August 30th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
By Guest Blogger: Erik Braunitzer
Furniture makers like Vermont Woods Studios Furniture are doing their part to improve their carbon footprint. Extensive documentation on their website or even a quick phone conversation with Rebecca or Shannon puts families at ease knowing the company is serious about their environmental, health and safety mission.
But simply seeing furniture in a store with a green stamp of certification label isn't always helpful when you're not familiar with the background of the stamp. So it’s important that we realize just how green furniture is made, along with the environmentally friendly materials that are used.
Furniture companies using wood and recycled materials generally have the smallest carbon footprint. Other materials would include concrete, plastic, aluminum, brick, glass, fiberglass and more. Now it’s been said that there isn’t one individual item or sustainable material, but a handful that share sustainable characteristics, including recyclables.
Furniture can also include the following:
· Paint Strippers
· Particle Board
Many of these substances are classified as volatile chemicals. Furniture made with these volatile chemicals can result in offgassing, which is evaporation at normal atmospheric pressure. Offgassing can be reduced or eliminated altogether by using stains, finishes or paints that are non toxic such as those made by Vermont Natural Coatings and AFM Safecoat.
Transportation is another part of the carbon footprint for furniture, as wood and other materials have to be extracted from the environment, shipped to distributors, transported to furniture makers, then sent off to the retail store and customers. The sustainability of a particular piece of furniture is dependent upon a couple of factors including:
· Durability– The longer the piece of furniture, the more sustainable it becomes.
· How it’s useful– Multifunctional furniture saves money and yields greater sustainability.
Learning where to buy this type of furniture can be quite a daunting task, as it’s not always portrayed clearly exactly what materials are used, and the percentage of each. In order to fully lead a responsible lifestyle, we should understand just how to look for green furniture. Here are a few tips:
Look for Sustainably Harvested Wood – Translates to the sustainability of ecosystems and natural forests.
Avoid Tropical Woods Like Mahogany and Teak - these woods are often illegally clearcut from the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests.
Ensure FSC Certification – for tropical woods, if no substitution can be made
Reclaimed Wood Furniture (RWF) – More or less, RWF is a recycled piece of furniture.
Non-Toxic Finishes – Keep your air clean and help protect your children from health issues.
Buy locally – Locally purchased items are always more sustainable as transportation costs are cut.
Clearly, Furniture making using sustainable materials is very important to the health of the overall environment. Similarly, it reduces waste and influences the vintage market. By following a few simple rules and clearly understanding how green furniture is made, you can make a difference in improving your carbon footprint. Next time you’re in the market for a table or chair, be sure to inquire about sustainable practices before purchasing.
Courtesy of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, New York Luxury Rentals.