10 Ways How Furniture Industry Becomes Eco-Friendly
Today’s world is constantly changing. Even ten years ago, being eco-friendly and selling sustainable furniture was considered a lofty goal pushed only by the most progressive people with unrealistic expectations. This situation shifted dramatically, and now, every big company needs to participate in green initiatives. Many trends can cause that, from rising ecological awareness of consumers to simply caring about our future on this planet. It applies to many different fields. People tend to pay more attention to things they purchase or the way they travel. In the past years, people created services like tripplo.com/uk/, which help others travel easily and efficiently.
However, one of the most exciting industries that changed dramatically in the past years is the eco-friendly furniture industry. Sustainable furniture manufacturers, amongst others, have to care about their environmentally conscious and demanding clients. Still, today they even engage in promoting these values and focus on spreading eco-awareness by themselves. How? Read on and find out ten ways how the furniture industry becomes eco-friendly!
Sustainable Chain of Supply
The first thing every green furniture manufacturer has to do is to reevaluate and analyse their supply chain. To make one piece of furniture, you need few suppliers who can sell you parts or materials to assemble it. Every company that wants to be more environmentally friendly has to make sure that its suppliers also follow this idea. Otherwise, their actions will be considered greenwashing.
According to CDP, green companies must deselect suppliers based on their environmental performance and take steps on deforestation and water security risks. Furthermore, every green company had to practice full transparency. Many furniture manufacturers let the public know who their suppliers are so that everyone can fact-check on their own. Additionally, If any company wants to implement socially responsible standards like ISO 26000, it must systematically prepare reports on its performance on social responsibility to the stakeholders affected. The same case applies to certifications like the widely-known Fairtrade International Certification.
Using sustainable materials is closely linked to chosen suppliers, as you can’t have sustainable materials without a sustainable supplier. However, in some cases, it is possible to have it the other way around. While no material is perfect, there are some which are much more ecologically friendly than others. For example, green furniture made from recycled materials will leave a smaller carbon footprint than others. It is also the case of local sourcing, especially for natural materials like wood or bamboo.
Wood is one of the most loved materials for furniture, and we can find it worldwide. However, wood manufacturing can be very tricky if you want it to be the most sustainable as it can be. Manufacturers must do thorough research to find what types of wood are the most sustainable and durable, and then determine whether or not they can make sturdy, eco-friendly furniture with them. It all depends on the type. Rarer woods like mahogany are very different from pine or oak. The most significant benefit of wood is that the waste is 100% biodegradable. You can also find certification like FSC that ensures that wood originates from forests that are responsibly managed for regeneration and the growth of new trees.
Production of Synthetic Materials
Production of synthetic materials can sometimes lead to smaller carbon footprints and use less water, but it involves many chemicals dangerous to the environment.
The same case applies to upholstery. Textiles like wool or cotton are biodegradable and renewable, but farms consume extraordinary amounts of water. Meanwhile, polyester is produced fast, without using many resources, but it is dangerous to the water, as it is made from plastics. Washing textiles made from polyester releases tiny plastic fibers into water and air. They are too small for any filters to caught them. That’s why some companies gave up on all synthetic materials and use only natural ones instead.
Carbon footprint is one of the most popular topics when it comes to eco-friendly companies. Probably most people have heard the term “carbon neutral.” It means that the company reduced its carbon emissions as much as it can by using carbon offsetting. In other words, the company is paying other people for reducing their carbon emissions, or they remove some carbon from the atmosphere that was created while manufacturing furniture.
Nevertheless, another term that can describe companies that care about their emissions is called Net-Zero. It is relatively similar to the previous term, but to be Net-Zero, the company must remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere as it had produced. The last term, “Carbon Negative,” means that the company not only neutralises its emissions but invests in ensuring that the project removes additional carbon from the atmosphere.
The market for sustainable companies is constantly growing. You can see a rapid increase in interest in eco-friendly businesses. That’s why more and more global companies decide to become more environmentally friendly. Investments in environmental, social, and governance issues have increased significantly in the past few years. Some may say that companies are promoting and increasing the value of CSR and proper certification just because they decided to follow green initiatives when manufacturing their products.
Single-use plastics like styrofoam or airbags were standard resources for many years. Fortunately, this is slowly changing. More companies are turning to certified, biodegradable or recyclable materials instead. It is essential because this way companies produce less waste, but it can significantly lower the product’s weight; ergo, it reduces energy waste in transportation. You can see green furniture packed with corn-based foam, which you can just melt in the water using your bathtub or shower.
You can find many companies that sell recycled products. After you can co longer use some of your furniture, give it for recycling to the company you bought it from. Then, they take all parts which can be recycled or used in new eco-friendly furniture and create different ones without much more energy and resources wasted. Of course, the company cannot use every part again, but recycling can vastly improve our effect on the environment. In general, giving your furniture to companies that are recycling materials is much better than taking them to the landfill. The only downside for customers is the cost of transportation, as opposed to public landfill transportation. Most of the time, people have to take old furniture there by themselves.
Not so long ago, Ikea launched its new project called “Buy Back & Resell.” Instead of recycling the old furniture, people can just follow the steps of their Buy-back tool and get an introductory offer of the second-hand value of the furniture. Then, they can bring back assembled furniture to the nearest store, where an employee can confirm the offer. The person selling the product will get a refund card for the agreed amount to spend in the store. It can be a great way to find a new use for old products, like an old dining table that can be perfect for an office desk. We can expect that projects like this will become more popular in the near future, and more companies will decide to implement them.
Reducing Toxic Substances
Many sustainable furniture companies started to examine more closely what kind of substances they use in their production processes and substances released in the environment by their activities. Every product used for finishing, treatments, and biding can be potentially toxic and harmful to the environment as well as to their customers. The process of emitting harmful gasses to the air even after leaving the production is called “off-gassing,” and it poses a threat to humans, animals, and the environment.
To be the most sustainable, a company has to give up on using chemicals like formaldehyde and other flame-retardants. Instead, it focuses on low volatile organic compounds like water-based foams, glues, and finishes, which are much better for health and have a smaller impact on the environment.
Many products people purchase are designed to last a specific amount of time. For example, many smartphones are supposed to work for 3-4 years, so the client will have to purchase a newer model after this time. While it is very profitable for the business, it is not the best thing for the environment. The demand for eco-friendly furniture is rising, and one of the reasons is the quality of furniture. Sustainable furniture, like wood furniture, may cost more, but purchasing them will be beneficial for both the environment and consumers.
Green warehousing is another way to improve every business to be more eco-friensdly. Storing furniture sustainably is not the easiest thing, as every owner has to pay great attention to really make a difference without endangering warehouse employees.
The most sustainable practice would be reducing energy intake. However, practices like dimming the lights in warehouses can be hazardous to everyone working in them. Instead, the best thing to do is to modernise the whole system and layout. Many non-eco-friendly warehouses still use metal halide, mercury vapour, or halogen lights which provide bright light but do so inefficiently. As for now, the most significant energy efficiency that can be provided by lighting comes from LEDs. Additionally, light can be a tremendous waste of energy in rooms where no one is present. That’s why every eco-friendly warehouse has a light-off policy in break rooms and restrooms when nobody is present.
Almost every warehouse produces a lot of waste which ends up in already full landfills. Even harmless substances like cardboard or woodpiles still need a decade to decompose. For the sake of sustainability, it makes sense to use as many reusable materials as possible. It is mostly the case of pallets and containers, as we can replace wood and cardboard by metal and plastic. In this case, it makes more sense, as those materials have a much longer lifespan and we can melt or recycle them when they become too worn. The quality of materials matters, as only PET plastics are renewable and reused without much damage.
The Bottom Line
Making sustainable furniture pieces is not an easy job. Still, it is profitable for both our health and our planet. Using fewer chemicals and implementing quality practices is a new way, becoming a standard in the upcoming years. Already, many certified companies have much more loyal clients and more positive opinions than non-sustainable ones. Customers prefer pieces of furniture made from sustainable materials as they believe that sustainability is the proper way to follow. At last, all of us breathe the same air and drink the same water.