2016 was the warmest year on record; the impact of the global climate crisis is rapidly becoming reality and is already changing the lives of many. Experts say that it may be too late to avoid the 1.5°C warming threshold set by the IPCC, and they cite the need for “far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”
Reducing Carbon Footprint Across Industries
Many have responded to that call — consumers and producers in all industries have turned to sustainable products, with traceable supply chains and novel sustainable materials, in order to reduce their ecological footprint.
A good example of this is the fashion industry. Here, 35% of companies in this sector have taken on policies to redress forced labour in their supply chain, and 45% of companies have introduced policies addressing responsible purchasing practices. This is a growing trend across sectors; think about the number of skincare products that are now cruelty free. Everyday, social media, documentaries, and the news drill it home to consumers that lifestyle choices make a difference.
Increasingly, there is a recognition of the ecological impact of fast-furniture. This is furniture that, like fast-fashion, is often inexpensive, mass-produced and poor quality — designed to collapse after a few years of use. This is furniture of convenience, a long way from the skills and quality craftsmanship that pervades the history of industry. Fast-furniture can significantly contribute to your carbon footprint, and making sustainable decisions about your furniture choice can go a long way to bringing about change.
Choosing Eco-Friendly Furniture
Many brands are now using sustainability as a starting point for their products. But how can you tell a fast-furniture brand from a sustainable one? If you are looking to bring more sustainable consumption into your home, use the below checklist as a guide to purchasing.
1. Authentic Materials
The message here is simple: know your supply chain. In our globalised world, many fast-furniture brands have outsourced the extraction and production of materials. This means that they neither track nor take responsibility for the practices that are used to produce the materials. A sustainable brand will always know the origin of their materials and will ensure that their suppliers have strong social and environmental policies in place.
An example of a company doing just this is Duxiana, a luxury bed brand from Sweden. They source the pine used in their bed bases from northern Sweden and use forests with responsible logging methods and replanting policies.
Danish brand DK3 also uses sustainably sourced wood for their stunning dining tables. Brands like these are taking a long term view — not only do they want the best materials for their furniture, but they also want to have access to these materials far into the future. Pretty sensible if you ask me.
This should be the case throughout the supply chain, and brands should take responsibility for each aspect of production. For example, Umage, a Danish lighting brand, flat packs all their products to minimise their carbon footprint during transport. In fact, Scandinavian design brands tend to be ahead of the curve in general. Because of the heritage associated with Scandinavian and particularly Danish design, many of these companies have always employed sustainable practices and continue to do so.
2. Global Certification
The next marker to look for is certification. Awards such as the Oeko-Tex 100 Certificate for textile raw materials and the EU REACH prove that brands not only hold sustainable policies, but that the furniture ultimately produced is ecologically friendly and, importantly, chemical free. If you are looking for child-friendly furniture, this is a great place to start.
As these brands often invent and use unusual materials, they are often well ahead of their competition. Montana’s Storage System is not only an innovative storage solution but is equally at the forefront of sustainable practices. It was one of the first brands to be accredited with the EU Ecolabel in 2019. More commonly, sustainable brands, like Fredericia or Skovby, holds the Indoor Climate Label or the FSC, both of which ensure that the furniture is environmentally conscious, and toxin-safe for indoor use.
3. Better World Initiatives
Another way to tell if a company is serious about ethical consumption is to look at the way it treats its people. Ethical brands will work to upskill and train their employees and may run apprenticeships or other social mobility schemes.
For example, Eilersen’s ethos of care does not stop at the quality of the materials and construction; it trickles down further into the bones of the company. The brand works at the forefront of global change to build an environment where companies take responsibility for both the sustainability and quality of the materials, as well as protecting the livelihoods of the people working in their supply chains.
4. Built to Last
Finally, but possibly most importantly, the key with ecological furniture is that it is built to last. As Andreas Graversen, as managing director for Fredericia, said “It is of great importance that the things we purchase and live with, do not need to be changed but instead grow old with dignity and charm”.
The key here is twofold. Firstly, the less you have to replace your furniture, the smaller environmental footprint you make. Secondly, the more you buy from brands that uphold ethical standards, the more other companies are pushed to produce sustainable furniture. Purchasing sustainably is a positive cycle and also, because of the durability of the furniture, it turns out what’s good for your wallet is also good for the planet!