Most people don’t know that our lifestyle and the buildings we inhabit are responsible for a large percentage of the CO2 gas from their dismantling or disposal. Its about the materials we use, mainly the synthetics and glues.
For a greener way forward, we need to consider what will happen to the things we own when we are done with them.
It is tragic that so much furniture – old sofas and chairs for instance, often get piled onto trucks, and go to land fills. Its not a pretty sight. However, there are alternatives. Donating is always appreciated. ANEW, an award winning non profit has helped to find new homes for unwanted corporate furniture. This award wining group has helped to save millons of pounds of corporate waste while helping non profits and re purposing unwanted items. http://www.anew.org They are doing a lot of good and inspiring similar re newal programs to other cities. Its a great way to prolong the usefulness of furniture.
Re upholstering your favorite pieces is basic recycling. I highly recommend it. Why waste a once comfortable, perfect fitting chair or sofa? In the process, you can upgrade what you now own, use more green or sustainable options in the choice of your materials. Saving the frame from the dumpster has its benefits. Keep in mind the basic frame can be made higher, and cushions can have added details like buttons or tufts to get a change of style. I once took a Chesterfield sofa and made it into a lower, more contemporary one to fit into a basement ‘fun’ room. I removed the tufts and lowered the feet. Under all the foam and feathers its a basic wood frame, and it can be re used and altered. When re done with quality materials a sofa or chair can last ten years or more. I have clients who re invest in their quality pieces…after enjoying them for over a dozen years. It is well worth it. A good sofa has a hardwood frame, full inner springs, and maybe down or marshal units in the individual cushions. It keeps its shape and comfort for many years.
Classes in basic upholstery can be very satisfying. It is quite easy to create headboards, screens and re do your dining room seats with the right tools. Check with your local area night school for classes. It’s a great ‘green’ hobby as well.
Green furniture is also about sustainability. Green fabrics from natural fibers like cotton, wool, bamboo and hemp are coming onto the marketplace through many resources. The best of these are produced with more green processes, omitting less noxious fumes and providing a more bio-degradable life cycle for when their useful life is over.
Cushion inserts and pillows however, provide a more difficult problem to solve. The typical “green” re upholstery job involves hemp webbing, cotton or wool batting , down feathers and laytex foam cushions. When going this route the consumer needs to be aware that not all of these products are ‘organic’. I have a list of good alternatives in my slideshow for today.
Down feathers for example, can be plucked from birds who live on hormone saturated feed. This actually is transferred to the feathers. The so called down proof tic does not protect one from the off gassing that occurs. Still, for a price these materials can be certified organic when produced entirely without the use of hormones, fertilizers and the like. Disadvantages are the same ones that led the furniture industry to move to the foam cushions produced from poly chemicals. The cotton batting eventually pills. Old fashion sofas used horsehair which did last without shifting. However, even if you could find it… well, lets just say it does not make the most appealing or comfortable cushion.
Some people are allergic to feathers or wool, or balk at the cost of pure soy based latex foam. There are new alternatives, made from recycled plastic bottles. It is the same basic material that Mohawk has been using since 1999 in its line of award winning sustainable carpet.
The manufacturing process is similar, yet different. The class ” 1 ” or PET plastic is washed, crushed, melted, crystallized, and formed into pellets. The pellets are heated and stretched into usable fibers. The fibers are spun into several different weights or deniers to produce the cushion and pillow materials which can be cut, shaped and trimmed. The best part is that they hold their shape, unlike cotton batting. The process creates a cohesive ‘blanketed’ type woven product that does not fray or pill. The use and durability testing is impressive. I have had clients who are very interested to try it out…however the facts about whether it is really an enviromentally safe product are still murky. It is on the market, however I recently read a study that was disturbing. There was a lot of chemical lingo, however the jist of the report says the process creates a very unhealthy, even toxic brew of chemicals from the melting down process that is critical to the production of these PET recycled plastics. It seems as though the safest way to go is still to use feathers or soy products.
The low emission laytex foam, are actually themselves recyclable. That’s a big guilt reducer for me and many of my clients.
Take a look at the slideshow and see some green, sustainable sources. When it comes to green and sustainable products, the furniture industry has shown slow, but steady growth. Lee Industries has been a leader, and their sales of their ‘Eco Cushions’ have steadily grown. The Sustainable Furnishings Council has been growing to include major companies like Stickley. They also offer a certification with ongoing training for designers and retailers. With so much furniture on the planet to either maintain or toss, its an important step forward. With finite resources and space for landfills, it just makes ecological sense.