be part of the process when it comes to producing sustainable furniture. It is best to buy furniture locally, made with locally grown wood and fabric, to minimize carbon emissions.
If you buy furniture online, check their partner company that delivers the goods. Enquire if they use energy-efficient and green modes of transportation or not.
Also, make sure to buy furniture that can be flat packed or packed in pieces to be fixed together as it will be more eco-friendly when compared to bulky and oversized furniture packaging.
Function of furniture
Another critical point of purchasing sustainable furniture is its usefulness. It should meet your needs, be easy to use and comfortable.
If possible, go for multifunctional furniture like a sofa-bed which can be used as a bed as well as a couch.
Also, go for more durable furniture so that you do not have to replace it often. This will save resources and contribute to a healthy environment.
There are specific certifications given by various bodies which guarantee the sustainability of furniture.
Cradle to Cradle: C2C certified furniture can be disassembled, recycled and replaced.
Eco3Home: This tag certifies that the brand takes responsibility for manufacturing the product and sourcing the materials. Companies using this tag are usually able to provide health, safety and environmental information for a particular product they manufacture.
Forest stewardship council certification (FSC): FSC certification gives you a guarantee that the wood used in the furniture is harvested responsibly.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification: This certificate is given for sustainable manufacturing plants taking into account five categories which are energy efficiency, water savings, usage of sustainable materials, sustainable sites and indoor air quality.
Low or no VOC (Volatile Organic compound) label: Look for no or low VOC, which states that the furniture is water-based and does not release hazardous organic compounds into the atmosphere.
Advantages of using Eco-friendly furniture
There are various benefits if you use sustainable furniture with some vital ones, which are:
Good for health
Various chemicals, especially formaldehyde, are used in typical furniture; that’s why it is harmful to your health. Thus, opting for sustainable furniture saves you from harmful chemicals and keeps you away from toxic glue, paints, and leather used in non-sustainable furniture.
Eco-friendly furniture is made from recycled material, which is why it is more pocket-friendly than traditional furniture. Also, since sustainable furniture is intentionally made to use for a more extended period, you save money buying furniture now and then.
Besides, environment-friendly furniture uses various interesting natural textures, which makes furniture stylish and pretty unique.
To meet increasing population demands, everyday forests are cleared to make way for business properties like mining sites and shopping malls.
Also, wood from the forest is used to produce furniture. By opting for sustainable furniture, you contribute to the prevention of deforestation up to some extent.
15 Best Sustainable furniture companies
Though there are many brands which claim to be a sustainable furniture company, there are also many fake ones in the market. Here is a list of fifteen brands that are genuine and provide affordable environment-friendly furniture.
1. West Elm
West Elm sells FSC certified furniture pieces for the dining room, bedroom, living room and offices. It is a USA brand with responsible retail policies and modern design selections. The company is committed to forest conservation and sustainability and has a few stores in America and Australia though you can shop online from any part of the world.
Joybird makes eco-friendly, non-toxic customized sustainable furniture, specializing in furniture for the dining room, living room and office furniture. The store is online with a shipment facility across the USA.
3. The Citizenry
The Citizenry offers high-quality, sustainable furniture in limited quantities with expertise in the bathroom and bedroom furniture. The company is known for fair trade practices and handcrafted furnishings with an online store which ships the products internationally.
This USA based company makes environment-friendly furniture and supplies products through its online store.
Sabai uses FSC certified wood and is famous for sofas, ottomans and sectional tables. The products from this company are water-resistant, easy to assemble, scratchproof and modular.
5. ABC Home
This ethically sourced company makes fair trade furniture for the dining room, living room and bedroom. ABC Home has flawless, elegant and modern furniture designs with an option to purchase online.
6. Crate & Barrel
Crate & Barrel is an FSC certified company that makes all types of sustainable furniture for your home. Some of their products, like bath accessories and kitchen appliances, use eco-friendly bamboo wood.
The company is based in Canada and USA but has shipment facilities all over the world.
Thuma is a San Francisco based company that is well known for quality craftsmanship, elevated design and thoughtful bedroom furniture. They sell all kinds of sustainable furniture with expertise in nightstands and platform bed furniture.
They give a lifetime warranty on their products, with every furniture piece packed sustainably. They do not have physical stores, but you can buy online if you live in the USA.
Burrow produces sustainable and upcycled furniture with a speciality in couches, accessories, storage and living room tables. They make formaldehyde-free furniture with hundreds of stores across the USA, but one can shop online from any country as well.
9. Etsy Reclaimed Furniture
Etsy is a famous brand of eco-friendly items of furniture known for up-cycle and reclaimed appliances. They produce tables, shelves, headboards and benches, which are handmade and original.
You can choose and shop online from Etsy with thousands of varieties and designs available.
Chairish is an online marketplace for various sustainable designer brands with expertise in tables, storage furniture, seating and bedroom furniture. The furniture pieces are very stylish, and one can buy online only in the USA.
Avocado is a renowned sustainable furniture brand that specializes in reclaimed furniture. The company is best known for mattresses, end tables, bed frames and dressers with a facility to buy online only in America.
Medley is a sustainable furniture manufacturing company that makes customized modern sofas and chairs, accent tables and storage appliances.
The company does not use harsh chemicals and fire retardants and gives free returns if you don’t like the product. It has an online store with supplies to the USA and Canada.
The USA based brand, which ships internationally, is famous for living room, bedroom, and children room furniture. The furniture Inmod manufactures are eco-friendly, stylish and functional. You can buy their product online globally.
Ecobalanza mainly focuses on sustainable and handcrafted couches which are made from toxic free chemicals. The company uses FSC certified woods which causes minor damage to the environment. The brand is based in the USA, with the facility to ship internationally.
15. Viva Terra
Viva Terra is a USA based fair trade Furniture Company that is very particular about integrity and sustainability in producing products. It is very famous for its kitchen, dining room and living room furniture. The brand delivers its products only in America.
If you want to know all about sustainable furniture and want to live a more eco-friendly life, we have provided all the descriptive information. The descriptions of various brands here will help you in choosing your furniture in a more informed way.