According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), over 8.7 Million tons of furniture and home furnishings are dumped into municipal landfills annually. (Market Wire, June 2008) Re-using quality furniture pieces would save millions of tons of ‘waste’ that could be diverted from landfills.
In an era of responsibility to our planet, and for future generations, here are 3 ways to be GREENER when updating your furniture…
Reupholster and Repair vs. Buying New
Naturally, we do not want to be wasteful, but we may have heard that reupholstering can be expensive. Some think they might be able to save some money by going to the nearest mass-producing furniture store and just buying new.
What can justify reupholstering? Here’s the answer…
As you know, buying new furniture these days is risky. Most furniture built even as recently as 10 years ago was built at a time when there was a higher standard for furniture construction. Even finer furniture manufacturers of late have had to lower their standards to keep up competition with the cut-throat, corner-cutting furniture manufacturers. What’s going on underneath the upholstery of newer furniture that makes it so much more inferior?
- In order to offer the consumer furniture at dramatically low prices, costs are being cut. Woods previously unsuitable for furniture frames are now being used. These frames are often shoddily “thrown” together as quickly as possible with staple guns and fast-drying glues.
- Coil springs and heavy-duty sinuous (no-sag) springs are being replaced with a lighter gauge of sinuous springs, and less of them per sea
- Reupholstering solid, well-built furniture using fabric purchased from a reputable source can be quite cost-effective. Furthermore, reupholstering is considered a contribution to recycling and aiding our GREEN movement in this country.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering reupholstering vs. buying new:
- Do you like the shape and size of the piece? Upholsterers can replace cushions, remove a skirt and add new legs, alter styling details such as channeling or button tufting. Although an upholsterer has to work with the structural frame of the furniture, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
- Have your taste in color or style changed? A furniture piece can receive a complete makeover from an array of fabrics from an upholstery professional. This can include material with differing patterns, colors, thread count, etc. Your specific tastes and needs change over time, as well as needs when you have children or pets.
- Is the frame hardwood with a good coil spring system? Check under the skirt or beneath the fabric dust cover on the bottom. If the piece has some weight, it’s probably hardwood and a better-quality frame. That may also indicate denser stuffing and a coil-spring foundation – these all make a piece heavier. Such features also make furniture worth reupholstering.
Use Organic Fabrics, Foams, and Padding options
Bamboo, Soy, Organic cotton, Linen, Flax, Recycled Polyester and Hemp are increasingly popular with leading fabric mills, as eco-design is becoming well-recognized.
Natural latex and soy foams, organic cotton padding, jute webbing, hemp spring twine and “water-based” fabric stain protector are other examples of available materials used in “eco-conscious” workrooms.
The question is: Why? Many of us probably have never given the eco-friendliness of fabric a second thought. Here are some GREEN industry key words, and what they mean:
- Sustainable: Fibers come from rapidly renewable resources with growth and harvest cycles of five years or less.
- Organic: Fibers are grown without the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.
- Recycled: Fibers from post-consumer waste such as soda bottles. They also come from post-industrial waste by-products from the manufacturing process.
Make Eco-Friendly Purchasing Decisions
First thing to do is to look for furniture that’s well-constructed and made to be reupholstered. One of the most important but often overlooked aspects of GREEN products (and this definitely goes for furniture) is durability.
If something is well-made and can be readily repaired, this lessens the chance that it’ll end up in the landfill, and could easily save you money in the long run, even if it’s initially more expensive.
Even recyclable materials if they break (and can’t be fixed) require energy and other resources to reprocess and then replace. If your style changes down the road, at least you’ll know that the upholstery can be updated to match you new taste. Also know that well-made furniture that will last a long time and can be passed on from person to person.
Buy vintage … With all the modern, “eco” brands jumping into the market it can be hard to keep in mind that pre-owned goods can be the Greenest purchase of all. Vintage and pre-owned furniture requires no additional resources to manufacture, is often locally sourced (cutting down on transportation), and eases the load on the landfill.
Quality vintage furniture will be durable and unique in character, and such furniture helps create a remarkable interior for any setting – whether that be your entire home, office, theater, hotel or restaurant.
Queen Anne Upholstery, named ‘ Seattle’s Best’ by Seattle Magazine, is an industry leader in customer service. Established on the top of Queen Anne Hill in 1936, Family owned and operated Queen Anne Upholstery is committed to the excellence of ‘old world’ craftsmanship.