Treat shopping for furniture just like you treat shopping for food - your goal is to find locally made, organic and natural products that are safe for your family and sustainable made. Locally or regionally produced furniture has a shorter distance to travel reducing carbon emissions from shipping. Avoid foreign products as much as possible and look for furnishings made in the US. Better yet, look for gently used, vintage or antique furniture to avoid buying new. Focus on furnishing made with organic and sustainable textiles. And the rest of the furniture should be made from reclaimed, recycled, renewable and non-toxic materials.
Reuse First Before Buying New
The best thing to do when looking for furniture for your home is to consider using what is already out there - meaning reused, refinished, second hand, thrift store, vintage or antique furniture. There is so much furniture already out there, that you'll likely find something perfect for you home and it will be less expensive too.
- Reuse & Refinish - Look around your house for furniture that you already have that could be repurposed. Maybe you just need to give it a fresh coat of low VOC paint, or it could be re-upholstered with organic textiles. It's possible that you don't need new furniture, you just need a new look, which can be achieved with lost cost upgrades.
- Second Hand & Thrift Stores - There are countless places in the Park City area to buy second hand furnishings. Try your local thrift store, the Christian Center of Park City, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, DI, consignment shops, and garage or estate sales. Looking for furniture in these types of stores does take some patience and sometimes a bit of luck, but you will be able to find furnishings at a fraction of the cost and have some friendly interactions. Don't discount sections of the store with linens and kitchen items - you might find some real treasures.
- Buying Used Online - One of the best ways to find used furnishings is online, which reduces your footprint from driving store to store. Both Craigslist and the KSL Classifieds have great classified ads for furniture. On Facebook, groups such as Park City Classifieds and Park City Online Yardsale are great ways to find used items. The Salt Lake City Freecycle group is also a great option, because people are actually trying to get rid of things for free. And when you need to get rid of your own furniture these are also excellent options to avoid sending your furnishings to the landfill.
- Antique Stores - Some people forget that buying from antique stores is actually a very sustainable practice. Not only are these items been preowned they are often very durable, sturdy and beautiful. Antique stores are also wonderful locally owned shops.
Shopping for Eco Friendly Furniture
Here are some tips and things to look for when buying new and eco friendly furniture.
- FSC Certified Wood - Choose wood furniture products that use sustainably harvested wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This ensures that the wood came from sustainably managed forests and tree farms, which helps protect trees from being over harvested.
- Reclaimed Wood - Even better than new wood is wood taken from older structures and reused again to make new pieces. Reclaimed wood has a more worn appearance and more character, but is just as strong and durable as new wood. There are many vendors of reclaimed wood products in Utah that can be found via a simple internet search.
- Renewable Materials - An alternative to wood are materials that can quickly and easily be grown again in a sustainable manner. Renewable materials include bamboo, grasses, and cork and can be grown and harvested in less than 10 years, compared to trees which can take much longer. Bamboo has recently been included in the FSC certication process, so look for certified bamboo where possible.
- Recycled/Recyclable Materials - Also keep an eye out for furniture that is made out of recycled materials like metals and plastics. These materials area also usually easy to recycle as well, so when the life of the piece of furniture has ended it can be recycled rather than sending it to the landfill. Also look for furniture that can easily be dismantled and broken down into their constituent parts, and recycled at the end of their useful lives.
- Sustainable Textiles - The upholstery for your furnishings, rugs and window treatments should all be sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, bamboo, raw silk, hemp, wool, jute, tencel, PET/recycled polyester, or vintage fabrics. Sustainable fabrics have a much lower environmental footprint and also will not contain any toxic chemicals or dyes that will offgass into your home.
- Durable & Fixable - A lot of furniture recently has been made cheaply and it falls apart quickly, meaning it ends up in the landfill. Avoid cheap and non-durable furniture even though the price is right. Instead opt for good quality and long lasting furniture, because you can always opt to sell it to someone who will want it when you no longer want do. Also look for furniture that can easily be repaired in case the need arises.
- Low-Toxicity - Furniture can be toxic and can offgas VOCs, formaldehyde, flame retardants and other harmful substances into your home. Avoid paint and stains with VOCs, opting instead for shellac, beeswax, low VOC paints, and milk paint. Avoid products with formaldehyde, and a lot of glues or sealants. Look for internal stuffing made from 100% latex foam, natural fibers, wool, down and other natural products. Greenguard is a certification which ensures furniture is low toxicity, and many well known companies have product lines that are certified.