Ways of introducing sustainable furniture into your home
Furniture used to be something people treasured – something that was built to last a lifetime and that would often be handed down across the generations. Today, just when we should be most alert to the need to manage our resources carefully, profit motives have led to it being promoted as something that can be bought cheaply and then casually discarded. This has, in turn, led to the production of furniture that quickly starts sagging and becomes vulnerable to breaking, and to make matters worse, a lot of it contains chemicals like formaldehyde that you really don’t want around your family. So what can you do about it?
Fortunately, there is still good furniture out there – you just need to know what to look for. There are two key ways to think about sustainability. The first focuses on production: where do the materials come from, can they be replaced, and are they environmentally damaging? The second is endurance: how easy are they to look after and how long can they be expected to last? Sometimes you’ll need to consider the balance between these factors to get it right, but some materials are almost guaranteed to be suitable. Most recycled glass or plastic materials, reclaimed wood (as long as it hasn’t been ground up and made into board) and wood carrying a certificate to show that it’s from sustainable forests is fine.
Easy ways to start
If you want to live sustainably then you shouldn’t begin by throwing things out before you need to do so; with most items, it makes more sense to wait until you need to replace them anyway. If you’ve previously been buying furniture made of MDF or similar materials, you’ll probably find that things like bookshelves and kitchen cupboards go first. Replacing them with solid wooden ones may cost more up front but you won’t have to do it again for a lot longer, if at all.
Another way to begin is by replacing doors or window fittings. Doing this early makes sense because it can significantly improve your insulation and cut your fuel use. A good timber outer door will also increase your security, and you don’t need to get rid of anything to fit solid wooden shutters.
If you can’t afford new furniture, don’t worry. It’s often possible to find traditional wooden furniture in thrift shops, and with just a little bit of sanding and polishing, you can make it look better than a lot of modern items. Beeswax is a good environmentally friendly product to use for this, and dried out wooden furniture can often be revived by repeatedly rubbing it with linseed oil to restore the natural elasticity that gives it its strength.
Choosing stainable furniture may feel like a small thing but the more people who do it, the less deforestation, pollution and waste there is. When you show your friends what you’ve achieved in your home, maybe they’ll try it, too.