The Furniture And The Planet
Confession: I have been searching for sexy, high concept furniture that has no environmental impact and have failed. It was naïve to expect to find oodles of stunning ‘green’ chairs and chests that would sit comfortably in The Conran Shop. This is because like all movements and important matters, the terminology makes it complicated.
Well-regarded furniture designers already consider the life cycle. They make long lasting products using FSC certified wood and renewable materials. It helps that ‘natural’ is a brandable word in all arenas; it’s impossible not to notice the long-overlooked movement towards sustainability. People, non hippy people, are mindful about product sourcing. And it is a total pleasure to be aware of this, when the focus is on high quality and vintage. Yet, furniture is never 100% impact free because of the various steps in the process. It makes one wonder what high-end furniture makers are doing to minimise their effect.
There is a variety of preferred material resources. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies which wood is harvested sustainably and is a standard expectation nowadays. Of course, ‘reclaimed’ and ‘recycled’ also fit the bill. Natural materials cut out a potential part of the manufacturing process and are more likely to be biodegradable. It’s just clicked that a new found rattan and bamboo obsession is related to the sustainability trend… Come to think of it, maybe this explains my modular design obsession too - it is relentlessly inspiring, and they do not require toxic glues and parts…
So, the material used is a large part of all this, but certainly not everything. The carbon emission created from the manufacturing process is another box to tick, along with transportation. It is up to the large manufacturers to research and improve their use of energy and how they in turn, affect the ozone layer. The EU furniture outfit is a very prominent sector, therefore has great scope for improving its culture concerning environmental issues. Investigating these more complex technicalities is a full-time job and does not make ‘blog reading’. However, I expect that the industry will demand an accessible transparency for consumers. And in the meantime, one should be conscious of purchasing vintage and locally made pieces.
It’s a great leap from using natural materials to fully fledged planet safe. But the vast improvement in awareness in design and manufacturing practises will snowball.