The Environmental Impact Of The Traditional Furniture Industry

The Luna headboard from SoftFrame Designs

It may be hard to imagine that, when you choose a new dining table or bed frame for your home, you could be harming the planet. But in actuality, the negative environmental impact of the furniture industry is widespread and, unfortunately, has some very serious consequences.

Instead of overlooking the harsh reality of this massive industry, learn about how furniture manufacturing negatively impacts the environment, and explore some eco-friendly alternatives that can help lower your own carbon footprint.

Furniture Materials & Manufacturing

Though purchasing new furniture from online retailers or brick-and-mortar box stores is easy and convenient, there is one significant downside: the negative environmental impact.

Much of the furniture in today’s market is made quickly from cheap materials to keep costs to the consumer down. As a result, the furniture is not durable or long-lasting, resulting in it being thrown out more quickly than pieces of the past that were well-made with high-quality materials.

This lower quality leads to people often throwing away various furniture pieces when moving or remodeling their homes. They opt to replace worn down or broken designs instead of restoring them or exploring pre-owned alternatives. This common practice, however, is contributing hugely to deforestation, carbon emissions, and other catastrophic changes to the environment.

Negative Environmental Impacts

Throwing fast furniture into landfills isn’t the only way to cause harm. The production and manufacturing itself also lead to several catastrophic environmental side effects.

Deforestation

Every year, the planet loses 18.7 million acres of forest. And while some of this logging is done using sustainable practices, the vast majority leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

Though wood is often viewed as a renewable resource—and therefore a safe material for furniture construction—deforestation is far outpacing trees’ ability to regrow, leading to an overall deficiency. This widespread deforestation not only contributes to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, but also can cause soil erosion, and flooding, and negatively impact animals’ natural ecosystems.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

While furniture production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through deforestation, it also contributes additional emissions through manufacturing, finishing, packaging, and shipping. Carbon emissions from furniture are so high that just one piece of fast furniture can generate up to 47 kg of carbon dioxide emissions—which is the rough equivalent of burning 5.3 gallons of gasoline.

Toxic Chemicals

Natural materials, like wood, cotton, and bamboo, are often used in furniture manufacturing, making the pieces seem like a safe option for your home. Unfortunately, these pieces are often treated with hazardous chemicals that can have negative impacts on both your health and the environment.

Flame retardant PBTE is often used on wooden furniture and fabric like sheets, PFAs are used on most upholstery, and formaldehyde is used to treat leather furniture. Dyes, pesticides, and even arsenic are sometimes used during furniture production. Not only are many of these chemicals carcinogens with dire side effects on your health, but the chemicals can also seep into the ground and adversely impact the environment once thrown into a landfill.

Eco-Friendly Alternatives

While traditional furniture manufacturing can be harmful to the environment, there are many eco-friendly alternatives to consider when furnishing your home.

Second-Hand & Vintage

In 2017 alone, furniture waste totaled 12.2 million tons—and over 80% of that waste ended up in landfills. While purchasing new furniture for your home helps achieve a particular aesthetic, it can also lead to unnecessary and harmful accumulation of waste that sits in landfills for decades or even centuries.

Instead of purchasing directly from retailers, second-hand and vintage furniture is an eco-friendly alternative that reduces waste and gives the piece a new life. While traditional second-hand shops, flea markets, and yard sales are local outlets to hunt for pre-owned furniture, websites like Facebook Marketplace, Mercari, and eBay allow you to cast a wider net and find the perfect pre-loved pieces to bring your vision to life—while also reducing waste and keeping furniture out of landfills.

Recycled Materials

Furniture made from recycled materials is the perfect balance between old and new. While the pieces themselves are newly made, they are constructed using recycled plastic, metal, wood, and other materials to minimize the waste in landfills. From durable outdoor furniture to plastic indoor playsets, recycled furniture can be of equal quality and style to newly constructed pieces—with the added bonus of being better for the planet.

Responsibly Designed

While newly made furniture can lead to high carbon emissions and negative environmental impacts, some furniture manufacturers have a more eco-conscious approach. Brands like SoftFrame Designs strategically approach furniture production to ensure a lower carbon footprint—while still delivering beautiful, durable designs for their customers.

SoftFrame Designs bed frames are wood-free, ensuring that they don’t contribute to the growing problem of deforestation. The frames are also thoughtfully made from Certi-PUR U.S. certified foam which means they are free of harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, ozone depleters, and heavy metals. The foam construction also results in bed frames that are as lightweight as possible. This not only ensures they’re a practical piece for homes of all sizes but also reduces transportation weight to lower carbon emissions during shipping for the most eco-conscious design possible.

Discover SoftFrame Designs’ eco-friendly bed frames that not only deliver a stylish sleeping solution but also help protect the planet.