Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Mass consumption and large volumes of furniture production, known as fast furniture, have serious repercussions on the planet. According to a report by the European Environmental Bureau every year, European consumers and companies throw away around 10 million tons of furniture, most of which ends up in landfills or is incinerated.
However, the outlook is positive: six out of ten people consider the environmental impact of products in their purchasing decision, according to a Wallapop report. These days, we are used to talking about sustainable fashion and cosmetics, but ethical design and environmental awareness have also conquered the decoration of our homes. The need to promote more responsible use of decorative objects is the drive behind what is known as slow furniture, a concept that seeks more conscious manufacturing, following the paradigms of eco-design to extend the life of our furniture, in addition to facilitating recycling.
Furniture made from recycled PET, seaweed, and pallets
In this context, there are companies that are committed to environmentally friendly manufacturing models, using recycled materials to make products, opting for more efficient production techniques, reducing energy consumption, and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. There are, for example, certifications that guarantee and promote the sustainability of forestry operations, with the aim of maintaining their biodiversity and guaranteeing natural resources for the future. Among the most important are those of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Pan-European Forest Certification Scheme (PEFC), which establish social, environmental, and economic criteria that must be met for the proper management of a forest. At the production level, companies can use alternative, natural, and resistant ecological materials to produce their furniture, such as bamboo wood and rattan, and eco-friendly varnishes that are respectful of the planet.
An example of this is Hannun, the first Spanish B Corp company in the furniture sector in Europe, which means that they have carbon neutrality certification. As a result, the Catalan company works on demand to reduce waste production. It prioritizes the use of recovered or certified wood, a resource that not only requires little energy to produce, but also entails lower gas emissions and retains CO2 throughout its life cycle. It also does not use animal-based fabrics, opts for natural varnishes based on oil, mineral pigments or water, and is committed to the economy of its surroundings. In addition, the inside of their packages do not contain plastic and they have a collection that reuses pieces of post-industrial plastic—produced during the production process—to prevent it from being thrown into the sea.
But there are also companies more focused on finding new materials. This is the case of Andrew World, which has recently incorporated the use of 100% recycled plastics, polymers of natural origin, and a fabric created from yarn made of plastic from PET bottles and textile waste into its production model. COCO-MAT manufactures relaxation products with naturally replenished materials, such as seaweed, cotton, and wool and has a recycling system that reaches 96%.
Another material that can be used to give a different touch to the decoration is cardboard. At the design and architecture studio CartonLab, they manufacture ephemeral, ad hoc, attractive, recyclable, and sustainable products mainly for exhibitions and events. Y Paletos is dedicated to reusing pallets—and any other materials they can find—to create 'furniture with a resumé.'
In the field of gardening, Citysens offers a sustainable alternative of self-watering vertical gardens. In addition to the fact that the materials used are 100% recycled and recyclable, they collaborate with the Santa Teresa Foundation to hire people with disabilities on their team.
The second life of furniture
Social awareness of the environmental impact of creating new products has led to a growing second-hand market, especially after the pandemic. Consumer habits have changed, and in the decoration sector, buyers are choosing to give furniture a new life both to save resources and reduce waste. The figures speak for themselves: relaxation products and furniture are equivalent to 12% of the products that Spaniards bought second-hand in 2021. In fact, according to a study by Milanuncios the Home and Garden category is one of the most popular sectors and one of the sectors that has the greatest reduction on greenhouse gas emissions and raw materials such as plastic, steel, and aluminum. "For every chair, sofa, and armchair sold on the second-hand market, 365 kg of CO₂, 19 kg of plastic, and 8 kg of steel are saved," the report stated.
Many companies are joining the second-hand market bandwagon. Ikea incorporated a strategy in 2016 that, under the slogan #SalvemosLosMuebles, sought to promote responsible consumption, reduce the climate footprint, and give a new life to its products. The company introduced the Circular Hub, stores dedicated to the sale of used furniture and damaged or discontinued products at affordable prices. It also now has a program to sell and purchase furniture directly through a platform. According to company data in 2021, they bought about 30,000 second-hand products from customers to find them a new home.
If, on the other hand, you are not interested in buying and selling furniture, many cities have street furniture collection services. In fact, a waste prevention policy is already in place in Spain. Act 7/2022 on waste and contaminated soils for a circular economy aims to raise the recycling figure from 42% to 65% by 2035, of which 15% will be destined for reuse (textiles, furniture, electronics, among others). It will be the task of each municipality to establish the most efficient collection models possible to facilitate the process before 2025.
Undoubtedly, the alternatives to practice responsible decoration adapt to all styles. Whether you are looking for a new closet or you want to give a second life to a bookshelf, the awareness of the impact that this action has on our planet is a factor that we should always keep in mind in our purchasing decisions. After all, we are taking care of and decorating everyone's home.
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