Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Shopping for furniture? Here’s how you can go green

Last year, I moved into a new apartment with my now husband. He had beautiful vintage pieces of furniture, carefully handed down from his grandparents. I had a bunch of Ikea assembled a decade ago, and I was determined to see how long it would last. (I didn’t say it was pretty.) So it was my carefully-preserved remnants of the 1990s that were destined for a second life second-hand shop. The problem? No one would take them.

As the mover for one thrift store informed me, second-hand thrift shops won’t carry particle-board pieces because their resale value is so low. For an extra fee, he offered to drop off my perfectly-functional coffee table, entertainment stand and dresser at a local homeless shelter who “might” take it. I took the offer, thinking it was the better plan. The other involved me likely falling under my “Vallvik” dresser as I dragged it to the curb, hoping LA DWP would mistake it for a blue bin and haul it away. At least this way my furniture wasn’t heading to a landfill….right?

Luckily, there are ways to green up your furniture without a showdown between several burly movers who outclass you in weight and height. Here are some quick, easy tips to keep in mind when shopping for new furniture.

Look for local, vintage pieces that are well made or can be spruced up by some easy alterations. At the very least, your new furniture will have an excellent resale value. (See my experience above.) Outside of local thrift or vintage shops, you can find pieces on eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle and more. Look for pieces that can be easily recycled or dissembled.

If you are buying new pieces, consider investing in sustainable materials. Wooden furniture can be constructed by sustainably-grown trees certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). There is also wood certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Look for pieces carrying these labels.

You can also buy pieces from reclaimed wood, which is wood salvaged from an old home or even the bottom of a lake. The Rainforest Alliance carries a certification for this. Also consider pieces made from bamboo, which is a highly-sustainable material as it is fast growing.

Finally, look for furniture that has low-toxicity. Remember the recent news story that California pregnant women have extremely high levels of fire retardant in their systems? The blame for these dangerous levels has been partially placed on the chemicals used to treat cheaper furniture. Look for pieces certified by the Greenguard label, which ensure they meet a low-toxicity level. 

Image: a_t_ljungberg/Flickr