As we struggle to navigate through a crippling climate crisis, the furniture industry is pushing to be greener.
Businesses everywhere are expressing the need for the use of sustainable materials to tackle the challenge.
What are sustainable materials?
Sustainable materials are those that can be used over an extended period of time without having a negative impact on the environment.
They can be used in furniture manufacturing, and include: natural fibres like cotton, bamboo, and wool; recycled materials like post-consumer plastic bottles and paper; and sustainably sourced wood.
While there are many benefits to using sustainable materials making furniture, some manufacturers may find it difficult to make the switch because they can be more expensive than traditional ones.
For example, recycled plastics tend to be cheaper than new plastics, but they often have shorter lifespans due to their high exposure to heat and sunlight.
However, the need to go green means that these furniture manufacturers are taking great steps in using recycled materials.
What are some common sustainable materials used in furniture manufacturing?
There are a wide variety of sustainable materials used to create furniture. Manufacturers are constantly coming up with new innovative designs using these materials.
From cork, bamboo, various other fabrics like re-wool and Rivet, and sustainable metals such as stainless steel or brass. there are loads out there – here’s some of our favourites.
Manufacturers are reusing plastics to create new furniture through a number of methods.
It is a great way to tackle our plastic issue and consumers can help reduce environmental impact by purchasing sustainable furniture made with recycled plastics whenever possible.
Linoleum or ‘lino’ is a material used for surfaces and is made from 97% raw materials, 72% rapidly renewable, 43% recycled content. Unlike many products used to top desks, lino is biodegradable and is made from linseed oil and paper dust.
Smile Plastics is a materials design and manufacturing house creating handcrafted, supersized panels for retail, architecture, interiors and product design. They create beautiful side tables and panels with a great aesthetic appeal.
A manufacturer who uses Lino in their products is Rawside British company on a mission to make the world’s most practical furniture whilst causing the least impact. All of the steel they use is 100% recyclable too.
They are registered as Carbon Neutral by Blue Marble and also use reclaimed timber.
The future of sustainable furniture manufacturing may hinge on finding ways to integrate recycled plastics more fully into the production process.
It is estimated that each year, 12 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into our oceans.
It is very harmful to wildlife, including marine life and seabirds.
Pollution from plastic waste creates lesions on coral reefs, which can kill them off and make these ecosystems less resilient to future climate change.
Additionally, when items made from recycled materials are put into the marketplace as new products, we are essentially creating new sources of pollution.
We need to start thinking about recycling materials differently – as a way to reduce our impact on the environment rather than increase it.
One company that is tackling this are Camira Group who design and manufacture upholstery and panel textiles for every space and sector.
Camira’s material Oceanic, is a reflection of their ongoing commitment to environmental product stewardship, building on their expertise in recycled polyesters to incorporate marine plastic waste for the very first time. Created entirely from recycled plastic, Oceanic brings new life to thrown away products – from debris found floating in our seas to post-consumer plastic bottles, destined for landfill.
Recycled wool is often collected from old clothing and other textiles which have been recycled, reducing the amount of new materials that are needed.
It helps to create durable furniture which is both eco-friendly and of high quality.
A company who does this superbly is Kvadrat with their Re-Wool material.
Crafted using 45% recycled wool, Re-wool is a rich upholstery textile with a sustainable profile. ‘The idea was to create a both honest and environmentally friendly – textile with a poetic feel by recycling leftover material from Kvadrat’s own production’, explains Margrethe Odgaard, the designer of Re-Wool.
When cork is harvested trees aren’t cut down. Instead, their bark is carefully stripped away by hand in a skilled trade that has been passed down over generations.
It takes between nine and twelve years for the bark to grow back thick enough to be harvested again, making it a very sustainable material.
The Bob Stool by Modus is a characterful stool made from the waste produced in wine bottle cork manufacturing.
Around 5% of the sales of every Bob stool are donated to Movement On The Ground, a charity working to improve the lives of refugees.
Also, Vitra’s Cork Family makes side tables or stools made purely out of cork, meaning they are comparatively lightweight and extremely durable.
Bamboo is an incredibly renewable and versatile material.
Although it’s tough like wood, it’s actually a type of grass and some types grow by over a metre a day.
The crop requires very little water and doesn’t need to be sprayed with pesticides or fertilisers to grow.
Bamboo releases 35 per cent more oxygen into the air compared to trees of the same size.
Frövi creates bamboo shelving and storage ranges.
Designed with our planet in mind, style meets sustainability with the Bamboo furniture range. it is crafted using eco-friendly materials, including recycled ocean plastic, recycled PET Felt and pressed bamboo.
Using sustainable materials within the furniture manufacturing process can have a number of benefits beyond simply being environmentally friendly.
It will often result in decreased costs due to lower raw material prices and reduce waste output due to increased efficiency within the production process.
Customers are more likely to purchase products made with sustainability-friendly methods if they understand how their purchase impacts the planet overall – leading to increased sales.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your company’s sustainability performance without significantly increasing costs or altering your product lineup, consider sourcing sustainable materials for your furniture products.
Sustainability isn’t just good for Mother Earth – it’s good business.