It’s Easy Being Green: Spruce Up Your Furniture

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If you’re looking for new furniture, it may be hard to know where to start, especially if you consider that some types of furniture are the result of questionable environmental production, and some may even affect your health. Thankfully, it’s getting easier to find beds, tables, and chairs that avoid toxic chemicals and use recyclable materials.

Below are some materials, labels, and guides that could prove handy in your search for furniture that suits your style and eco-sensibility.

First, determine quality: Before buying green furniture, make sure it is easy to repair, disassemble, and recyclable. If you need further information Cradle to Cradle Certification measures the quality of products that are environmentally friendly.

Certified wood: Look for furniture made with wood from sustainably harvested tree farms or forests, which seek to avoid deforestation. The Forest Stewardship Council and its forest certifier Rainforest Alliance both provide guides on products made from sustainable forest materials.

Reclaimed wood: Reclaimed wood comes from old furniture, houses, buildings, or other construction, as well as discarded factory scraps or logs that are recovered from rivers and man-made reservoirs. Designers are using more reclaimed wood to make furniture, and though this type of furniture is still scarce, Rainforest Alliance has provided a Rediscovered Wood Certification label for identification.

Bamboo: More than just a delicacy for pandas, this type of grass has become a valuable material for environmental designers and builders. Bamboo can be molded into furniture, sliced up to make window blinds, or used to build an entire house. Moreover, architects and designers have seen bamboo as the perfect way to earn U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design points by flooring houses. Bamboo can be a viable replacement for wood, and it is an enduring natural resource that requires few or no pesticides.

Low-toxic furniture: Some furniture can worsen the air quality in your home by releasing toxic substances in the air from chemicals used during manufacturing, also called offgassing. Among them are volatile organic compounds, or a variety of chemicals that are usually linked to birth defects and cancer. Greenguard Environmental Institute is an industry independent organization that oversees acceptable indoor air standards for indoor products, and it can help you find furniture that contains fewer volatile organic compounds from varnishes or wood preservatives.

Recycled or recyclable metal or plastic: Metal and plastic are recyclable, so these can be perfect eco-friendly materials for furniture manufacturing. Some chairs, for example, are made of 80 percent recycled aluminum and have a lifetime warranty. Furthermore, recycled materials requires less processing and fewer resources.

When it’s time to bid farewell: Furniture is a long-term investment, but if the time has come to renew your bed or kitchen table, there are different eco-friendly options to say goodbye to the old ones. Put a classified ad in a newspaper, organize a yard sale, sell it through a website, or donate it to a charity organization.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series