Because of the growing public attention on the eco living topic, eco-friendly furniture and household products have also gained popularity with the trend. AlterEco is going to tell you what defines eco-friendly furniture, and how it differs from traditional furniture.

Eco-friendly furniture is about being green and sustainable. Green furniture is produced in the least environmentally harmful manner which doesn’t emit pollution that is harmful to both people and nature, with materials that are likely to have been reused or recycled. Sustainable furniture can be used and passed on for generations.

Green furniture uses recycled or reused materials to keep them from being sent to the landfill or incinerator and to reduce material waste and energy usage on crafting from raw materials. No toxic chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are used in the production process.

Yet, if the final product’s quality is so low that it needs to be changed regularly, then the green furniture would be less ‘green’.

Speaking of furniture’s sustainability, traditional furniture was built to last for generations in the past before it was taken over a few years ago by low-cost, mass-produced furniture that expects to be changed at a regular basis.

The negative impact on the environment from low-cost furniture could be significant. For one, there is a huge need for energy and resources for the mass production, even if those materials have been reused. Secondly, you need to think of the packaging for the furniture, which could end up in landfill or incinerators because the current  recycling isn’t ready for the packaging yet. Last but not least, low-cost furniture tends to be built overseas – China, for example, is the biggest furniture exporting country – then sold worldwide to customers through Amazon. So, the delivery to the store and and then the buyer could increase the carbon footprint.

However, traditional manufacturing processes create emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from glues, stains, and finishes. VOCs are a major contributor to indoor air pollution and outdoor smog, which evaporates into the air.

That is why the basic concept of eco-friendly furniture is to be green in production and high quality in use.

Besides what we have mentioned above, eco-friendly furniture should also support a lifestyle with reduced requirements for energy and resources from every perspective. For example, local manufacturing could make furniture that is sold in the local market, maintaining minimal delivery distance.

When it comes to furniture sustainability, the function of the furniture matters since multiple-function furniture could offer residents value for space, saving people’s excuse for moving around, reducing physical carbon footprint.

Along with durability, style and environmental sustainability, eco-friendly furniture offers users additional health benefits. Furniture made from recycled materials is extremely cost-effective, and green furniture is also completely safe and non-toxic, unlike traditional furniture with VOCs. The overexposure to VOCs emissions can lead to respiratory problems and cause lung damage, but other issues that can result from exposure to excessive chemical emissions include eyes, nose and throat irritation. Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea.

The production of low VOC furniture has reduced significant amounts of VOCs, and they don’t need as much off-gas as traditional furniture. The ‘low’ only gets defined in comparison with traditional furniture so there is no standard on the exact number on ‘low’ yet.

No VOC means furniture that is VOC free, which doesn’t mean there are no toxic chemicals, especially for decoration paint. In fact, these paints sometimes can contain other solvents and additives that can be harmful so the paint tinting process can sometimes add some VOCs. That said, these are still a great option.

Disposing of your old furniture in a more eco way could also make your furniture greener indirectly. For example, offer you furniture to a charity if it is still in good condition, or to friends or relatives who may just moved into a new place with tight budget.

Overall, having eco-friendly furniture is also about paying more attention to how the furniture is delivered, disposed and functioned.