Gallery: Materials SmackDown: What is Green Furniture Made From?


When people shopped for furniture in the past, the main decision points were usually around color, style and price. Nowadays, more and more consumers are looking at a piece of furniture’s environmental impact before they buy, and the materials play a huge role in furniture’s carbon footprint. So what exactly is the greenest stuff to make furniture with – do you know? Let’s take a look at 3 materials that furniture is most commonly made from – wood, metal, and plastic – and explore how each stacks up in terms of health, environmental impact and durability.

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  1. RVW: Concious Design fo... October 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    […] to both head and heart from many perspectives. This includes considering everything from how materials meet and interact with each other to social and environmental aspects of their production, which is […]

  2. SJB August 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    SFI is absolutely not a credible certification standard. It is a timber industry greenwashing scheme designed to thwart the growing popularity of FSC certification. Unfortunately, it is largely succeeding (perhaps because they can afford to pay people to spam blog comments).

    Read more:

  3. harpia August 11, 2010 at 8:24 am

    What style of furniture today is the greenest? One of the oldest styles there is, the papasan. The rattan now days is grown on plantations and not harvested from the jungles It is not only a renewable resource but is one of the most durable woods out there. I have seen papasan chairs that are over 50 years old still in use today.

    The cushions used to be filled with crush foam rubber, not a very green product for sure. But today’s cushions are stuffed with crushed polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. It is one chair that can always be updated without little impact on the environment.

  4. Andrew Michler August 7, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    As you can see this is not a black and white issue. Metal can be recycled indefinitely, albeit with an energy footprint.Producing wood products can also have a significant energy footprint. The current debate over sustainable harvested wood is very intense but the FSC is the most reliable source for low impact harvesting thus far.

    We see too much furniture today built with a very short usable life span and with materials that can significantly affect indoor IAQ. Furniture that does not pose these risks are not the cheapest options in the short run but will have a significantly longer lifespan. We do not imply that price is the best measure of ‘green’ furniture but it is often and indicator.

  5. anhmhc August 2, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Thanks for your effort, this is top stuff. I am myself running a small furniture shop and understand that higher prices are not always green.


  6. SFI Program August 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Another credible forest certification standard is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). SFI is fully independent and has a rigorous standard grounded in science, research and regional expertise. The SFI label can be found on many products, and it is backed by strict requirements that give consumers confidence that their purchased goods come from well-managed forests. To find more information, please visit SFI’s website at

  7. noes August 2, 2010 at 1:15 am

    Are you sure you know how metals are produced? Maybe they’re better than plastics, but can they beat plywood for an instance? Even particle boards and MDF have few “sustainable” issues. The higher price doesn’t always mean “Green”. Good design should be available for everyone. By the way most of the “primitive” groups of people are much more concerned on Earth’s “health” than the civilized western societies. Think about it.
    Buying less and using less helps.

  8. Materials Smackdown: Wh... July 31, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    […] options is the most environmentally friendly one? Unsure? Then your best bet is to check out our materials smackdown, where we pin wood, metal and plastic against one another to see how each stacks up in terms of […]

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