Sustainable furniture isn’t just about the materials — it’s about workers’ wages, material extraction, and much more.
From material sourcing to a piece’s end-of-life cycle, what are humans doing to ensure a greener world in furniture? Understand the vast world of sustainability in the future and how it will change the industry forever.
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Sustainability is a buzzword, littering every industry from clothing to architecture — so it makes sense furniture is looking to achieve that desired status, too. Consumers tend to view eco-friendly purchases in fewer dimensions than they encompass.
Sustainable furniture isn’t just about what the materials are — it’s about workers’ wages, material extraction, and so much more. It’s time to expand your mind about what constitutes sustainable furniture, developing a greater understanding of why the word carries gravity in every industry.
What Defines Eco-Friendly Furniture
Sustainable furniture can only be known as such if it analyzes environmental impact throughout the piece’s lifecycle. An item of furniture can’t just rely on owners recycling or rehoming it after they’re through — it has to embody more than circular economic practices. Here are some ways each step of the sustainable furniture process can cause shifts in the industry for permanent positive change.
Material Sourcing and Extraction
It doesn’t matter if the furniture is wood or metal — buyers want responsibly harvested materials. Plus, they’re willing to pay more for more peace of mind. One of the ways shoppers and manufacturers can ensure ethical material sourcing is through certifications.
Everyone in the process should have Forest Stewardship Council certifications or green certifications regarding textiles. Governmental bodies in each country will have resources to ensure companies perform logging sustainably and replant what they cut. They can also confirm any other extraction doesn’t harm local wildlife or Indigenous communities.
Production and Assembly
Assembly lines and production outfits will have to scale to afford the higher cost of sustainable furniture production.
Production areas and warehouses have to contain adequately paid workers, fair working conditions, and social responsibility expectations — this is in addition to using more sustainable materials like bamboo or recycled plastic. Businesses should have these guidelines somewhere accessible for public view for customer accessibility and accountability.
The production should also want the furniture to last. In eco-friendly furniture, durability is the name of the game. Otherwise, using resources to make the product doesn’t matter if it won’t last a long time.
It may be one of the most critical factors in why sustainable furniture is the future because it changes the perspective of creation — making pieces that last instead of selling items that encourage more purchases within a short time.
Shipping and the Supply Chain
Short transport routes and an electric fleet to carry products are only a few considerations for an eco-friendly furniture supply chain and shipping outfit. Transportation should focus on local paths and use ground transport instead of boats or air whenever possible.
They can attempt to transport as much as possible within one haul instead of individual pieces as necessary to maximize energy and fuel efficiency. It also encourages working with local suppliers and individual buyers, keeping the local economy and environmental, social, and corporate governance in mind.
Another concern is supply chain resilience. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, obtaining materials through longer supply chains has been difficult for almost every sector.
For furniture, the way to avoid supply chain disruptions — potentially distracting from sustainability initiatives by resorting to less environmentally aware options — is to focus on supply chain diversification. Having multiple ethical suppliers nearby for each facet of the supply chain will keep production alive without compromising corporate social responsibility promises.
Post-Consumer Care and Disposal
The future of sustainable furniture also relies on the consumer’s responsibility. It entails how they take care of the piece and dispose of it once they decide not to own it anymore. Customers should follow these ideals when caring for furniture in a circular economy:
- Keep safe from pets or other damaging influences.
- Regularly vacuum and wash cushions and upholstery.
- Seek repairs from professionals instead of buying a new piece entirely.
- Avoid being caught up in trends that would make you purchase furniture in excess.
- After use, resell, repurpose, upcycle or donate. Consider local businesses over thrift shops or online marketplaces for immense success.
How Materials Innovate the Industry
Eco-friendly furniture has plasticity, unlike most industries. Stable, stylish furniture is capable of any material combination, and every part can come from an ethical source. But materials are one of the main focuses in the sustainable furniture industry, and here’s how a few of them make homes beautiful while keeping the planet in mind:
- Wood: Old timber from already-made furniture can be reclaimed from surprising sources, like bourbon barrels or retrofitted support beams. For organizations wanting to work with new wood, certifications ensure legal and ethical practices for forests to prevent overharvesting and proper species replanting. With the right tools, wood is one of the best ways to avoid production and build furniture DIY-style.
- Textiles: Organic, natural variants of cotton are accessible from certified farms. Natural dyes help companies avoid synthetics or chemically laden coloring methods. Businesses should avoid petroleum-based fabric and stuffing like polyester and foam for a greener option.
- Bamboo: This plant easily permits versatile and fast furniture production with flexibility and aesthetic appeal. Because it proliferates quickly, it makes for a great sustainable furniture material. However, it should have proper protection against elements for long-term strength.
What Companies Can Do to Make Sustainable Furniture
Organizations worldwide exemplify the ideals behind sustainable furniture creation and distribution. For small businesses, start in one area and build out to ensure every step of the process is sustainable. However, everyone should start somewhere and consistently seek to improve.
Massive providers like IKEA decided to create every piece with the intention of materials being circular. Circular economies are the future of every industry, including sustainable furniture. It guarantees companies built each piece for reuse instead of disposal.
Other businesses incorporate formaldehyde-free glues or non-toxic lacquers for protecting materials. Others focus on carbon-neutrality or carbon-offsetting initiatives to restore environments they abuse for materials.
Organizations may not need to add new methods and should start with removing harmful practices like using toxic paints or unnecessary PVC. The options for eco-friendly furniture are expansive, demonstrating how every company can make a shift now, no matter the size.
Sustainable Furniture Will Change Design
Think about sustainability in a new light, especially regarding the innovations and advancements in the furniture industry. Nobody can default to complacency when options exist to make sustainable choices when decorating their homes with comfortable, aesthetically pleasing statement pieces.
Shoppers can take time to research and understand what businesses are doing to engage with transparent, eco-friendly practices for the planet’s stability. Humans rely on many materials and sourcing methods the furniture sector has no choice but to self-evaluate and choose the greener side.