Designing your home is no easy task. Especially when you’re looking for furniture that’s just as ethical and sustainable as it is elegant and functional.
One of the main aspects that make furniture environmentally friendly is the wood that’s used as raw material.
While the sustainability of conventional wooden furniture is still questionable, there are thankfully several eco-friendly wood options to choose from.
These woods grow abundantly, do not consume a high amount of resources, are easy to design, and make for durable, functional furniture.
Below is a brief overview of sustainable furniture and 6 of the best eco-friendly wood types you can choose. So the next time you’re furniture hunting, you’ll know what to pick and what to avoid.
What Exactly is Sustainable Furniture?
Sustainable furniture is furniture that is built in an environmentally friendly way, without exhausting too many resources. It’s better for the people and better for the planet. There are many factors that make furniture sustainable. Some of them are:
- Sourcing sustainable materials – recycled or repurposed wood. Or wood that is easily renewable. And avoiding chemicals like VOCs; they are found in paints and emit gasses that are hazardous to humans when inhaled over time.
- Sustainable manufacturing practices – ensuring that the manufacturing process does not exhaust non-renewable resources or pollute water bodies. And controlling the CO2 emissions from the entire production process. Also ensuring that fair trade labor is used.
- Eco-friendly transportation – transporting raw materials and finished goods requires energy. Sustainable furniture is sold locally. When exported, it is packaged responsibly in eco-friendly materials and the most efficient transportation method is used.
- The functionality of furniture – the core principle of sustainability lies in repairing and reusing for as long as you can to keep waste out of landfills. Furniture that’s built to last and caters well to your needs can be used for a long time, without having to be replaced soon.
What Are the Benefits of Choosing Sustainable Furniture for Your Home?
Here are some reasons why choosing sustainable furniture over conventional unsustainable furniture is always a better choice.
It’s Safer for Your Health
Conventional furniture is often manufactured using toxic chemicals like formaldehyde. Including the upholstery, paint, glue, etc., used in making the furniture-they can be chemically treated and full of toxins. Eco-friendly furniture avoids these, making the product safer for your health.
Sustainable furniture is often made from recycled wood and easily renewable woods like bamboo. This makes it more cost-effective than normal furniture. It’s also built with longevity and functionality in mind, so you won’t be replacing it anytime soon. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Better for the Environment
Sustainable furniture is made with care and responsibility toward the environment. Sourcing eco-friendly materials, avoiding harmful chemicals, and building long-lasting pieces, all these practices make sustainable furniture a lot safer for the planet.
Better for the People
Most conventional furniture manufacturers do not practice fair trade labor. Workers end up mistreated, paid unfair wages, and have to work in unhealthy conditions. Genuinely sustainable furniture is made with fair trade practices; it’s equitable towards the workers involved in the process.
6 Best Eco-Friendly Wood Types for Sustainable Furniture
As you read above, there are several factors that make furniture sustainable. However, sourcing eco-friendly wood is the most critical aspect. Sustainable wood that has the least impact on the planet and lasts for a long time, is what makes furniture truly eco-friendly.
Here are some eco-friendly woods to keep an eye out for when you’re furniture shopping.
Black Cherry trees are predominantly found in North America and are fairly easy to grow. They are the most valuable of all the trees grown in the mixed-wood, FSC-certified Pennsylvanian forests. It’s also easy to machine, nail, and glue Black Cherry wood.
The wood has a pink or reddish hue but turns darker when exposed to sunlight. It has a fine-grain texture and a swirling pattern; it looks elegant and delicate. Black Cherry is used for making a variety of household furniture. It’s best suited for wall and floor accents and smaller pieces.
Maple trees are plentiful in North America and are easy to grow. Its abundant production makes it feasible to use it as furniture wood. Maple wood is strong, ages well, is easy to design, and suits a variety of furniture styles.
The pale color of the wood and the fine texture mean it can be used for everything from cabinets and paneling to doors, molding, and flooring. Maple furniture is a popular sustainable choice amongst consumers. It’s important to note that ethically produced Maple wood must be FSC-certified.
Bamboo is an exceptionally sustainable wood. It is extremely easy and quick to grow, can survive in diverse conditions, nurtures the soil it grows on, and releases 35% more oxygen compared to other woods. Another amazing fact is that planting more bamboo doesn’t require more land as it sprouts new shoots from the existing roots.
Bamboo wood makes high-quality furniture—it’s strong, durable, easy to clean and maintain, and lightweight. Bamboo plywood is a versatile furniture material used for partitions, floors, sheathings, ceilings, cabinets, etc. It’s the best eco-friendly option when you’re looking for strong, sustainable indoor furniture.
White Ash is an eco-friendly wood grown in the FSC-certified forests of eastern and central U.S. and southeastern Canada. It’s a fast-growing and self-seeding tree, making it comparatively more sustainable, like bamboo. White Ash wood is strong like oak and is mostly used for creating solid sports equipment like hockey sticks and bats.
While the wood is as strong as oak, it’s not as dense, making it easier to work with to create furniture. It also ages well and stains beautifully, but if you want a smooth glassy finish you can choose pieces that have pores priorly filled.
Cork is a fire-retardant, sustainable material that doesn’t require cutting down the tree to harvest the wood. Instead, cork is stripped from the bark of the tree every nine years. It is a water-resistant wood; suitable for flooring, as you won’t have to worry about spills. It also has antibacterial properties, making it a safe choice.
Cork wood is resilient and can be pressed into flat, almost fabric-like sheets, making them a durable liner for high-impact areas, walls, and floors. It also acts as an insulator, making it suitable for homes and buildings located in colder weather.
Using recycled and reclaimed wood is a smart way to invest in sustainable furniture. Recycled wood is waste timber or other types of waste wood that’s been made into reusable wood.
Reclaimed wood is wood from old buildings and structures that would otherwise have been demolished. This wood is used to create new pieces of furniture. For example, a previously used table top may become a sliding door.
When choosing eco-friendly woods for furniture it is important that you only purchase from trusted manufacturers who provide the highest-quality pieces. Furniture is a significant part of any space indoors and outdoors, and investing in the finest, most durable wood is your best bet in the long run.
Here at Ambient, we produce the safest, highest-quality bamboo plywood. They have been successfully tested for indoor air quality safety, and are available in a wide range of thicknesses, colors, and grains—there’s something for all your projects. Check out the collection here.
About the Author
Jen is your go-to guru for crafting a cozy, green cocoon. 🪴 Her dive into sustainable building wasn’t just about saving the planet—it started as a mission to make family movie nights eco-friendly (and to ensure the popcorn was the only thing getting heated!). With a knack for breaking down the jargon, Jen turns eco-lingo into everyday language. Swing by the Green Living blog for a mix of earth-loving advice and home improvement hacks. Whether you’re just dipping your toes into green waters or you’ve been swimming in the deep end of DIY projects, Jen’s here to guide, giggle, and remind you that every eco-choice is a step towards a planet that thanks you… and maybe even sends a rainbow your way! 🌈