Whether you’re just moving into a new home or thinking about switching things up in your existing house, there’s no denying that furniture is an important consideration. In fact, picking the right furniture pieces can really enhance the space and ambience of a room.
Here are a few key considerations if you want to start being environmentally-savvy in furnishing your living spaces.
#1: It’s what’s on the inside that counts
There are so many things to look out for when picking out eco-friendly furniture, but it is crucial to look at these two main things — its conformance to health and safety standards as well as what it’s made of. A general rule of thumb for good eco-friendly furniture is that it is easy to repair, disassemble, and recycle at the end of its lifetime.
While the Malaysian furniture industry has been taking significant steps in “greening” the furniture manufacturing process, you’ll probably still need to keep in mind environmentally-friendly alternatives to your favourite materials when you go furniture shopping.
Make sure the wood in your furniture is reclaimed wood or is harvested from sustainable forests or tree farms. A good standard of certification for this is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which controls clearcutting and promotes good working conditions. Also, bonus points if it made from wood from oil palm or rubber trees as the wood from these trees are typically burnt or deposited in landfills.
Fun fact: Bamboos aren’t trees, they’re actually a type of fast-growing grass. They’re very versatile, too — bamboo can be flattened into flooring, moulded into furniture and more. Generally, bamboo furniture is an eco-dream, but some growers use pesticides and chemicals to speed up its growth, which can be harmful to the environment. Another thing to look out for is if the product is pieced together with glue which may contain formaldehyde.
- Anything else
For almost any other material, it would be a good idea to think recycled. Besides requiring fewer resources to produce, furniture made out of recycled materials also need all the support they can get in the market.
#2: Can you fix it?
When selecting furniture, one of the key things to look out for is durability. Also, stay away from “monstrous hybrid” furniture that is inseparable with a sign that they can’t be repaired well.
There is no point in buying furniture that ticks all the eco-friendly boxes but is prone to breaking as it could require more resources to repair or even replace it eventually. If something is made to last, it’ll save you money in the long run (even if it can be more expensive initially).
#3: Think flexible
There is a big chance you’ll eventually end up moving to a new home one day, which is something to think about when buying furniture. Forget the traditional heavy furnitures that look like they belong in your grandparents’ place — you’ll regret it come moving day. Instead, buy flexible and think small.
Opt for lighter, convertible furniture that you can stow or fold away when you don’t need it.
#4: Old is as good as new
One of the biggest ways you can be eco-friendly is by minimising waste, which you can do by getting vintage or second-hand furniture for your home. It requires no additional resources to manufacture and, being locally sourced, cuts down on transportation costs, too.
As vintage furniture was made to last, it often has an excellent resale value (which can sometimes sell for the same or more than the price it was bought at). If this is something you can get behind, some good places to start looking are Craigslist, Freecycle or eBay — which, coincidentally, is also where you can sell off your furniture once you’re ready to say goodbye to it.
#4: Shop smart
You’ll be surprised — the kilometres a piece of furniture has to travel in order to reach us has a large impact on the environment. As such, as far as possible, source for furniture locally.
This fuels the local economy, small craftspeople and entrepreneurs as well as reduces costs all around. Here’s a pro-tip: look for furniture suppliers who are dedicated to the green cause.