Kermit the frog was wrong—it is easy being green. These days being green is a big deal. Our society has been wasteful and environmentally irresponsible for a long time. Realizing that the earth doesn’t have an infinite amount of resources has forced people to take another look at the way they consume products. We recycle our garbage so it only makes sense to recycle our belongings, too. To this end “green” furniture, whether pieces that have been reused, passed down or made from replenish-able resources has gained popularity, not only for its intriguing character and sturdy construction, but also for its responsibility in reusing or not using natural resources. If you’re on the hunt for green furniture, click ahead for five handy tips that will help you on your search.
TIP 1: What Goes Around Comes Around
Recycled materials, like metal and plastic, are quickly becoming alternatives to wood furniture. Part of the reason is that recycled materials need less processing and use fewer resources. When looking for eco-friendly furniture, remember that it should lend itself to easy repair, disassembly, and recycling. While manufacturing these materials poses concerns to the environment, the use of recycled metals and plastics is a great way to go green. These products can be easily dismantled, sorted, and recycled at the end of their lives and be reincarnated as something completely different.
Interesting Tidbit: The amount of plastics in municipal solid waste has increased from less than 1.0 percent in 1960 to 12.0 percent in 2008.
TIP 2: You say, “Wicker” We say, “Rattan”
Rattan is a species of palm that resembles a vine more than a tree. It’s an excellent alternative to wood. Rattan is easier to harvest and transport than wood, and requires simpler tools to do so. It also grows faster than most tropical wood. The skin of the plant is the part used for weaving into wicker. It’s lightweight, flexible, all weather, and highly durable. Most rattan is grown in Indonesia where locals use it in home building projects.
Interesting Tidbit: Italian scientists are using rattan wood to create a process for creating artificial bone. Small pieces of rattan are placed in a furnace and heated. Calcium and carbon are added, and then the “wood” is heated under intense pressure and then combined with a phosphate solution. This process produces a replica of bone material.
TIP 3: Bamboozled
Bamboo, like money, doesn’t grow on trees. Bamboo is a family of grasses that ranges widely in size and color. It’s fast growing and durable – an extremely versatile material. Bamboo is the perfect “green” construction item. It can be made into all sorts of things – flooring, furniture, clothing, window blinds, and even buildings.
Most bamboo comes from China. One caveat is that some bamboo is grown with pesticides so if you’re looking to purchase furniture and want to ensure it’s truly eco-friendly, ask your retailer.
Interesting Tidbit: Some species of bamboo can grow three to four feet in a day.
TIP 4: Go Fetch
Reclaimed wood can come from old furniture, houses, or other buildings that have been razed. It may also be obtained from factory scraps and sometimes even from old logs that have sunk to the bottom of rivers. And don’t forget about driftwood worn smooth by its ocean journey. Wood is very durable and can last a long time without losing integrity. So reclaimed wood is already weathered to perfection.
Interesting Tidbit: The carbon cost of using reclaimed wood in interiors can save up to 87% compared to equivalent virgin timber products.
TIP 5: Certifiable
The Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC, monitors and inspects forest management and issues certifications for well-controlled forests. Certified wood sources are controlled to ensure indefinite growth as opposed to deforestation, which wipes out acres of forests. By buying furniture made from sustainable wood, it drastically reduces the damage to the eco-system. So how can you tell the difference between sustainable wood and wood harvested from vulnerable forests? Look for FSC certified wood products.
Interesting Tidbit: 78 countries have FSC certified forests with a total 247 million acres worldwide.
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