Sustainable furniture is built to last

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Fast furniture’ often tossed when it breaks, falls out of fashion

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Conscientious consumers are embracing sustainable furniture for many reasons, especially because it’s better for the environment than ‘fast furniture.’

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“Sustainable furniture includes items that are often made of solid natural materials or that are made to last through more firm or enduring construction methods,” says Jane Lockhart, principal of Jane Lockhart Design in Mississauga.

“Often, they aren’t as trendy or necessarily related to the latest fad. Sustainable furniture tends to have more classic lines that remain popular over longer periods of time and are usually meant for ‘real life’ in that their size is realistic, such as a wider chair or softer seat. These pieces also tend not to wobble or break as easily when used frequently due to their construction.”

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‘Fast furniture,’ on the other hand, is manufactured quickly and en masse. Because it’s poorly constructed, it’s difficult to repair or refurbish, so much of it is tossed when it breaks or falls out of fashion.

Once it’s sent to a landfill, it can emit gases like methane and carbon dioxide – big factors in climate change – as it decomposes.

“Once you have to dispose of furniture that is broken or cheap, you realize how costly this is. Although you may have spent less up front, it costs more later due to disposable fees or wear and tear that impacts use and comfort. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for,” says Lockhart.

She’s a fan of buying Canadian. It reduces shipping and emission costs while supporting local makers, she explains. “Made with materials from Canadian, government approved, non-toxic substances and excellent styles, all these pieces are made to last.”

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The benefits of buying sustainable furniture don’t end there. “The obvious benefit is the ability to customize colours, materials, comfort and size when it’s all built here, and of course this means less travel and CO2 emissions,” Lockhart says.


“We have even had families save well-made and timeless pieces for the next generation of their family. They may recover them or change the colour but these pieces last and have meaning.

If you are going to buy something major like a sofa sectional or dining table, why not buy it once and buy it well? It will help you and your family create many memories together.”

A new global study commissioned by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) with IPSOS found climate change, biodiversity loss and deforestation remain key forestry issues of concern. (FSC-labelled furniture and materials come from a responsibly managed forest certified with zero deforestation, meaning no net loss to the overall forest area.)

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One of the ways in which consumers are addressing their forest concerns is through their purchasing decisions, according to the study.

Nearly three quarters would rather choose products that don’t damage plants and animals, nearly two thirds try to buy products packaged with renewable materials, and almost as many choose products that don’t contribute to the climate crisis.

Manufacturers like IKEA recognize the growing importance of sustainability to consumers. “We believe it boils down to having purposeful long-term investments in the home that serve the test of time and continue to add value to our everyday life,” says Heena Saini, commercial public relations specialist with IKEA Canada.

“Our vision is about creating a better everyday life at home, and buying furniture and home accessories that encourages sustainable habits and includes sustainable materials is part of that journey.”

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IKEA conducts an annual Life at Home report to learn about how people live across Canada and globally which informs how it creates meaningful products and relevant solutions. Its most report found 55 per cent of Canadians surveyed are concerned about the impacts of climate change.

IKEA has been ramping up the ways it manufactures and distributes products to reduce its impact on the environment, with big ambitions for 2030. “Our focuses are to continue to prioritize healthy and sustainable living, becoming circular and climate positive, and creating positive social impact for everyone across the IKEA value chain,” Saini says.

IKEA sets clear expectations and ways of working for environmental, social and working conditions, as well as animal welfare, and is mandatory for all suppliers and service providers that work with IKEA, she reports.

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By shipping products in flatpacks, it can produce at volumes, keep costs low and use the entire container (never shipping ‘air’). IKEA flatpacks also encourage in-house designers to create functional products that are also minimalist.

Shopping sustainably

• Choose furniture made from renewable, nontoxic materials like bamboo, natural fibres, responsibly sourced or reclaimed wood, cork and recycled materials. Avoid furniture made from non-renewable resources, like endangered tree species.
• Buy second-hand or vintage furniture.
• Choose furniture made from materials that are easily extracted from a local or reasonably close location and can be recycled or repurposed.
• Seek companies that are transparent with their methods of ethical sourcing and support local communities.
• Packaging materials like Styrofoam and single-use plastic often can’t be reused or recycled. Better choices include minimal or eco-friendly packaging and lightweight, biodegradable packaging.

Source: Architectural Digest

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