Awareness of sustainable purchasing and the environment has grown considerably in recent years, not least in the furnishing industry. Here, the key issue is timber, as furniture is obviously heavily reliant on wood, which continues to be the obvious material for furniture: it is resilient, versatile, easy to maintain and provides a warm, natural feel to any home.
The perils of unsustainable logging
Of course, we’d all like to furnish our homes with wood. It is so much warmer and more natural looking than the alternatives. Trees grow back, so on the face of it they would seem much greener and sustainable than synthetic countertypes. Yet the global desire for wood is great and relentless, and timber demand is higher in some areas than there are trees. Unsustainable logging leads to widespread deforestation, leaving huge swathes of land that will never return to their green woodland glory.
It is therefore very important that when purchasing wood, you always make sure to buy sustainable.
FSC certified timber is sustainable timber
A lot of furnishing firms have now switched to using sustainably sourced timber. What this means is that they only buy their wood from FSC certified suppliers, which means that the wood used in the furniture, as well as the manufacturer that made it, meets the strict requirements of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The FSC is a non-profit organization that ensures forestry is carried out in an environmentally and socially responsible way. All FSC forests are properly managed, ensuring that new trees grow and that the forests are not depleted. In addition, the FSC certifies that the social and economic wellbeing of forest workers and local communities is also respected.
A similar certification system is undertaken by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC). PEFC certification is also the mark of sustainable timber.
You can find out if the furniture that you are intending to purchase is sustainable by checking if it possesses either of these labels.
Another rule of thumb is that European sourced wood tends to be more sustainable than in other parts of the world, simply because the EU has set up stricter standards.
Endangered and exotic woods
Avoid buying exotic woods from tropical countries. In particular, ebony, teak, sapele, merbau, wenge and Brazilian mahogany are endangered and should be avoided, as the supply cannot keep up with demand.
Softwoods such as bamboo, pine and other evergreens are sustainable because they grow quicker than hardwoods, such as oak and mahogany. The word ‘softwood’ can be a little misleading, as these woods remain very resilient and hardwearing, especially when compared to synthetic materials.
It is true that furniture items that are made sustainably may cost a little more. However, they usually turn out to be a better investment, as they tend to be better crafted and last longer than cheaper, lower quality alternatives.
Sustainability is not only about creating a greener lifestyle; it is also a sign of quality. Many of the definitive, age-old brands have now turned to sustainability and classic brands such as Ercol are now manufactured using sustainably sourced timber only.