We spend 90% of time a day indoors, and, on average, 8 hours a day in bed… Gotta make sure this environment of ours is tox-free, splendidly green and ethical!
As a green beauty & lifestyle blogger, I am used (and happy!) to be receiving reader questions that go beyond body lotion, nail polish and eco-fair fashion: furniture, interior decorations, tableware – it seems hard to come by pieces that are modern, ecological and affordable.
In my new blog section ECO CHIC HOME first introduced in November 2015 I said I was planning to talk about exactly this topic as much as about skincare. Funny enough, after my last post where I talked about how to start living green, a few readers sent me emails telling me their stories (or: struggles) of finding pretty and tox-free furniture for themselves, for their kids, for their home office… I promise I’m listening very closely and taking notes 😉 We’ll address all your questions one at a time!
Because what good does it do to splurge on organic foods, skincare and clothes if your bed, your desk, your couch are slowly releasing toxins into the air that you breathe?
So, How Can Furniture Be Toxic?
Furniture can be bad for you in – roughly – two ways. First, it can be toxic in the proper meaning: it can “outgas” formaldehyde into the air you breathe, older painted furniture can contain and release lead. Second, it can cost you quite some money if you “follow the trends” and replace last year’s affordable peaces with newer affordable pieces.
Add the negative impact on the environment, the carbon footprint, the always possible poor working conditions, the extra landfill caused by non-ecological wrapping materials – I mean to be short, but this list is endless.
There are actually no widely known “organic” labels designated for furniture alone – like we know from skincare and textiles. But there are things you should and totally can avoid and certificates and programmes that you can look for.
How To Be Eco-Savvy
When Buying Furniture
Friends, here are three major green options in the moment: avoid the obvious toxins | get certified sustainable wood furtniture | get Cradle 2 Cradle certified furniture. Let’s have a look.
#1 OUT WITH THE TOX. What are the obvious toxins I talk about? First things first: by all means, avoid PVC, flame retardants, lead, and chromium.
Where are these most likely to be found?
PCV: inflatable furniture, particle board furniture, generally smelly new furniture (check out the Greenguard certification), in upholstery furniture marketed as stain-resistant;
Flame retardants: in textiles, mattresses and upholstery furniture;
Lead: in painted and finished furniture made from wood, metal or glas with no green certifications whatsoever;
Chromium: in tanned leather.
By the way: do check out the related blog section TOXIC WASTELAND NOW. This is where I talk about toxins/ neurotoxins, where they are commonly used, and what you can do to avoid them.
#2 SUSTAINABLE WOOD. Wood can be a great, most durable and sustainable raw material for furniture. Look for FSC-certified furniture – the Forest Stewardship Council sets, albeit not free from criticism, the “one and only” standard for sustainability and fair working conditions in wood harvesting.
Be savvy when looking for fancy rare or exotic woods: FSC offers a so-called chain-of-custody certification. It’s an important part in an overall certification process for a company so it’s allowed to sell FSC-certified products but it’s however not a guarantee that each product sold is FSC-certified.
Apart from FSC-certified producers/manufacturers, smaller, local artisanal companies can offer outstanding ‘green’ quality.
#3 ASHES TO ASHES. Good ol’ oaktree still not fancy enough? How about you looked at conventional furniture certified C2C or Cradle to Cradle? Yours Truly spends some 8-14 hours a day sitting in her great Herman Miller office chair.
Apart from C2C, don’t fall for furniture marketed as recycled blindly, ask detailed questions: it can me a mere marketing trick. Sad but true, but the word “recycled” is as meaningless as the word “natural”. And you know what I think about the use of the word “natural”.
Now, my favourite brands and multibrand shops for finding eco-fair furniture are these: Austria’s Grüne Erde; Allnatura, a German online-shop carrying a wide range of independently crafted eco-fair furniture (often awarded for eco excellence), Herman Miller and Steelcase for office furniture, and Green Living (office and home, photos below).