Furniture Manufacturing Sustainability

3 Biggest Environmental Impacts of Non-Sustainable Furniture

Combat the enormous carbon footprint of fast furniture by purchasing from companies who implement sustainable manufacturing practices.

The Damaging Repercussions of Fast Furniture

As a culture, we’ve become used to getting what we want when we want it – and that includes furniture. If we decide to buy a new sofa or dining room table, we surf the internet for one that suits our style, or we drive to the nearest big box store for the lowest price point. Both options generally deliver within a matter of days.

Sounds nice, right? Quick. Convenient. Trendy. So, what’s the problem?

Most furniture available in the market today is not made to last. These substandard pieces are made in bulk out of cheap materials and sold for the lowest dollar possible. As a result, consumers consider these short-term home goods completely disposable – too expensive to repair and not worth the hassle of selling – so they hit the curb. Even donating seems like too much of a bother! The result of this fast furniture trend has a catastrophic impact on the environment.

Between material waste, deforestation, and emissions from transport, on average, a single piece of fast furniture generates up to 47kg of carbon dioxide emissions – approximately the same amount of greenhouse gases emitted when 5.3 gallons of petrol are burned.

So, what should you be aware of when making more sustainable furniture decisions?

3 Environmental Ramifications of Non-Sustainable Furniture

 1. Excessive Material Waste from Furniture Production

 According to the EPA, furniture waste in America totals an astounding 12.2 million tons every year. Because most fast furniture is made of low-quality composites and toxic glues, it is nearly impossible to separate and recycle properly, leaving over 80% of it in a landfill. By choosing pieces that are made from reusable resources like solid wood, metals, and adhesives that pass California safety laws, high-quality furniture is more easily recycled when the time comes.

While remnants of fast furniture are frequently found in landfills after a couple years of use, quality pieces fill homes for generations. Consumers who invest in high-quality pieces pass their collection down to children and grandchildren, leaving an inheritance of long-lasting, beautiful home goods that stand the test of time.

But it’s not just about whether whole pieces of furniture find their way to the trash within a season or adorn living spaces for a lifetime. Furniture companies that prioritize sustainability look for innovative ways to dispose of their manufacturing waste responsibly. For example, polyurethane foam waste (foam scraps) can be repurposed for carpet padding or recycled plastics, rather than decomposing in a landfill for 30 to 50 years. Even sawdust can be used for power generation or chemically converted to a hydrocarbon for use in gasoline.

Furniture manufacturers with a green mindset are forming partnerships that proliferate a circular economy – make, use, reuse, remake, recycle, etc. One company’s waste is another’s treasure! When selecting pieces for a client’s home or choosing pieces to fill your showroom floor, ask the furniture manufacturer what they’re doing to properly dispose of their waste materials.

2. Deforestation from Irresponsible Wood Sourcing in Furniture Manufacturing

 Forests are the lungs of the earth. The lush canopies of Africa and rainforests of South America and Southeast Asia are what sustain our planet and provide the essential ingredients for our ecosystem: oxygen, clean air and water, wood, homes for wildlife, and more. According to the science journal, Nature, approximately 15 billion trees are cut down each year.

Deforestation is primarily occurring in more tropical areas of the world. So, if you’re able to buy from a U.S.A manufacturer who sources lumber locally, you’re generally purchasing furniture that is made from wood procured from a certified sustainable forest.

As a designer, buyer, or consumer, you’ll know if the company you’re purchasing from sources their wood sustainably by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) seal of approval, which ensures what is taken from nature is replenished for future generations. If the FSC seal isn’t clearly seen, it’s important to ask where the wood is coming from and what efforts the furniture manufacturer is taking to protect earth’s natural resources.

3. Carbon Emissions from Transporting Raw Materials & Finished Furniture

In America, we know the majority of what we buy is made in China and shipped in containers. But did you know that China used up most of its forests for manufacturing goods in the 1990s?

Because of this, U.S. demand for fast furniture is not only generating mass deforestation in unregulated forests around the world but enormous shipping emissions as lumber is transported from Africa to China for production, and then to the U.S. for sale.

Diving into the numbers, those container ships use over 110 tons of fuel oil per day and can often take more than 2 weeks to reach port. That’s more than 1,500 tons of fuel for a one-way route per ship! Additionally, shipping fuel still contains sulfur, which is highly polluting and estimated to account for 17% of all human-caused carbon emissions by 2050.

As a consumer, designer, or buyer, the best way to combat this enormous carbon footprint is to purchase from furniture companies who manufacture domestically in the U.S.A. and source materials locally. Not only will you help the planet, but you’ll be also be rewarded with shorter lead times, a superior product, and the knowledge that you contributed to the local economy.

Sustainable Furniture Delivered on Your Timeline

Remember when we said that we live in a society that wants everything right now? Many luxury furniture companies have long lead times – even up to a year!

While you may not be able to get a sustainably built sofa delivered to your door or showroom within days, with EJ Victor, you can receive it in a matter of weeks rather than months.

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