"Furniture is one of the most looked-at categories," says Doug Mazeffa of Greenopia.com. As research director of this online green business directory, Mazeffa explains that furniture is not something that people are generally buying everyday (or even every year, for that matter); however green furniture is still becoming a major consumer interest. “There are 500 certifications in the U.S.,” he says; however his advice is to “look at the product holistically.”
A holistic approach, by definition, means to look at the larger picture, rather than the sum of its parts. In regard to green furniture, holistic may best be used in terms of doing research. Susan Inglis, executive director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, advises that a consumer ask about the wood that is used: Is it legally harvested? Was it grown on a plantation? Is it reclaimed? It is also important, Mazeffa points out, to be aware of what kind of packaging the product will use, where the product is being transported from, and through what means of transportation.
Luckily, aesthetics and personal style are not jeopardized in the search for green furniture. Whether your taste is classic and refined or ultramodern or abstract, the green home furnishings market may have just what you are looking for.
Midtown-based Furnish Green is a unique stop to find refurbished antique pieces, including bed frames, desks, armoires, trunks, and many other small, decorative furnishings. However, PR representative Sahar Tari-Rokh says, “Most of our eco-minded efforts comes from the juxtaposition of rescuing and reviving furniture and housing two businesses [NY Wedding & Partner Dance is a private lesson dance studio] in one space—leaving a significantly smaller carbon footprint.”
With a tagline that reads “rescue, reuse, redecorate,” Furnish Green currently uses non-VOC paints and stains, says Tari-Rokh, adding that they are also in the process of putting a delivery bike service in use for Manhattan deliveries.
Mazeffa believes that buying something used is by far the best choice for green furnishings and usually lessens the chance of toxic off-gases. “Even if it would have [off-gases], after all those years, it’s no longer a concern,” he says. However, like antiques, there are many newly manufactured pieces that come with a story behind the piece of furniture. Companies including Home Trends and Design, based in Austin, TX, are specializing in using mango trees for their furniture. According to Inglis, mangos are the most prevalent fruit in the world and their trees are usually harvested for 15 years. After the tree can no longer bear fruit, the wood can be used to create a piece of furniture that will last another 15 years, if not much longer.
Interior designer Sara Bengur names Tucker Robbins as one of her favorite green furniture companies. Bengur, who mentions she has seen a growing demand for green home furnishings, acknowledges that Tucker Robbins is being environmentally responsible by using materials such as naturally fallen trees and setting an example by supporting small, under developed communities around the world.
However, there is so much more to furniture than just wood and Mazeffa states that in the ecofriendly market, “Anything with fabric is a tougher area.” Usually people will choose an organic cotton, he says, when searching for a green fabric. Unfortunately, alternative fabrics such as hemp or bamboo do not yet have a stable market. Luckily, Q Collection, with its flagship showroom in Manhattan, offers some wonderful alteratives to soft furniture. According to the company, Q Collection uses a wide range of ecofriendly fabrics including alpaca, hemp, leather, linen, viscose, wool, and Oeko-Tex certified cotton. In addition, for those who are refurbishing or love the charm of an antique, there are companies such as twenty2, located in Brooklyn, with a wide selection of green fabrics. The fabrics, which are usually distributed directly to interior designers, are hand printed and use water-based inks on linens and cotton/linens blends, says Kyra Hartnett of twenty2.
While some people may prefer to support a small and local business such as twenty2 or Furnish Green, there are several big-name, highly-recognized furniture brands manufacturing green products worldwide. IKEA, Ethan Allen, and La-Z-Boy are leading the way in environmental initiatives, Mazeffa says. Most major retailers and manufacturers “at least offer a few green furniture alternatives,” he continues. As New York House readers may recall, La-Z-Boy was an Innovative Green Design Award winner in 2009 for being a major American furniture manufacturer creating wide-scale awareness. The company’s EcoComfort line uses soy-based cushions and fabrics. IKEA, Mazeffa says, has always been following green practices, especially since it’s based in Europe, where environmental standards are higher. But IKEA is now simply promoting more awareness of its efforts.
Just because there are a slew of options available for ecofriendly furniture doesn’t make the decision much easier. However, with some pre-planning and general understanding, the search can be more enjoyable. Think of what you want to achieve: whether it be impeccable indoor air quality, using recycled materials, or supporting a local business, and most likely there is a green home furnishings company that will share the same values.
Ethan Allen ethanallen.com
Furnish Green New York; (917) 583-9051; furnishgreen.org
Home Trends and Design Austin, TX; (512) 804-5450; htddirect.com
J Stacy Woodworks New Paltz; (845) 633-8594
Lee Industries Furniture/Leather Upholstery; leeindustries.com
OOCK Design Resource for Sustainable Living; Bedford; (914) 234-2595; oockgreendesign.com
Q Collection New York;(212) 529-1400; qcollection.com
Sawkille Co. Rhinebeck; (845) 876-2228; sawkille.com
Sustainable Furnishings Council sustainablefurnishings.org
Tucker Robbins Long Island City; (718) 764-0222; tuckerrobbins.com
Twenty2 (888) 222-3036; twenty2.net
Wickham (917) 797-9247; jessicawickham.com