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Green Furniture

Furniture, some people simply sit on it and take it for granted.  Other people are compulsive about it and consider it a statement of how they live.  Either way, the furniture choices that you make can determine your health and the environmental impact that is made on the earth.  Innumerable eco friendly designers have emerged in the last few years providing the environmental conscious buyer a myriad of choices.
It would take more space than is here and time that you have to read about all of the manufacturers and design houses that create eco-friendly furniture.  Not all of the eco-friendly furniture is pocketbook friendly, in fact a lot of it is downright expensive.  However there are ways to acquire eco-friendly furniture without busting your budget.  Here are some general ideas and concepts that you can use when you shop for environmentally friendly green furniture.

Eco-friendly Furniture Shopping Tips

 ?    Certified the Green Furniture sustainable wood     

When one thinks of furniture the first thought that comes to mind is wood.  It's no wonder; most furniture has wood components used in the construction.  What the world needs in reality are more trees not less.  Trees are nature's way of absorbing CO2, producing oxygen, keeping the surface of the earth cool and holding the ground in one place.  Trees provide habitats for birds, insects, mammals and reptiles.  The continued perdition of the forests by deforestation reduces the environments ability to heal itself.  Responsible forestry practices result in the forests ability to sustain itself.  Certified sustainable wood is acquired from sustainable tree farms, forests that are harvested in a sustainable manner and wood that has been reclaimed.   Some of the most beautiful wood is that that has been reclaimed from the bottoms of lakes and rivers.  The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sets the standards for sustainable wood certification through it's main forest certification branch, the Rainforest Alliance.

 ?    Green Furniture made with reclaimed materials:

Wood is a very forgiving product.  Given the proper care, wood furniture and even houses can survive for hundreds of years.  With all of the old wood buildings out there that are about to be torn down, the reclamation of existing sawn lumber is readily available.  Many designers agree that old wood, houses, barns and even furniture has character and beauty and are reincarnating that old wood into their designs.  Factories that make green furniture often discard "flawed" wood which designers can turn into masterpieces of green furniture given the imagination and talent that they possess.  A growing industry is reclaiming wood from the bottoms of rivers and man made reservoirs.  Wood that has been submerged in water doesn't rot and absorbs the chemicals in the water giving it an unmatched pattern and color.  The Sawfish addresses this particular subject.  Reclaimed green furniture wood is generally in short supply however is a prime example of resource efficiency.  Reclaimed wood generally carries a Rediscovered Wood Certification label.

 ?    Bamboo  of the Green Furniture

Yes we know that bamboo is technically a grass and not a tree.  However this grass that can, depending on the variety, grow either as small as a reed or as large as a small tree.  Depending on the variety of bamboo coloring can range from a lime green to tan to even a maroon striped variety.  This highly adaptive grass can be used for flooring, furniture, veneers, window blinds or even used to build a house.  Bamboo because of it's versatility and rapid growth rate has become a symbol for the eco-friendly designer.  Designers and builders who use bamboo in construction earn LEED points.  The majority of bamboo comes from China and requires almost no pesticides during it's growth.  The rapid growth of the bamboo allows healthy bamboo forests to be easily maintained.  The only true drawback to bamboo is that large quintiles of water are required to maintain a healthy bamboo forest.  If the bamboo is harvested too aggressively the soli fertility can be depleted.  One should keep in mind that there are growers that do use pesticides and chemical fertilizers however bamboo is one of the most eco-friendly products available.

 ?    Recycled/recyclable metal and plastic Green Furniture

Everyone knows that metals and plastics can be and are recycled.  Recycled products can range from furniture to plastic boards for a deck to the re-bar that goes into the foundation of a home.  All of these purposes can be considered eco-friendly since it takes less energy to recycle than to create from raw materials.  Furniture pieces, like the Icon Chair for example are created out of recycled aluminum.  Purchasing furniture created from recycled materials creates and supports a market for recycled products.  Recycling technologies are constantly improving as demand for better quality increases.  The materials are only part of the equation however.  Here are some guiding principles in determining what is good and what is better in selecting furniture.

 ?    Green Furniture Can you take it apart?

A great deal of green furniture is created from many different products and molded into a unit that when its life cycle is complete can't be separated.  MBDC's C2C (Cradle 2 Cradle) program is an example of green furniture that can be disassembled and recycled at the end of its life cycle.  Products that can be disassembled and separated into like products and be recycled easily can be found in office chairs from Herman Miller and Steelcase.  Furniture that can't be disassembled easily can't be repaired economically when damaged either.

 ?    Green Furniture is it going to last and can I fix it?

When you look at green furniture one of the things to look at besides it's material content is how it is put together.  If the quality of workmanship isn't all it could be chances are that its lifecycle is going to be relatively short.  This means that it is going to wind up in a landfill somewhere before it really should.  While the initial expense is low, what will the expense be in the long run when you have to replace the piece?  Furniture that is created from quality materials and craftsmanship will last longer, lend itself to repair if damaged and be of generally better quality.  If in the green future your tastes change and that particular piece of green furniture is not going to fit your décor, if it is a quality piece someone somewhere will want it.

 ?    Is your Green furniture making you sick?

Chances are that the beautiful piece of green furniture that you just purchased and placed in your home is emitting (offgassing) poisons into your home.  Offgassing is the process in which the chemicals that the wood or plastic was treated with escape the material and enter the atmosphere of your home.  This in itself may not be bad, however synthetic substances can offgass chemicals, which are toxic.  Flame retardants and formaldehyde are common Volatile Organic Compounds.  Both of these are utilized in the manufacture of furniture.  These VOC's have been linked to cancer, endocrine gland dysfunction and birth defects.  If your home or office is well sealed for energy purposes, these VOC's never get a chance to escape the environment.  It is entirely possible that the air quality inside your home is actually worse than the air outside of it.  A good question to ask the furniture salesman, especially if you have children or pets, is "what is the material treated with"?  If you do ask that question be prepared for a very puzzled look.  There are ways to tell however if the material has been treated in an eco-friendly manner.
Furniture that has a low toxicity level can be identified by a Greenguard certification.  Manufacturers who offer green furniture with Greenguard certification include Izzydesign, Haworth, Herman Miller and Knoll.  Another option to look for is green furniture that is untreated or has been treated with natural materials.  Organically grown cotton is less likely to be chemically treated than other materials.  Eventually all of the toxins offgas.  If you purchase vintage green furniture then you won't have to worry about that factor.  However one thing you definitely want to look at is if that vintage furniture is coated with a lead paint.

 ?    Old is Good Green Furniture

Something that is considered "old" is often to also be considered worn out.  When it comes to green furniture, old usually doesn't mean worn out it simply means that it is "vintage" furniture.  Old green furniture once acquired may need refinishing but lurking under those 87 coats of paint may be some of the most amazing wood you have ever had the pleasure to own.  Once refinished that piece you picked up for a song at an auction or estate sale may be worth many times what you paid for it.  All of the slick ad agency hype about how eco-friendly their furniture is, can't compare to the value of vintage furniture in a purely green manner.  Vintage green furniture requires no new resources for production; minimal cost in transportation and by reuse it saves landfill space.

 ?    They Green Furniture make that here?

You might be shocked when you find out where all the materials in your new piece of furniture came from.  Chances are that there are components from all over the world.  Those components have an environmental and economic cost.  Look around your local town or city and see if any furniture manufacturers are in residence.  The environmental impact of your new green furniture may be less and you'll be supporting someone in your community.

 ?    How to say goodbye of Green Furniture

No matter how well a piece of furniture is made or how good a condition it's in, you in the green future may want to change it.  There's several ways to do that in an eco-friendly manner.  One way is to list it on an Internet auction site.  That however is going to involve a shipping cost which we really would like to avoid.
Most towns or cities have auction houses, which will take green furniture on a consignment basis.  If someone bids on your furniture you can be sure that they will want it and will take care of it.  Another alternative is to simply place it at the curb with a "free" sign on it.  Chances are it will be gone the next morning.  One mans trash is another mans treasure.  If you are imaginative and crafty, you can always take that piece of green furniture and refurbish or repurpose that piece of furniture.  There is minimal cost in this and is an excellent method of furnishing your home in an eco-friendly manner.

Submitted by Captain Sustainability on Dec 7, 2009