7 Tips to Green your Furniture
More than 90 percent of all furniture manufactured is made with materials known to cause global warming, respiratory problems, breast cancer and leukemia over extended periods of time.
✔ Buy eco-friendly furniture – There are several different factors to consider when trying to find eco-friendly furniture. Try to find furniture with the following characteristics: is constructed using nontoxic glues; uses wood sourced in a sustainable manner; and uses fabrics and cushions made from natural materials.
✔ Choose an eco-friendly upholstery material – By choosing eco-friendly materials, you will significantly lower the environmental impact of your furniture. Eco-friendly textiles will have some or all the following characteristics: recyclable; made of recyclable materials; biodegradable; produced using green manufacturing processes which don’t have chemical byproducts; follow the Cradle to Cradle principals; won’t off-gas; and are manufactured by a company with a sustainability policy. Some of the most common eco-friendly materials include: organic cotton; wool; linen; hemp; recycled polyester; cork; silk; and PVC-free faux leather.
✔ Avoid leather and faux leather – Leather, even though it is a natural product, is not a very green choice. Raising livestock for leather production is very resource intensive (feed, land, water, and fossil fuels). In addition, the tanning process creates large amounts of toxic byproducts that pollute water supplies. Faux leather, sometimes referred to as pleather, has several ecological hazards. Unfortunately, most faux leather is made from a soft form of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, commonly known as vinyl. This is made from petrochemicals and will off-gas over time and release hazardous chemicals when it ends up in a landfill. If you are looking for the leather look, look for a PVC-free faux leather.
✔ Reupholster used furniture instead of buying new – Reupholstering furniture as opposed to buying new furniture is an excellent way to both save money and to keep furniture from ending up in landfills. When reupholstering, be sure to use eco-friendly textiles and foam cushioning.
✔ Be aware of the type of foam cushioning used in furniture – Traditional furnishings usually use synthetic foams to provide cushioning. In most cases, this foam will be a form of polyurethane. Polyurethane is very resource intensive to make and contains many hazardous chemicals. These hazardous chemicals wreak havoc on the environment when disposed of in landfills. Try to find these eco- friendly alternatives:
- Natural latex foam – Natural latex is made from the sap of a rubber tree with other natural fillers. It is biodegradable and common bacteria, mold, and mildew do not thrive in latex foam.
- Soy based foam – Soy foam is polyurethane foam made with a part soy based BiOH polyols. BiOH polyols is a liquid solution created with harvested soybeans to replace a certain percentage of the petroleum typically used. While it is not 100% renewable, it is much more so than traditional foam.
✔ Look for low-VOC furniture – Many types of furniture are beginning to come with labels claiming that they are ‘low-VOC.’ This claim refers to reduced amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the furniture components, such as paint, finishes, foam cushions, and glues.
✔ Look for the FSC-certified trademark – The Trademark of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) indicates that the wood used to make the product comes from a forest which is well managed according to strict environmental, social and economic standards. The forest of origin has been independently inspected and evaluated according to the principles and criteria for forest management agreed and approved by the FSC. FSC is an international, nonprofit association whose membership comprises environmental and social groups and progressive forestry and wood retail companies working in partnership to improve forest management worldwide.