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Green My Home

Seek Out and Buy Green Products

Virtually every industry is waking up to the importance of environmental issues and working to provide better alternatives, the furniture industry included. Some companies specialize in the area, while even the largest and most traditional companies are developing options. Recycling is the best, including directly recycled items such as antiques, but there are indirect means as well such as taking old case pieces and rebuilding doors and drawers to suit modern configurations, or taking non-furniture items such as wheels, door frames, or grapevine roots and fashioning furniture pieces from them. Many manufacturers use reclaimed lumber from fencing, flooring, structural supports and the like to provide an appealing vintage charm with a great eco story and the solidity and utility of new construction. Alternatively, a company can use good wood choices, starting with certified lumber from carefully managed forests. FSC certification is the gold standard with an extremely rigorous process to ensure that wood is sourced from carefully managed forests and with representatives in the field that ensure that companies are in compliance. SFI is another, though less rigorous, certification program. Another approach is to emphasize wood types that are fast-growing, renewable resources commercially harvested for use in a variety of industries. Such species include Mango and Bamboo. Avoid species known to be threatened such as new Teak and Mahogany and/or subtropical hot spots of the world known for endangered forests and illegal logging such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and South America unless you have proven certification. Lastly, water-based finishes are a far superior choice vs. common varnishes, lacquers, and shellacs which can contain toxic petroleum or synthetic-based solvents. When you shop, don’t be afraid to ask.

Buy Things That Last

The U.S. produces over 250 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW), trash and garbage to the public, much of which is eliminated through combustion which produces carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, and the rest ending up in landfills. Many European countries are already facing the issue of running out of adequate landfill space. One solution is to reverse the rising tide of disposability. Many products are purchased with the idea that they will be replaced at some point in the relatively near future, with purchase cycles for durable goods like autos and furniture shortening by as much as 3 years over the past three decades. In other words, an item that would only have been purchased every 10 years before is now purchased every 7 years or less. This is a lot of unnecessary production. Buy better goods with an eye toward holding them longer and passing them on.

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

Only about 30% of the municipal solid waste produced in the U.S. is recycled. That recycling, however, prevents the release of 49 million metric tons of carbon into the air through combustion, the equivalent of 39 million cars annually. Virtually every community in the U.S. has a well-developed recycling program. Participate in every way you can, all the time.

Use Less Bottled Water

This may seem like picking on a harmless product, but the numbers are staggering. Bottled waters are now second only to carbonated soft drinks among purchased beverages, edging out beer, milk, and coffee. Worldwide consumption is over 160 billion liters a year, including America’s 30 billion that requires 60 billion plastic bottles to be produced and discarded. But that’s only a fraction of the problem. Bottled water is unusually heavy, so much so that trucking trailers can only be half-filled with it. This produces an almost incalculable amount of carbon dioxide emissions to ship bottled water all around a country where water of the exact same quality is immediately available from the tap, marketing slogans aside. Very simply, drink tap water at home and in restaurants, using a filtering device if you please. It will also save money. Americans get outraged when gasoline goes over $3 a gallon, but think little of paying $9 a gallon for water (the equivalent of a .5 liter bottle for $1.09 at the local convenience store). And when you do consume bottled water, choose galss over plastic bottles, and recycle wherever possible.

Reduce Energy Use

Most of the energy produced in the U.S. is done so with fossil fuels, a major contributor to worldwide greenhouse gases. Replace the light bulbs throughout your homes with compact fluorescent bulbs. While initially more expensive than incandescent, they last 10 times longer, reduce your energy bills by about $15 per year, and keep a half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air. Install automatic thermostat setters to raise and lower the temperature when you are not at home. Lower the setting on your water heater to no more than 120. Unplug appliances not in use. A TV consumes 25% of its total electricity when it is turned off. Set your computers to hibernate when inactive, and eliminate screen savers. Saving what? They use up to $50 a year in electricity.

Choose Renewable Energy

Examine options within your community for purchasing energy from suppliers that produce the highest percentage available of their power from water, wind, solar, or other clean sources. You may also support clean energy through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (REC’s), a transferable commodity intended to support the development of green energy sources by providing income indirectly to them. Currently, there is only one non-profit U.S. organization that sells RECs, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, which was instrumental in starting the market for RECs with their Green Tag product. They use the profits from Green Tags to build community solar and wind projects and to fund watershed restoration.

Buy an Energy Efficient Vehicle

When it is time to replace your current vehicle, trade in the SUV for something more efficient. Every gallon of gasoline burned puts out 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. So a vehicle that gets 25 miles per gallon instead of 20 produces 10 fewer tons of carbon dioxide in its first 100,000 miles, not to mention saving you about $3,000. Even better would be to consider a hybrid that runs on a mix of electricity and gasoline. They can get up to 50 mpg, producing 30 fewer tons of CO2 and saving $9,000.

Minimize E-waste

Discarded computers and cell phones is a growing environmental concern. Much is shipped abroad illegally for disassembly by workers with little protection against mercury and other toxic substances. Keep electronics as long as possible, resisting the temptation to upgrade just for the sake of novelty. Most communities also have recycling programs through Goodwill/Salvation Army centers, schools, shelters, and put these items to good use and support worthwhile causes.  You can also go to; they will pay you for your used electronics, and pay for shipping as well.

Raise Your Voice

As the consumer, you have tremendous power over what retailers provide for you to buy. Don’t wait for them to bring it to you. Tell stores what you want, and give business to those that provide it. Then publicize it to your family, friends, and neighbors. You can also exercise your power with our government. Legislation is being introduced constantly here and abroad to reduce or at least curb the expansion of negative environmental emissions, most of which is derailed through the influence of powerful lobbyists for the oil, energy, and automotive industries. The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an amendment to an international treaty assigning mandatory emission limitations for the reduction of carbon dioxide and five othergreenhouse gas emissions to the signatory nations. It was presented for signature in March 1998, and has since been signed by 169 nations, including all countries categorized as developed except two: the U.S. and Australia. It is up to all Americans at every level, companies and individuals, to be heard by their representatives on important issues.

Other Helpful Sites - Offers some great tips for doing everyday chores without caustic chemicals. - Offer services to lighten your junk mail load. "Do yourself - and the forests - a favor by getting off the mailing lists of companies you don't support." - The online home of the nonprofit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Program. Check out their Call2Recycle program "to find a drop-off center for rechargeable batteries and cell phones." - Can find a home for your used computer. Manufacturers sites, such as,, and, offer recycling options too.

(Source: Newsweek)

Join the SFC

We are one small part of the puzzle with the aim of bringing the furniture industry more into alignment on this important issue. We welcome your support. Together, we are making a difference.