The environment is in chaos right now. Pollution from different sectors is causing great despair for the climate. After the IPCC report, there is no denying climate change and global warming. Pollution, heavy trends of production and consumption, untimely action by world leaders are only going to further deteriorate this issue.
After damaging the climate with our daily activities we can very well see the effects of it. The adversity of climate change is now in turn further damaging the environment, human life and well-being.
Entire ecosystems are under threat around the world and it is difficult to understand where to begin. Large scale actions are required however, it is feasible for individuals to begin at home.
Yes, surprisingly our home décor or interior design can hurt the environment to a great extent. It counts issues like what materials are used, how they are sourced and how they will be disposed of.
After the fashion industry’s ongoing fast fashion fiasco, it is the home décor or furniture industry that has caught on the virus. The biggest part of home décor is furniture. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, America single-handedly generates 12 million tons of furniture and furnishing waste.
Similar to fast fashion, accessibility, cheap prices and trends are the tinderboxes of fast furniture. As the furniture is mass-produced it often fails to meet the standards of durability and sustainability. Even if it may be cheap to your pocket, the environment pays a great deal for the same.
Problems of Fast Furniture:
Most of the furniture uses wood as its main material. Often sourcing of this raw material is done by cutting down trees. Deforestation is the greatest harm to the environment. The next common materials in furniture are synthetic fibers. These are generally made from fossil fuels. Taking into account the energy used and carbon emissions, the carbon footprint of the furniture increases manifold. For building the furniture there is heavy use of carcinogenic materials in almost all of the pieces. This can cause a great deal of harm not only to the environment but also to personal health.
Transporting raw materials to manufacturing units. There on, shipping manufactured pieces from factories to storage units or retail shops. After purchase, the materials have to be transported to the buyer’s place. Transportation causes high carbon emissions which are harmful to the environment.
Julie Muniz, a Bay Area international trend forecasting consultant, curator, and expert in direct-to-consumer home design, weighs in on the growing problem. “Like fast fashion, fast furniture is produced quickly, sold cheaply, and not expected to last more than a few years.”
Fast Furniture VS Sustainability:
Due to the availability of high-trend furniture at cheap rates, it becomes easier for consumers to discard their items. Particleboard found in cheap furniture is not recyclable or biodegradable because of its chemical resin or plastic laminate. These items often are left on roadsides only or are dumped in landfills. There is hardly any chance to recycle them.
1. Buy Less, waste lesser:
The first step to increase sustainability is to decrease one’s consumption. Instead of quantity and trends look out for quality. This would ensure that pieces last longer and don’t end up in waste often.
A perfect fit in the new age of the circular economy is renting. Changing the items as often as possible without actually committing to them. There is an ever-growing market for ideas like this and companies like Furlenco or Oliver Space are thriving with their businesses.
3. Vintage or second-hand:
Using a second-hand product is similar to renting one. But hopping for a piece of vintage furniture is both ethical and sustainable while it can add a different flair to your décor.
Donating an item ensures that it stays in the life cycle for a longer period of time. Less to the landfill and more to the needy.
5 brands that are helping with sustainable furniture:
As some would argue IKEA to be the pioneer of fast furniture globally it is also one of the few companies to initiate sustainability in the business. With their People & Planet Positive campaign, IKEA in collaboration with its partners, co-workers and customers has plans on taking ambitious steps towards a more sustainable future. They also have net-zero ambitions set for the year 2030. Now IKEA also allows its customers to replace, repair or recycle any parts of their products.
2. Masaya & Co.:
Responsibly sourcing their materials, giving jobs to families in the Nicaragua region and helping the same communities. This brand is vegan, sustainable, preserves heritage and practices fair trade. While ethical and sustainable furniture they are also focusing on their project of reforestation in the region.
Emeco is taking on sustainability by making chairs, stools and tables out of recycled materials. Mainly recycled aluminum, they also use. Making furniture from recycled materials also costs them 17 times less energy. They also use green manufacturing processes. Their shipping and packaging materials are also 100% recyclable.
4. Bamboo House India:
The company is actively promoting bamboo furniture and household items especially curated by local artisans. The benefits of bamboo include it being biodegradable and easy growing. They have now taken up making upcycled furniture. Read more about the benefits of bamboo in sustainability, here.
This sustainable furniture manufacturer produces products using glass, terracotta and eco-mix. The company hires local Indian artisans as they are well versed in the art. They aim at reducing their carbon footprint and making these products available at an affordable price.