Sustainability is vital to preserving our world for future generations. Unfortunately, the furniture market has a poor track record of doing its part for the environment. Fast furniture is making a negative impact on the planet, and the problem is only getting worse.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 12.1 million tons of furniture were thrown into landfill sites across the country, up from 2.2 million tons in 1960.
On the other hand, sustainable furniture brands offer beautiful and functional options with longer life cycles. Here’s everything you need to know about why it’s important to choose sustainable furniture companies
The Importance of Choosing Eco-Friendly Furniture
Poor manufacturing practices damage the planet, affecting air quality inside and outdoors. Given that the average American spends 90% of their time indoors, it only makes sense that our furniture should be as sustainable as possible.
Sustainable furniture manufacturers have sprouted up in response to consumer demand for furniture sustainability. With climate change so high on the agenda, 76% of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for greener furniture.
First, what is eco-friendly furniture?
Green furniture is designed to last longer through better workmanship and manufacturing quality. The goal of sustainable furniture is to utilize closed-loop recycling. In other words, these manufacturers focus on reducing their environmental impact by reusing and recycling. Where materials cannot be recycled, manufacturers obtain what they need from sustainable harvesting practices.
Eco-friendly furniture materials also have a low impact on the environment. For example, there are formaldehyde-free furniture brands that use low-emitting resins. Deciding to shop for sustainable furniture will give you more options than ever before.
The importance of investing in sustainable furniture brands cannot be understated in reducing the industry's environmental impact. This can only happen when consumers are willing to pay for these furniture-making processes in exchange for better land stewardship.
Renting your furniture is one helpful way of using less and contributing to a greener future.
5 Sustainable Furniture Materials
Sustainably sourced furniture can come in many forms. It could use more eco-friendly materials or be constructed by obtaining materials from more sustainable sources.
In this guide, we will go through some of the best sustainable furniture materials:
1. Sustainably Harvested Wood
Not everything can be recycled. In cases where wood must be sourced to build furniture, what matters is where it came from and how it was harvested.
For example, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is responsible for certifying that the wood used in a sustainable furniture wood desk was obtained through sustainable harvesting.
The definition of sustainable harvesting means maintaining the integrity of the natural ecosystem. In other words, harvesting wood from a forest means the forest can continue to grow and thrive. Tree farms are a perfect example of this practice.
2. Non-Toxic Lacquers
Where does that new furniture smell come from?
Traditionally, the distinct smell of new furniture comes from unnatural and toxic substances used in finishes. Solvent-based lacquers are some of the most common causes of pollution in your home. Lacquers continue to emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, long after application.
Non-toxic, sustainable furniture uses water-based lacquers as a green alternative to finish and treat wood furniture. One way to tell if a piece of furniture is non-toxic is to look for certifications like OEKO-TEX® or GREENGUARD.
3. LED/CFL Lighting
Lamps and other forms of lighting also contribute to your carbon footprint. Today, America has made great strides to remove traditional light bulbs from circulation and replace them with LED/CFL lighting. The difference is immense, with LED light bulbs using 75% less energy than their incandescent cousins.
Using long-lasting lighting options in furniture can tremendously impact America’s carbon footprint. Experts state that replacing incandescent light bulbs in every household would save enough energy to power three million more homes for an entire year.
4. CARB2 Compliant Materials
The CARB2 compliance certification is another marker to look for when purchasing sustainable furniture. A product of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), this certification applies to particleboard, hardwood, plywood, and medium-density fiberboard.
It signifies that the furniture contains a minimal level of formaldehyde. While the initiative started in California, CARB has empowered third-party auditors nationwide to issue certifications in its name.
If your furniture contains any composite wood, look for the CARB2 sticker to check for compliance.
5. Biodegradable Materials
Biodegradable materials have also received a lot of attention from consumers in recent years. Any furniture that uses a plant-based product, including wood and paper, is technically a type of biodegradable product. Although most people associate biodegradables with compostable materials or natural alternatives like bamboo, furniture can still be biodegradable, even using traditional materials.
The advantage of choosing sustainable furniture materials with biodegradable characteristics is that you might feel less guilty if an item needs to be tossed. A perfect example of this is your mattress.
Most people will buy a new mattress, but if a mattress is biodegradable, it won’t spend decades decaying in a landfill site.
The Environmental Benefits of Renting Furniture
A piece of furniture’s composition is only a starting point. There is little benefit in purchasing eco-friendly furniture if it finds its way to a landfill within a couple of years.
The furniture rental industry is booming as more consumers consider their environmental impact. So, why is renting furniture such an effective way of helping the planet?
Renting furniture creates less waste because you are recycling something that already exists. Once Brook collects your furniture, it’s cleaned and rented out to someone else.
It also reduces demand from manufacturers for new furniture. Anything that can reduce furniture production that damages natural habitats or uses artificial materials like foam is always an environmental plus.
In many cases, once rental furniture reaches the end of its life span, it is often donated or taken apart and used to manufacture new pieces.
Less in Landfills
Did you know that furniture waste has far outpaced population growth?
It means Americans are using more and recycling less. This contributes to the American landfill system becoming loaded with more and more unwanted furniture every year.
The shift toward shorter life cycles has been driven primarily by a demand for fast furniture. In the same way as fast fashion, consumers over the decades have preferred cheaper furniture over high-quality pieces.
Renting your furniture means less furniture going to landfill. We focus on extending the furniture lifecycle by renting out furniture to as many people as possible before disposing of each piece.
Fewer Natural Resources
Renting furniture guarantees that the industry as a whole uses fewer raw materials and natural resources in the production process.
If a single sofa can be rented out to three different people across its lifecycle, it means two fewer sofas need to be manufactured. Lowering the demand means lowering the supply, thus reducing the burden placed on the natural world.
Less Air Emissions
Renting furniture means fewer emissions in the air because manufacturers won’t be producing the same volume of furniture.
It’s no secret that fast furniture is powered by low-cost, low-quality pieces, compared to previous generations where a single cabinet could last a lifetime. Instead of focusing on meeting the demands of the fast furniture industry, manufacturers will focus more on creating quality products.
Lowering the amount of production ultimately results in fewer carbon emissions.
Extending the Furniture Lifecycle
The furniture lifecycle has become shorter over the decades as people have become more concerned with cost over quality. While our grandparents would use the same piece of furniture for decades, today’s consumers may only use it for a couple of years before disposing of it.
Another reason why the furniture industry has seen its waste and emissions rise is that we are moving around more than ever for work, study, and family reasons. A more transient population is more likely to throw away their furniture rather than pay the high price of shipping it across the country.
Renting furniture allows Americans to pay for their furniture only for as long as they need it. We prioritize extending the furniture lifecycle to lessen the industry’s impact on the planet.
Make a Sustainable Furniture Investment with Brook
Investing in sustainable furniture materials is the beginning of a revolution within the furniture industry. Deciding to rent instead of buy extends the furniture lifecycle and contributes to a market where everyone uses less.
For over 40 years, Brook has focused on promoting the furniture rental market while committing to only working with sustainable furniture brands. Renting sustainable furniture delivers so many benefits to the environment and your wallet.