C.R. Laine’s Down2Earth collection features seat cushions that are filled with natural materials like corn or soy.
Eco-Friendly Can Be Affordable
It's getting easier to find eco-friendly furniture that is comparable in price to conventional furniture. “Many eco-friendly options cost no more than the alternatives,” says Jeff Hiller, president of Sustainable Furnishings Council. “There is no premium for bamboo or mango versus other hardwoods, nor for water-based versus traditional finishes. As with any product, there are entry-level, mid-range and premium products, says Hiller. Green is no different.”
Green Is Growing
Green furniture design will continue to grow, says Jeff Hiller, president of Sustainable Furnishings Council. Embracing eco-friendly furniture is like eliminating aerosols in the 1970s and switching to dolphin-safe tuna in the 1980s, he says. “This is not a fad.”
Eco-Friendly Furniture Shopping Made Easy
Learn how to identify and shop for environmentally friendly home furnishings.
- by Michelle Porter Tiernan
As eco-conscious consumers, we buy hybrid cars, low-energy light bulbs and even canvas shopping bags. What about considering eco-friendly furniture, too? Buying "green" furniture is another way you can help protect the planet while also giving your home a fresh, modern look.
What Makes a Piece of Furniture Eco-Friendly?
At first glance, eco-friendly furniture may not be easy to recognize. So to make your search for earth-friendly furnishings easier, we've included the basics of environmentally sound furniture design.
Recycled Materials: Items that normally would find their way into a landfill are used by furniture and accessories manufacturers to create functional, stylish designs. Groovystuff, a Dallas-based furniture manufacturer, recycles 19th century teakwood carts and wagon wheels from Thailand into barstools, coffee tables and benches. In addition to being environmentally conscious, recycled furniture has soul, says Chris Bruning, co-owner and vice president of Groovystuff.
Commercially Grown Wood: Wood grown specifically for commercial use helps cut down on deforestation and illegal logging. Wood furniture created from rubberwood, mango wood or bamboo are very often commercially grown, which adds to their eco-friendly appeal.
Chemical-Free Construction: Many manufacturers are transitioning to earth-friendly finishes, foams and fabrics rather than chemically treated ones. A lot of them are now using natural fibers such as silk, linen, cotton or wool; healthier varnishes, like nontoxic wax or water-based finishes; and foams made from natural latex or rubberwood or soy-based blends. Hickory, N.C.-based C.R. Laine’s Down2Earth collection features seat cushions that are filled with natural materials like corn or soy. The back cushions and throw pillows are stuffed with post-consumer fibers from plastic drink bottles.
Emissions Control: Eco-friendly furniture uses less energy during production and delivery, thus reducing emissions. In 2008, McConnellsville, N.Y.-based Harden Furniture cut their factory emissions more than 14 percent. More than 20 percent of the material suppliers for Hickory, N.C.-based Hickory Chair are located within North Carolina, which cuts emissions generated by vehicles delivering materials to the manufacturer. In addition, Stanley Furniture's Classics collection is manufactured entirely in Stanleytown, Va.
How to Find Green Furniture
If you already know you want eco-friendly furniture, you may be wondering how best to locate it when you're furniture shopping. If you're starting online, go to the websites of furniture manufacturers to see what items or lines of their inventory are eco-friendly. From those sites, you should be able to locate furniture retailers in your area who sell their products.
If you're heading straight to your local furniture store, look for furniture that has a tag indicating green design. If you see a tag from the Sustainable Furniture Council, it means the product has been manufactured by a company with a commitment to sustainability. A tag with a logo from the Forest Stewardship Council or the Rainforest Alliance signifies furniture made from commercially grown wood.