Wohntrends 2020 - Holz und Metall

Sustainable furniture

The sustainable furniture business is growing from year to year. The reason for this is the increasing media and social awareness of environmental issues. Therefore, sustainable furniture is more popular than ever before. Whether for the bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, terrace or garden - environmentally friendly furniture companies commit to specific criteria to protect and support nature and people.

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The Modern Sustainability Movement

The modern sustainability movement has produced a huge number of innovative designers that it's hard to decide how to identify eco-friendly furniture. So in this article, we'll look at what makes sustainably produced furniture, how to recognize it, and where to source it so you can buy your dining tables, coffee tables, nightstands, bed frames, commodes, shelves, and all other types of furniture with a clear conscience.

What is sustainable furniture and
why is it a better choice?

Many factors play a role in being able to call a piece of furniture sustainable. Manufacturers create sustainable furniture from materials that have minimal negative impact on the environment. In addition, a sustainable furniture process means:

  • Materials were used that come from renewable sources.
  • As few chemicals as possible were used, to protect the environment and people
  • Local sourcing and manufacturing is used to save transportation costs
  • Efficient material processing is strived for to reduce waste

Sustainable furniture is usually a better choice because it causes less environmental damage and makes the environment safer, since eco-furniture is made with minimal chemicals. This means fewer harmful pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are released into the air of the living space. Paints, textiles, furniture, Tcarpets and building materials can release VOCs, which can cause allergies, migraines and asthma in people.

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What criteria do you have to look for
sustainable furniture?

Some of the most important factors that make a piece of furniture environmentally friendly is the material from which it is made. But how it was made or how it can be shipped also play a crucial role. Therefore, pay attention to the following criteria before buying:

Bookshelf Sole

Is it safe for the environment and health?

Check whether the particular piece of furniture is made of materials that were previously used for something else. This is because if reused materials were used to make a new piece of furniture, it is considered sustainable. Environmentally friendly furniture can be made from easily renewable resources. Bamboo, for example, grows quickly and can therefore be used often, making it an ideal eco-raw material. Also, make sure that varnishes or paints have been used that are not based on strong solvents.

Avoid flame retardants

Flame retardants are powders, so they do not outgas like other chemicals. Instead, they fall out of the padding and mix with the dust around the environment. The problem with this is that the bromine industry that makes flame retardants is huge and wants to keep its market going, which is why these agents are often found. Flame retardants, moreover, are not particularly effective at slowing fires because once upholstery, for example, catches fire, it burns just as quickly, releasing a host of toxic chemicals in the process. Therefore, before buying new furniture, clarify whether flame retardants have been used.

Pay attention to low toxicity

No matter what the furniture is made of, there is always a risk of chemical compounds being released into the air and environment. This process is actually the case with almost all household things, but synthetic materials or those treated with synthetic substances can release toxic chemicals.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the most common family of chemicals that release gases and have been linked to birth defects, endocrine disruption and cancer. Flame retardants and formaldehyde are common VOCs released by furniture. Especially if the home or office is well insulated, toxins cannot easily escape. Studies have already shown that indoor air quality is often worse than outside. Therefore, one should be aware of the type of chemicals that have been involved in the manufacture of each item, especially if small children or pets share the same living space.

There are some good ways to maintain indoor air quality. Here it helps to look for certificates. If you're looking for furniture that is untreated or treated with natural substances, such as natural wood finishes or naturally tanned leather, organic certifications are a useful indicator. Another good way to avoid toxic chemicals is to buy furniture that is vintage or used and has already mostly degassed. You can intuitively tell that new things are more active in releasing gases - new car smells, for example - than old models.

How was it done?

Manufacturing practices are just as important as the materials used and must prioritize safety for the environment, but also for people. This means that manufacturers must check emissions and ensure that their methods do not cause pollution. At the same time, attention must be paid to fair working conditions. This raises questions about where the furniture is made, where the materials were sourced, and whether fair trade or direct trade relationships exist. Therefore, check to see if manufacturers are practicing fair trade and not damaging local communities or undermining sensitive environments to gather materials for their products.

Manufacturing

Orient yourself to certificates

An indication of a sustainable production chain are certificates from relevant bodies such as the FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council). The primary objective of the FSC® is to promote environmentally sound, socially acceptable and economically viable management of forests. We attach great importance to the responsible and sustainable use of resources. Therefore, we use only FSC®-certified woods. By the way: Our furniture is made of wood panel materials. In the process, there is a scrap of unusable scrap wood. We take care in the manufacturing data of your furniture to nest the individual boards to be milled in such a way that a minimal waste remains. The intelligent cutting patterns and the resulting material efficiency benefit you and the environment.

What other certificates are there?

Orient yourself to seals and certificates to ensure the purchase of sustainable furniture. In addition to FSC®, the following certificates have become established in Germany:

  • The Blue Angel is one of the oldest environmentally oriented seals that identifies sustainable ecological production chains.
  • The PEFC label (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) is issued (similar to the FSC®) to productions that adhere to strict guidelines and focus on sustainable forest management.
  • Öko Control is a label consisting of about 50 ecologically committed furniture retailers who support healthy and pollutant-free solid wood furniture. The certificate is issued not only for furniture, but also for upholstery and cover fabrics.
  • The GS seal (tested safety) comes from TÜV Rheinland and is also tested for different products in terms of material, quality, ergonomics and harmful substances.
  • The "Golden M" certificate is issued by the Deutsche Gütegemeinschaft Möbel e.V. (DGM) with a view to important sustainable criteria.

A certificate attestation is generally not a requirement for furniture, except for those for the garden. The background is that this outdoor furniture must be particularly resistant to weathering and seal-less products are hardly marketable.

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How was it shipped?

The responsibility for low-emission transport is crucial for production. If the furniture was imported, check how the trade routes run. Products that come from abroad undoubtedly consume more energy. To maximize energy efficiency, it is recommended to buy locally produced furniture to reduce CO2 emissions.

Thanks to our decentralized manufacturing principle, our partner companies are scattered all over Germany and beyond. Since your furniture is always made by a master carpenter from your region and he delivers the furniture to you himself, we can ensure short delivery routes. This means less CO2 emission, hardly any packaging material, minimized pollution and thus a sustainable protection of the environment.

Sustainable delivery

Is it durable and easy to repair?

A very important, but often overlooked, aspect of environmentally friendly products is durability. If something can be easily repaired, this reduces the likelihood of it ending up in landfill. This saves money in the long run, even if it's more expensive initially. Even recyclable materials, if they break and can't be repaired, require energy and other resources to refurbish and replace.

Durable goods can be passed down from person to person and support sustainability. Even if you change your style and the existing furniture no longer suits your personal taste, a quality piece of furniture will almost always appeal to someone else - unlike a damaged object that can't be repaired. If you're thinking about getting rid of your furniture, take advantage of local markets or online portals like Ebay to pass it on instead of disposing of it.

Can it be recycled?

Many things claim to be recyclable. In reality, however, everything is recyclable if you are willing to spend enough money on it. For this reason, coffee pod manufacturers spend money to take back their pods and turn them into lawn chairs and garden compost. This gives people a good feeling. Making things from new materials and calling them recyclable is thus purely a marketing strategy.

Good environmentally friendly furniture should therefore be easy to repair, disassemble and recycle. Look for the appropriate certificates. These products can be easily disassembled, sorted into their components and recycled at the end of their useful life. When buying furniture, avoid huge hybrid objects that consist of numerous inseparable materials. If the parts can't be disassembled, it's probably a sign that they can't be repaired or recycled very well either.

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Tips for the best sustainable materials

The best selection of sustainable materials consists of recycled materials such as salvaged wood, recycled textiles and wooden pallets. In addition, natural materials such as bamboo, rattan and sea grass are excellent for furniture and other home decor objects. Second-hand furniture and vintage pieces are also great choices for the eco-balance. Use vintage or antique pieces because they are often handmade and durable. Also, their makers often used fewer chemicals than modern vendors.

Certified sustainable wood

Whether a piece of furniture is made of wood, fabric, metal, plastic or whatever, there are always environmentally friendly options. Because of the prolonged problem with the deforestation of our planet, it is therefore particularly important to pay attention to certified wood products.

Trees not only absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, they keep the surface of the planet cool and the soil together so that it remains rich in nutrients. Trees are also a habitat for animals, insects, birds and other plants. Sourcing wood is not generally bad and there are sustainable ways to harvest wood. Wood from sustainably harvested forests or tree farms are the main sources of environmentally friendly sourcing. For this, look for the FSC® seal, for example.

Reclaimed waste wood

If wood is well cared for, it can last a very long time and be reused often. Many designers take advantage of this to repurpose what wood already exists on the market. Reclaimed wood usually comes from old furniture, houses or other things, from defective wood or from waste from a factory where other things are made. Some recycled wood itself comes from logs that have sunk to the bottom of bodies of water. In any case, furniture made from reclaimed scrap wood is a good example of resource efficiency. However, there is not yet an official seal for the reuse of reclaimed wood.

Our furniture is sometimes made of oak, birch plywood and MDF (medium density fiberboard), which are mainly glued softwood. Our premium material is Finnish birch veneer laminated wood (FU birch). It is also called multiplex because it consists of cross-glued layers of veneer, which creates a characteristic edge look. It is lighter and at the same time more robust than MDF, but also more expensive.

Bookshelf Charlotta S

Bamboo, recycled metal and plastic

As mentioned above, bamboo is very popular as an eco-commodity because it grows quickly and is versatile. Bamboo is not a tree but a grass and belongs to the family of grasses, ranging in size from tiny to huge and in color from lime green to maroon. Bamboo can be flattened into flooring, shaped into furniture, pressed into veneer, sliced into blinds - or you can simply build an entire house out of it. Using bamboo in buildings can earn architects and builders LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points if they are careful about where they source it. LEED® is a voluntary certification program that aims to strengthen and promote performance of sustainable buildings.

Most bamboo comes from China and is grown with little or no pesticides. Because it grows so quickly, it is much easier to maintain healthy bamboo forests. However, this also means that a lot of water is used and harvesting too quickly can affect soil fertility. However, some growers use pesticides and other chemicals. Furthermore, some bamboo products may be assembled with glue, which may contain formaldehyde, depending on the supplier.

More and more furniture is made from recycled plastics and metals. Recycled materials require less processing, fewer resources and support the market for recycled materials. Technologies are constantly improving, resulting in recycled plastics and metals becoming higher quality. Recycled metals are especially well suited for outdoor spaces because they are weather resistant and stand up well to the elements. Thanks to new technologies, you don't have to worry about the metal rusting and can basically assume the material will last. If you have a limited budget, vintage pieces or furniture made of bamboo are a good alternative.

Straw clay and adobe

Straw clay and adobe are often overlooked when buying furniture materials, yet they are environmentally friendly all-rounders. Adobe is a natural combination of materials used for construction and design. It is made of sand, clay, water and a type of fibrous organic material. Once dried, it is extremely durable and can last a lifetime. Straw clay is similar in principle to adobe, but is composed of different materials. It is made with a combination of subsoil, water, fibrous organic material and sometimes lime, depending on availability. Both options are fully biodegradable, making them particularly environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Straw clay and adobe are so durable and reliable that houses were built from them. Some of these houses and towns still stand today. That's impressive when you consider weather patterns, different changing climates, wind, natural signs of use, and a host of other factors. Straw clay and adobe are great materials for making chairs, frames, tables and much more. Those who like to be creative can use these materials to make their own furniture. In addition, products made of straw clay and adobe can be easily painted over with other environmentally friendly paints.

Dining table Arthus
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Sustainable fabrics and covers

Many people opt for upholstered furniture when choosing their seating and bedroom sets, as it is often more comfortable. To ensure the most sustainable fabrics and covers here as well, it is important to consider the following:

Coffee table Joka

Fabric

For environmentally friendly seats, should work with natural fabrics such as linen and cotton. Unless made from recycled fibers or bottles, petroleum-based plastics such as polyester or vinyl (PVC) should be avoided. Vinyl has sticky tendencies and produces a very harmful dioxin. In general, untreated fabrics are preferable.

Cushion

The inner part of many cushions is made of polyurethane foam. This plastic polymer contains toxic chemicals such as propylene oxide (methyloxirane) and toluene. The better option is natural rubber foam (natural latex). Use Dunlop latex to ensure there are no traces of chemicals.

Leather

Leather is an animal product and very durable upholstery material. When choosing leather, keep in mind that most leather manufacturing processes use toxic chemicals such as chromium in the tanning process. Vegetable tanned leather is ideal. When in doubt, go for vintage products or used leather.

Frame

When buying, look for recyclable frames that are designed to last, such as salvaged or reclaimed wood or recycled steel. Also check to see if certification is available. One of the most important considerations for household health is reducing the toxicity of different types of furniture. Therefore, avoid side tables, dining tables, commodes or chairs made of plastics such as polyacrylates, polyethylene and polycarbonates.

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Where can I find sustainable furniture?

With all the different eco brands on the market, it can be difficult to keep in mind that used goods are the most environmentally friendly purchase of all. Vintage and used goods and furniture do not require additional resources to manufacture, are often sourced locally (reducing transportation), are degassed, and reduce the burden on landfills. High quality vintage furniture can also have excellent resale value, as it can often be sold for the same price it was purchased, which is not necessarily the case with much new furniture.

In addition to local markets and vendors, online stores like Etsy and Ebay are popular places to go for sustainable furniture. Although Etsy is known more for handmade and original pieces, it also works with sellers who reclaim and recycle furniture - from wooden wall art to pallet coffee tables. Etsy itself is a certified B Corp. B Corporations are companies committed to social value and environmental sustainability. For more furniture ideas, get inspired on sites like Instagram or Pinterest.

Sustainable shelf

Fazit

In this article we have looked at what constitutes sustainably produced furniture, how to recognize it and where to get it. Sustainable furniture is subject to important criteria, such as the use of environmentally friendly materials, the absence of toxic chemicals and the creation of fair labor processes and trade chains. Look for seals and certificates to help you determine whether or not it's a sustainable piece of furniture.

What's more, sustainability doesn't have to be expensive! Whether at local markets or online platforms like Etsy or Ebay, you can find fantastic furniture that is unique and environmentally friendly. We also place great value on the responsible and sustainable use of resources and people. With our 3D configurator, you not only create furniture that complements your interior design, but also contributes to sustainability and fair trade conditions.

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