Sustainability | Impact

How To Make Sustainable Furniture

Jun 20, 2022 | Amelyah Roach

Today, in a world that is so compounded by aesthetics over value, when it comes to furniture, a marker of cultural, practical and generational significance that serves as a staple in every part of the world, it is critical that sustainable furniture become the standard now and in future years to come. Indeed, people everywhere have found themselves feeling a heightened sense of responsibility when it comes to sustainability. Globally, the idea of sustainability takes on different forms that are most times purely dependent on the social, economic and environmental situations of a place, not to mention the management of market and industry standards on sustainability that must also be taken into account. In this post, we will explore what goes into making sustainable furniture as well as how the global standards on sustainability can be used to drive this process.

What is sustainable furniture? 


Sustainable furniture refers to furniture that has been created with sustainability in mind at every stage. This entails the use of eco-friendly materials, equipment, packaging and methods, the adoption of a closed-loop system at the end of the product’s life cycle and also abiding by the global standards on sustainability for furniture and its utility, make and effects, as set by organizations around the world. Indeed, by doing this the result of sustainable furniture is characterized by reduced energy consumption, reduced negative impact on the environment and reduced waste, as furniture produced is ideally eco-friendly, long-lasting and can be aptly repurposed or reconditioned in future numerous times.  


*A closed loop system is one which avoids disposal at the end of a product’s life cycle and instead recycles and reuses the product as a component in the building of a new product.



How to go about sourcing and building sustainable furniture 


-Opt for materials that have been sourced from sustainable forests or are considered eco-friendly as defined by certifications from sustainability entities (FISP, FSC® ,  ISO standards)


-Get very clear on the chemical standards and policies you have set for the manufacturing of furniture, leaning towards non-toxic and non-VOC emitting chemical alternatives backed by eco-friendly certifications  (ANSI/BIFMA Furniture Emissions Standard, HPDs, GREENGUARD, madesafe)


-Prioritize design that allows for longevity, high utility and resistance, and high repurposing/recycling or easy disassembly potential. (ISO standards, GRS, Cradle to Cradle) 


-Try to buy furniture or source materials in or around your area or country as a means to avoid further adding to the release of harmful emissions into the atmosphere 



Outside of the obvious satisfaction of being able to do your part in not contributing to the further deterioration of the earth, small business owners who make and manufacture furniture can especially benefit from going the sustainable route in many different ways.



These benefits include : 


  1. Increased customer loyalty and satisfaction - This speaks to the appeal gained from earth-conscious customers when purchasing furniture that is well-made, long-lasting and has sustainable properties.

 

  1. Heightened legitimacy and better reputation - Certifications governing eco-friendly standards of your product line and business give a boost to the legitimacy of your business, regardless of how small it is, in addition to contributing to a better reputation, as relevant sustainability standards have been met. 


  1. Gaining individuality and forming a niche - By adopting sustainable methods and using sustainable materials, your small business can benefit from being able to differentiate from competitors through having this solid prioritisation of sustainability. Additionally, by doing this it creates room for a specific niche to be carved out and catered to, which can have extensive long term benefits for your business. 


  1. Incentives - Countries all over the world have also started weaving different tax incentives into the fabric of sustainability plans for businesses. These incentives work in conjunction with regulations and certifications which govern eco-friendly standards and can significantly benefit your business through tax breaks for example. 

 


Here are some sustainable materials that are both cost-effective and accessible for small businesses in the manufacture of sustainable furniture :


-Reclaimed wood

-Bamboo

-Oak

-Douglas fir

-Cork

-Hemp

-Wood pallets

-Rattan

-Sisal

-Polypropylene 

-Jute

-Oil and wax finishes

-Water based finishes

-Shellac


In closing, the creation of sustainable furniture can only be achieved through the proper planning, procurement and certification as highlighted in this post and in guidelines provided by the numerous global entities that measure sustainability metrics for certification. 


For further reading, please feel free to view the link below which details the Legislation and European standards relevant to furniture.


https://ec.europa.eu/environment/gpp/pdf/toolkit/furniture_GPP_product_sheet.pdf


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