How To: Shop for Eco-Friendly Wood Furniture

How To: Shop for Eco-Friendly Wood Furniture

Sarah Coffey
Mar 14, 2008

Buying wood furniture while doing what's best for the environment and your home is tricky. There are a bunch of factors to balance: forest depletion, how the piece will affect your home's air quality, and price are just a few of them. We found a great article from National Geographic that outlines the basic principles for buying wood furniture responsibly...

National Geographic's Suggestions for Buying Eco-Friendly Wood Furniture:

Problem: Deforestation. At this point, almost half of the world's forests have been cut down. Deforestation releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

Problem: Poor forest management. When timber harvesting is placed above the needs of indigenous people and native species, it can cause serious problems for the area.

Problem: Air quality. Particleboard, plywood, and other pressed woods contain formaldehyde, a possible carcinogen, which can off-gas for years in your home.

Solution: Avoid pressed woods. Buy second-hand solid wood, or FSC-certified new wood pieces. Shop at antique stores, garage sales, and thrift stores for furniture made from solid wood. Avoid wood veneers over pressed plywood or particleboard.

Solution: Look for FSC-certified woods, which are researched and designated as socially and environmentally harvested by the non-profit Forest Stewardship Council.

Solution: Buy reclaimed and recycled wood products from manufacturers that reuse discarded furniture and lumber.

Solution: Avoid endangered woods and choose furniture made from "secondary species" which are less depleted. Secondary species include sweetgum, madrone, and California oak.

Solution: Buy lower grade woods. Many low-grade woods are rated below high-grade lumber simply because they show knots and streaks. Less timber is required to produce a low-grade wood product than a high-grade one.

Solution: Avoid products certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). This program is associated with the timber trade and does not hold the same credibility as the FSC certification.

Solution: Find out from the manufacturer where and how the wood was harvested. FSC-certified products can be found through the Forest Certification Resource Center. National Geographic also lists suggested retailers here.

To read the full National Geographic article, click here.

Photo: EL: Environmental Language Kitchens. For more information on buying eco-friendly furniture, see our interview with EL founder Jill Salisbury here.

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