Since I started this blog I wanted to talk about sustainability. I am sure it is a topic which is important to all of us. We should all get better in our choices to keep our world the best we can for future generations, so I’ve been collecting some information about it, particularly in regards to my area: interior design and sustainable furniture.
One of the things I knew was that Bamboo was a very good example of sustainable material, one of those “you can’t go wrong” choices when you are looking for “green furniture”. Nevertheless, I found a very interesting analysis at Treehugger.com that illustrates how complex this matter can be:
“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.“
As you can see it is not only about the materials. Sustainability goes way beyond the material/product itself. There is an entire supply chain involved: from growing/extracting all the way to transportation, reuse and recycling. It is a complex issue and that is in part why people don’t know where to start to make their contribution.
We all want to do conscious choices but we can’t keep up investigating every green furniture company’s environmental policies or 100% certified manufacturers out there. So, what can we really do?
Here I will try to summarize basic concepts that can help us all make more sustainable decisions when designing our homes.
Repurpose your old pieces
Do you have pieces with emotional value? Give them a second chance. Repaint an old chest, reupholster a tired chair, or strip a dining chair and keep using it. Pieces that look old and ready to be disposed can look new again — and become a serviceable piece of sustainable furniture
Reusing is the first strategy towards sustainability.
As far as energy is concerned, when purchasing something the most efficient thing you can do is to buy locally produced furniture, preferably constructed with locally sourced materials. This will decrease the environmental impact of shipping.You will be adding a lot of personality to your home PLUS supporting the local community. A clear win-win.
Whenever you buy a second hand piece of furniture you can be sure (and yes, I’ve done the research!) it is the greenest purchase of all. There are no additional costs to manufacture, it is already off gassed, it usually has a very good quality and locally sourced. In my humble opinion every place should have at least one piece of vintage furniture to have some cozy feeling we all look for.
Look for furniture made with recycled materials. Producing new materials requires much more processing and resources than recycled materials, so if you can shop for recycled metal and plastic for instance, that is a great choice.
Prioritize quality of materials
The durability of the pieces you buy should matter a lot. Furniture made to last will have a positive effect on the environment and will contribute to the health of the planet by not adding trash to landfills.
Find furniture with double duty
A sustainable piece of furniture should be, among other things, useful for the buyer and or the user. Double duty pieces, without a doubt, are more efficient, more useful and they occupy less space. And since you can’t promise you will like or need your furniture forever, smart furniture tends to be much easier to sell.
Stay away from faux leather
Furniture made from pleather and other leather substitutes are heavily treated with chemicals. That’s never a win.
Find a home for your old furniture
When it is time to part with your possessions, no sturdy artefact should be left rotting in the landfill. If we decide we don’t need something anymore, it should be our mission to find a new home for our old pieces. In the US we have many options to help those pieces find a new home: From Craigslist, Freecycle or eBay, going through local Salvation Army center and garage sales and I am sure that wherever you are you can find organizations that can help you.
In short sustainability is not somebody else’s business: it is ours.
Although the challenges to adopt a total eco-conscious way of furnishing our homes can be sometimes overwhelming and sometimes also over priced, I strongly believe 2 things:
- It is our responsibility -me, you and all of us- to make choices in our day to day lives that will leave the world either the same or hopefully better than how we have found it ourselves.
- There are many actions we can take that can have great impact in the way we treat the planet. I am sure you are taking some actions of your own.
Let’s keep up the good work.
You might also like: A deep dive in the famous open concept homes