Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

To Ikea or not to Ikea? That is the question (when shopping for furniture)

Recently, we took a look at how you can go green when shopping for furniture. And while buying vintage pieces and investing in well-made materials is perhaps your greenest option, it’s not always the most practical. We get it – in a tough economy it isn’t always possible to invest a month’s rent into a table. So what to do when you’re faced with the eternal question: to Ikea or not to Ikea?

Let's look at Ikea’s green agenda. The store has launched a giant green marketing campaign to share their sustainability, touting their “never ending list” of improvements. The company does try to incorporate some sustainable standards for its wooden material.

The company started eliminating plastic bags from their stores in 2008. It also claims their products have strict standards on formaldehyde. And we do agree that their infamous flat-packaging is more carbon friendly to transport.

In 2010, Treehugger reported that Ikea of Sweden launched a free online platform for buyers to resell their used pieces. The site is meant to be a corporate-sponsored Craigslist of sorts. However, the site is only available for Swedish users. No word on if the company plans to expand it to include the United States. 

And what about 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 placed partially on the chemicals used to treat cheaper furniture. 

Last year, Ikea announced that they were phasing out the carcinogenic flame retardant chlorinated tris and replacing it with “an organo-phosphorous compound which gets incorporated into the polymer matrix of the foam filling.” But this rather vague explanation has left many still confused about the safety of this replacement chemical. 

Then there are the latest headlines for the company. Ikea was mostly recently made news when its U.S. factory workers decided to unionize. As The New York Times reports, “Employees at the Swedwood plant in Danville, Va., voted 221-69 to have the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represent them in collective bargaining, union and plant officials said.” Further, “The union described working conditions at the Danville plant as akin to those in a developing nation.” Ikea countered to The New York Times that the Virginia plant operated the same as its Swedish plants, and that they had placed it in an economically depressed region of the U.S.

So should you shop at Ikea? The company has developed green initiatives, but it is still peddling cheap particle board. In the end, it depends how green you want to go.

Image: sethw/Flickr