What is Sustainable Furniture?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Sustainable furniture is furniture which has been built in a way which is deemed sustainable, meaning that it is environmentally friendly. Companies may independently determine that their products adhere to sustainability guidelines, or they may pursue certification through an organization which conducts audits and inspections to verify claims that products are sustainable. Consumers may be willing to pay a premium for certified sustainable furniture, as a way of expressing their concerns about the environment.

Sustainable furniture is intended to minimize waste while highlighting the natural beauty of the products used.
Sustainable furniture is intended to minimize waste while highlighting the natural beauty of the products used.

The goal of sustainability is to create products for consumers which will meet their needs while having a minimal impact on the environment. In the case of sustainable furniture, this can include everything from the materials used to the way in which the furniture is manufactured. Many sustainable furniture manufacturers utilize only natural products, avoiding synthetics due to environmental concerns, and they place a heavy focus on renewable natural products, ranging from fast-growing bamboo to recycled wood products. They also tend to use products which have been certified as environmentally friendly by independent groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council.

In addition to considering construction materials, sustainable furniture is constructed in a factory which is designed to be environmentally friendly, including features like energy efficiency and measures to avoid waste. The factory may also have features such as a green roof which contributes to energy efficiency while providing a habit for plants and animals, and it may be located in an area which minimizes the need for shipping. Other shipping considerations can include reduced and recyclable packaging, the use of fleets of trains and trucks which run on alternative fuels, and so forth.

Designs are intended to minimize waste while highlighting the natural beauty of the products used. Instead of using a chemical wood finish which seals the furniture in a pristine state, for example, the manufacturer might just oil the furniture, which will allow the finish of the furniture to change with age as it is used. Some companies also make contributions to environmental causes as part of their stated missions, allowing people to benefit the environment indirectly every time they make a purchase.

Another feature of sustainable design is the promotion of a healthy workforce. Companies which pay workers well, provide benefits, and stay active in the communities where they operate are generally believed to be more sustainable than companies which do not help their workers, for example.

When evaluating furniture to determine whether or not it is sustainable, independent certification is definitely one thing to look for. People may also want to research the materials used to learn more about them and to see how sustainable they truly are. Some other considerations might include the distance the furniture needs to travel to reach the consumer, the anticipated lifetime of the furniture, and whether or not the manufacturer behaves in an ethical manner.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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