Sustainable Furniture: Design with a Conscience
As Earth Day approaches once again on 22nd April, it’s important to reflect on the choices we make and how they impact the environment. We can begin by making more sustainable furniture choices without forfeiting quality and character. For the more design-conscious, the perfect blend of form and function is crucial. But for many, the impact we have on the planet is just as important when deciding what furniture to adorn our homes with.
From the materials used in the mass production of modern furniture to the impact of disposing of old furniture, there are many ways to be more sustainable when renovating, redecorating or simply choosing a new sofa.
In this article, we’ll explore how sustainability is changing the furniture industry, the most eco-friendly materials for furniture, the environmental impact of new furniture, and why choosing pre-owned is the most sustainable choice of all.
Pre-owned sustainable furniture – Katy SB Design | Stylist: Hannah Bullivant | Photographer: Kristy Noble
How sustainability is changing the furniture industry
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important consideration for furniture manufacturers and retailers. As consumers become more aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions, they’re looking for furniture that’s made from sustainable materials and produced in an environmentally responsible way.
This has led to a growing trend towards eco-friendly furniture. Many companies are now using renewable and recyclable materials such as bamboo, reclaimed wood, and recycled plastics to create furniture that is both stylish and sustainable. In addition, some manufacturers are now using sustainable production methods that reduce waste while using energy-efficient processes.
Sustainable furniture choices – Designer: Sarah Moss | Photographer: Nick Smith
Out with the new, in with the old
Here at Vinterior, we think there’s a better alternative to brand new because not only does pre-owned mean a more characterful home, it’s a better choice for our planet too. On average the UK throws away 22 million pieces of furniture each year. That’s 670,000 tonnes or the weight of 134,000 elephants. That’s a lot of elephants. So we want to encourage you to consider pre-owned before buying new and along the way find furniture with a story to tell. Last year we gave 172,000 items a new lease of life. From vintage classics to secondhand steals, rehome a piece of furniture and say no to new.
Good looking, good quality, and good for the planet too.
Why choosing pre-owned is the most sustainable furniture choice of all
While renewable materials and production methods make newer furniture a tempting sustainable option, the most sustainable choice of all is to choose pre-owned furniture. When you buy pre-owned vintage furniture, you’re preventing it from ending up in a landfill and reducing the demand for new pieces.
Pre-owned furniture is also made from high-quality materials and can be more durable than newer equivalents. By choosing secondhand, you can get a high-quality piece of furniture that will last for many years, while also reducing your impact on the environment.
Think mid-century Danish sideboards in gorgeous honey-hued teak, iconic Eames chairs, and British stalwart G Plan coffee tables. Older pieces of furniture are characterful, one-of-a-kind, and little nuggets of social history. Newer furniture simply can’t compete.
And as the cost of living bites, buying pre-owned furniture is often more affordable than buying new, making it a great choice for those on a budget. From mid-century modern to shabby chic aesthetics, Vinterior’s authentic period pieces allow you to make a sustainable choice when sourcing perfect pieces of furniture for your home.
Sustainable 1970s rattan and bamboo peacock chairs | Pony and Trap
The most eco-friendly materials for furniture
When it comes to choosing eco-friendly materials for furniture, there are several options to consider. Here are some of the most sustainable materials:
Bamboo – Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials for furniture as it’s a fast-growing plant that requires no pesticides or fertilisers. It’s also very durable and can be used to create a range of furniture styles from peacock chairs to glass-topped coffee tables.
Reclaimed wood – Using reclaimed wood is a great way to reduce the demand for new timber and prevent old wood from ending up in landfills. Reclaimed wood can be used to create unique and stylish furniture pieces that are both eco-friendly and beautiful.
Recycled plastics – Recycled plastics are another sustainable option for furniture as they can be made from a range of materials such as PET bottles, milk jugs, and other plastic waste. Furniture made from recycled plastics is durable, easy to clean, and can be designed in a range of colours and styles.
Reclaimed wood pigeon hole storage | Reclaimed Wood Pigeon Holes
Are there other aspects of furniture sustainability to consider?
- Durability: Pieces of furniture designed and made in the mid-century were often handcrafted. Mass production often results in inferior build quality. And, upcycling a design classic can also increase the life span and value of an item of furniture.
- Social responsibility: Being sustainable goes beyond the core way a piece of furniture is made. It means considering the well-being and working conditions of the people who make the furniture.
- Delivery and packaging: Carbon offsetting, electric delivery vehicles and recyclable packaging are sustainable considerations when looking at particular pieces of furniture.
Sustainable art deco furniture – Em Gurner | Photographer: Anna Yanovski
The environmental impact of new furniture
New furniture manufacturing can have a significant environmental impact. The production process requires a lot of energy and resources, and the materials used to make furniture can also be harmful to the environment. For example, the production of leather furniture requires a lot of water and energy, and the chemicals used in the tanning process can be toxic.
In addition, new furniture can contribute to deforestation as many furniture manufacturers use wood from unsustainable sources. This can have a devastating impact on ecosystems and the climate as trees play a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
An abandoned sofa that will end up in landfill | Theen Moy
Fast facts about fast furniture
- 22 million pieces of furniture end up in landfill every year in the U.K.
- In a study conducted by The British Heart Foundation, a third of people have thrown away furniture that could have been reused or repurposed.
- Particle board – a common material used in cheaper, modern furniture – cannot be recycled and is not biodegradable due to the chemical resin it is made from.
- Modern furniture has a carbon footprint 16 times greater than antique or vintage furniture.
- Mintel states that 28% of adults consider preserving the environment to be a higher priority to them now than compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s important to remember that small choices can make a big difference. By choosing eco-friendly materials, supporting sustainable production methods, and buying pre-owned furniture, we can all do our part to reduce our impact on the environment. Whether you’re a renovator, a new homeowner, an interior designer, or you just want to be a little more mindful, considering furniture sustainability can empower you to do a little more to preserve our planet.
One thought on “Sustainable Furniture: Design with a Conscience”
Fantastic write up. Ticks all the boxes. Reminds me why I do what I do! Giving tired good quality pieces of furniture a fabulous makeover. Some of the furniture that I upcycling is 100years old. And I think a lot of it will still be standing in 100 years. I sure do love my job.