How to Choose Green Furniture
As Kermit the Frog once sang “It isn’t easy being green.” But we at Tandem want to help you live as green a lifestyle as you can. We’ve already showed you how to be green and Furnish Your Davis Apartment for Less Than $500. The good folks at Treehugger.com, have other tips for How to Choose Green Furniture.
2. Furniture made with reclaimed materials
If wood is taken care of, and sometimes even if it isn’t, it can last a really, really long time. So shouldn’t we be able to make good use of all the wood that’s already out there? A lot of designers think so and are doing just that. Reclaimed wood usually comes from old furniture, houses, or other built things that are ready for some friendly reincarnation, from flawed wood, or from scraps from a factory that makes other stuff. Some reclaimed wood even comes from logs that sunk to the bottom of rivers as they were being floated downstream to the sawmill, or from the bottom of man-made reservoirs (check out the Sawfish). Either way, furniture made from reclaimed wood is a great example of resource efficiency, but usually comes in shorter supply. The Rainforest Alliance has a Rediscovered Wood Certification label to look for.
You’ve probably heard by this point that bamboo isn’t a tree at all, but a grass. Bamboo represents a family of grasses that range in size from tiny to huge, and in color from lime green to maroon stripes. It is incredibly fast-growing and versatile and has become the unofficial poster material of environmental designers and builders. Bamboo can be flattened into flooring, molded into furniture, pressed into veneers, sliced up to make window blinds, or hey, you can just build your whole house out of it. Using bamboo in buildings can earn architects and builders LEED points if they are careful about where they source it from. Most bamboo comes from China and is grown with few or no pesticides. Because it is so fast growing, it is much easier to maintain healthy bamboo forests. This also means it uses a lot of water, however, and harvesting too fast can deplete soil fertility. Some growers do use pesticides and other chemical inputs, however, so keep that in mind. Another thing to be wary of is that bamboo products are pieced together with glue – which can contain formaldehyde, depending on the supplier. The fact is we still don’t know how green bamboo furniture is.
4. Recycled metal and plastic
More and more furniture is being made from recycled plastics and metals as well, like the recycled aluminum Icon Chair. Recycled materials require less processing and fewer resources, and help support the market for recycled materials. Technologies are always improving, meaning that recycled plastics and metals are always going up in quality. It’s not all about materials, though, so here are some basic guiding principles to keep in mind when looking for furniture.
There are lots of things that claim to be recyclable; it is a meaningless and loaded word. Everything is recyclable if you are willing to spend the money to do it; that’s why coffee pod manufacturers are spending money to take back their pods and turn them into lawn chairs and garden compost; it makes people feel good. Making things out of virgin materials and calling it recyclable is marketing, nothing more.
There are exceptions. Products certified Cradle to Cradle (C2C) like certified office chairs from Herman Miller and Steelcase, can be easily taken apart, sorted into their constituent parts, and recycled at the end of their useful lives. They may start with virgin material but it is designed to be recyclable. When buying furniture, stay away from “monstrous hybrids”, pieces that are an inseparable amalgam of materials. If they can’t be taken apart it’s probably a sign that they can’t be repaired very well either.
Read the rest of the Treehugger article here.