The two most important qualities to look for in sustainable furniture are responsibly sourced materials and low impact on indoor environmental quality.

Free LEED Exam PreperationEco-Friendly Materials

The resources used to produce the furniture will also be a factor in whether it is eco-friendly. Sustainable furniture will reduce resource depletion by using materials that are sustainably harvested, rapidly renewable, recycled and/or salvaged.

Some qualities to look for in “green” furniture might include one or more of the following:

Recycled: Furniture that contains recycled materials has repurposed waste, which reduces the use of virgin materials, cuts landfill waste, and often decreases the amount of energy needed to create the product. The materials may be either pre-consumer recycled, which means they include waste from manufacturing, or post-consumer recycled, which means the waste is collected after consumer use.

Rapidly Renewable: Rapidly renewable materials have harvest cycles of 10 years or less, according to LEED. Purchasing furniture with these materials reduces resource depletion and has lower embodied energy. Examples of these materials include bamboo, strawboard and linoleum.

Salvaged: Salvaged furniture is simply reused, which reduces resource depletion, energy use and landfill waste. For example, a used couch purchased from Salvation Army would be considered “salvaged”.

Certified Wood: Some organizations, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), certify forest management practices if they sustainably harvest lumber. The practices‘ strategies must conserve water, have a forest regeneration program, protect habitats, among other things. Products, such as wood furniture, can be chain of custody certified, meaning that the product uses wood from a certified forest management organization.

Cradle to Cradle certification: The Mcdonough Braungart Design Chemistry certifies products under the "Cradle to Cradle" program. This certification rates products based on a life cycle analysis. Products can achieve certification in 5 categories and at 5 levels for each category, and its considered one of the toughest sustainability certification programs for products.

Low VOC Furniture

When many people think of eco-friendly household items, they usually think of its materials. However, truly sustainable furniture will provide a healthy indoor environment that will not make occupants sick. Furniture can often be made with chemicals such as formaldehyde that offgas volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can give occupants skin and respiratory problems.

Eco-friendly furniture will emits a low number of VOCs. One way to ensure that furniture is low emitting is to look for the GreenGuard label. GreenGuard was created by the GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI) in 2001, and is somewhat similar to LEED in terms of specifying green products, establishing indoor air quality standards, and influencing building design and construction strategies. Furniture marked with the GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality mark will have lower emissions of VOCs and will be better for indoor air quality.


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