Sustainability is key when talking about environmentally-savvy industry: the concept of replenishing resources as the same or at a faster rate than we consume them.
However the same concept can be applied in reverse; if we produce more disposal material than the environment can handle we still cause a problem.
Take the greenhouse effect for example: it’s mainly caused by the excessive production of carbon dioxide which the environment, i.e. trees and plants, just can’t absorb fast enough. The gas remains in the air so to speak, causing heat to enter the atmosphere without letting it back out.
At the same time, if our consumption of trees is higher that their own regeneration rate, we have a lack of resources that can deal with the carbon dioxide. Not only that, we also reduce our own resource of oxygen.
So what is the best way to go about environment friendly furniture decisions?
1. Find an alternative source, making sure that this source isn’t also abused and that its use doesn’t cause more damage than the good it’s doing.
2. Help the regeneration of your existing resource.
3. Stop creating the product that’s causing environmental problems in the first place.
Let me explain…
1. Find an Alternative Source
Plastic is usually viewed as environmentally dangerous. It doesn’t degrade and it pollutes the environment. This is very true, however efforts by organisations such as the British Plastic Federation are turning this around.
Many of the companies that deal in plastics are trying to avoid environmentally dangerous compounds and are opting for 100% recyclable ones.
This means that a PVC window which is made with sustainable plastics ends up being more eco-friendly than a wooden window for more than one reason: aside from being fully recyclable unlike its timber counterpart, it keeps your house better insulated, making you save money, electricity and gas, which are also based on a finite resource: oil.
When making your choice of PVC window however, do make sure the company you buy it from follows the guidelines for sustainability such as having your old windows recycled and not dumped into landfill.
2. Help the Regeneration of Your Existing Resource
Properly managed forests can do wonders. Not only can you stick to your beloved oak furniture, but companies are also encouraged to plant more trees, which in turn helps with the absorption of CO2 and the production of oxygen.
It the long run, managing forests becomes cheaper than having to rely on third parties to obtain wood: just like oil, if trees become scarce, the price of timber rises and companies are at the mercy of third party providers. I bet your wallet still aches from the last time you filled up your car with petrol!
For the consumer, wooden furniture is a lot easier to maintain and modify as well. With the proper finish and care for example, an oak table will last you for years while a saw, nails and a hammer is all you need if you need to shorten your shelves.
3. Stop Creating the Product That’s Causing the Environmental Problems
In the case of furniture this should not be a problem if you have done either one of the earlier points, i.e. used a recyclable material to construct your chairs and one which comes from a sustainable source.
Of course, it’s consumerism that causes demand, which causes a need for resources. So even better than buying a new eco-friendly chair is making do with your old ones! Give them a fresh lick of paint, sew new fabric covers or even use sites like Freecycle to give them away and find yourself some ‘new’ second hand replacements.
Estelle Page is an interior design with an eye for ecology. She understands that a stylish house is nice, but a stylish eco-friendly house is even better. Here she writes for Oak Furniture Superstore.