This is Day 23 of the Green in 365 series!
One of the main things that we have and use in our living rooms is our furniture, and while it may seem harmless, the reality is that it’s not. Most furniture today is made with materials that release VOCs, Volatile Organic Compounds, which off-gas and fill our indoor air with toxic chemicals. The other issue with wooden furniture is that it’s made from unsustainably harvested wood.
The solution here is not to run out and by all new, eco-friendly, chemical free furniture. Buying green products to replace items that are in perfectly good condition is not, in my opinion, the most green thing to do.
To begin with, if you’ve had your furniture for several years, it’s probably already done most of it’s off-gassing, which may make you feel guilty about those years that you lived with, and breathed in the chemicals from brand new furniture, but we can’t go back and change that now. So, if you’re happy with the furniture in your home now, the best thing to do is to keep it, and look to more sustainable options, with fewer chemicals, when you’re ready to replace your furniture.
If you are planning to replace furniture in your living room here are some things to keep in mind:
The Forest Stewardship Council certifies wood supplied from well-managed forests with fair labor practices. If you want to get solid wood furniture, look for products made from FSC-certified wood which are available at many major retailers.
If you’re not in the market for solid wood furniture, be careful when purchasing items made from pressed wood, like plywood and particle board, which are made by gluing small pieces of wood together. The glue used in these types of wood is often formaldehyde based, which then off-gasses this toxic chemical into your home. There are companies selling pressed wood furniture made with formaldehyde-free glue, so be sure to do your research and ask questions of the manufacturer before making your purchases.
Finishes and Sealers:
If you are planning to refinish, stain or paint furniture yourself, be sure to choose low- or no-VOC finishes, and let the items dry completely, and air-out for a few days in a well-ventilated area before bringing them into your home.
The foam cushioning used in upholstered furniture is most likely doused in flame-retardant chemicals, and the fabric may be treated with chemicals to make it stain-resistant and waterproof. There are companies who are producing furniture with fewer chemicals, or using natural materials like organic cotton and wool, so again, be sure to do your research and ask questions before investing in new furniture for your home.
Find Used Pieces:
If, while doing your research before buying, you get overwhelmed or come to the conclusion, as our family has, that most of the eco-friendly, chemical free, sustainably produced furniture products are well out of your price range, there is another option besides buying conventionally made products. One of the greenest options is to buy pre-owned items, or products made with reclaimed wood or recycled materials.
If a product has already been around for a while, it has probably done most of it’s off-gassing and won’t be as harmful to your indoor air as a brand new item would be. And buying used items is also better for the environment because you’re giving new life to an item that’s already been made, and lessening the demand for new products to be produced.
Air It Out:
Finally, before you bring any furniture item into your home, it’s a good idea to let it air-out in a well ventilated, outdoor place for several days. This can help to minimize the amount of harmful chemicals that are off-gassed into your home.
How have you chosen eco-friendly furniture for you home?
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