For those wanting to lead a more eco-conscious lifestyle, one of the hardest things to change and improve on is furniture. Large chain stores within the furniture industry often have a high carbon footprint thanks to the manufacturing processes. But, the majority are trying to move in the right direction and making small changes wherever possible to become more eco-friendly.
It’s not easy creating and sourcing sustainable furniture...but it’s also not impossible. In this guide, we’ll be going through what exactly to look out for when buying eco-friendly furniture and how to make sustainable choices when it comes to shopping.
What does Sustainable Furniture Mean?
Sustainable furniture is all about what material is being used, how the pieces are manufactured and how they are transported and delivered. When something is sustainable it typically means that the materials have been previously recycled and have been given a new life as furniture, or materials that are renewable and can be regrown easily.
It also means that the manufacturing process is as environmentally-friendly as possible and doesn't produce a high carbon-emission. Shopping locally is also much more sustainable to lessen the need to import from other countries and keep the carbon footprint low.
What to Look out for When Buying Eco-Friendly Furniture
When it comes to buying eco-friendly furniture there are a few factors to take into consideration:
- Materials - try to source sustainable materials that are either renewable or recyclable and non-toxic.
- Durability - ensure the design, materials and the construction is durable so it’ll less likely need replacing.
- Finishes - non-toxic ingredients for finishes that produce minimal or no harmful fumes will always be best.
- Production - research if the company you’re buying from strives to achieve a small-carbon footprint.
Is Wood Furniture Sustainable?
Wood is one of the most sustainable materials to use for furniture and is a popular choice amongst homeowners. As a naturally renewable energy source, it will have less of an impact on the environment and over 90% of the wood used to make furniture in the UK comes from forests in Europe that grow by approximately 661,000 hectares a year, so you can be pretty confident we won’t be running out any time soon!
Other benefits to using wood as a sustainable furniture choice include: It absorbs carbon dioxide which lowers the overall carbon footprint. It’s perfect for naturally retaining heat meaning you’ll need less energy to warm your home. It’s durable and can last a very long time. It can be reused and recycled easily.
Choosing an Eco-Friendly Sofa
At Swyft, we specialise in all things sofa-related and minimise our impact on the environment as best we can. So, here are some of our top tips for choosing an eco-friendly sofa:
You’ll want to choose a fabric that’s sustainable, so organic cotton or linen will be the best option as they are both strong, natural fibres that can biodegrade over time and doesn’t require much energy to produce. Avoid any synthetic material such as polyester or vinyl as these are quite damaging to the planet and produced with highly toxic dioxin.
You’ll also need to make sure that the sofa has not been treated. This is because stain and fire-resistant chemicals have resulted in multiple different health and environmental risks. It can also be potentially dangerous to any kids or pets you may have so it’s best to steer clear.
For vegans any leather product is completely out of the question, it’s quite controversial amongst those looking to live an eco-friendly lifestyle too. But, it is a highly durable material and is typically created using a by-product from another industry, meaning no additional land or resource is needed.
Buying leather sustainably can be tricky as most manufacturers produce toxic chemicals for the dye or use child labour. Some companies, however, use vegetable oil to tan the leather which is much more eco-friendly and there are also eco certifications available which assure low-impact production and protection of employee’s health. Buying used or vintage leather sofas is also a great choice as it means you’re extending the life of the product.
When it comes to the frame of the sofa, look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood or recycled steel. Ideally, frames should be designed to be strong, sturdy, durable and easy to disassemble for recycling purposes in the future. All of our products at Swyft are made with FSC certified wood, so you can be confident you’re buying sustainably from us.
How to Buy Sustainable furniture
Before heading to the shops to look for sustainable furniture for your home, first check with your friends and family to see if there’s anything they’re looking to sell or get rid of. You may find some real, cost-effective gems this way and you’ll be doing your part in helping the planet by reusing, upcycling and prolonging the life of existing products rather than taking them to the tip.
If there’s nothing your friends or family can offer you though, then the next best place to visit is used furniture shops for thrifty, sustainable finds. You can also check out online resellers too such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Depop, although it’s much better to buy local furniture to cut back on transportation costs and emissions.
If you’re wanting to buy new then we’d suggest avoiding the big chains and shopping in local, independent places as they are much more likely to be eco-conscious. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as if they are FSC certified, what materials and finishes are used and how they produce the products, to ensure you’re getting something as sustainable as possible.
Find out more on how we plan on doing our part in looking after our environment through sustainable furniture.