Checklist for Eco-Friendly, Sustainable and Ethical FurnitureBy Bailiegh Basham · March 28, 2023
As individuals, our buying decisions can impact the world around us. Though each singular purchase may feel seemingly inconsequential, the effects of our actions compound over time. With that in mind, one of the ways in which you can lessen your carbon footprint and waste is to buy eco-friendly, sustainable furniture. If this sounds like a concept that appeals to your ideals but you aren’t sure how to put it into practice, don’t worry. The Countryside Amish Furniture team put together an easy checklist to help you evaluate future furniture purchases to confirm if they are, indeed, eco-friendly and ethical.
Is the Furniture Built to Last?
Did you know that the EPA estimates that a whopping 12.2 million tons of waste are annually generated by Americans’ furniture? This is predominantly due to cheaply made pieces that use subpar wood alternatives, like engineered wood, veneer, or plywood.
Simply put, solid hardwood furniture is near-impossible to seriously damage, especially when hand-built using advanced joinery. You can further reinforce the furniture’s strength with a top-grade varnish. Investing in quality materials rather than their knock-offs may cost more upfront, but it also means that you won’t have to replace pieces once every few years (leading to the older furniture being tossed in the trash). By limiting the lack of waste you produce, higher quality furniture is innately the more eco-friendly choice.
Does it Use Reclaimed Wood?
One of the words you hear in connection to eco-friendly is recycled. This concept is utilized within the furniture world through the use of reclaimed wood. As we explore in Reclaimed Wood Dining Tables, Chairs and Furniture Sets, this term refers to lumber formerly used in barns, houses, and similar structures that are “reclaimed” and given a second life as furniture.
Not only does reclaimed wood represent peak eco-friendliness, but it also brings a unique personality to the furniture, especially if treated in a way that preserves some of its “imperfections.” What’s more, it’s incredibly strong, meeting or surpassing standards set by newer hardwood. All of these attributes add up to make reclaimed wood pieces one of the most eco-friendly furniture types available.
Does the Furniture Use Sustainably Harvested Wood?
Believe it or not, there are responsible and irresponsible ways to harvest timber. Ideally, wood comes from carefully selected trees and is not taken in such large quantities to impair the forest’s ecosystem. Sustainability should be at the forefront of the lumber company’s minds, leading them to re-forest the area.
On the opposite end of the sustainable spectrum is the usage of illegally harvested lumber from “protected areas”, which is surprisingly common in wood furniture. Such practices not only hurt the environment but also negatively impacts indigenous people and support corruption and crime, as exemplified by the recent murder of an environmentalist by illegal loggers.
Don’t just assume that because you buy furniture from a well-known company the wood was responsibly harvested. After all, wood from the Amazon and similarly protected areas is only worth killing for because companies are willing to pay high prices. For example, Ikea has been cited numerous times for its unethical sourcing; you can read just one of the examples at this link.
In short, the most eco-friendly decision when buying wooden furniture is to either seek reclaimed wood or to buy from companies that use locally sourced wood that is sustainably harvested. This not only supports forests but lessens the amount of fuel used to transport goods and resources from the lumber yard to the workshops.
Is the Furniture American-Made?
American-made furniture is not guaranteed to be made using eco-friendly, ethical practices. However, the likelihood is higher than if it is made in developing countries, as we explore in Buying Solid Wood Furniture Made in the USA - Why It Matters. This is because American tends to:
- Be more likely to utilize green manufacturing techniques and offer humane work conditions
- Less likely to use harmful chemicals and subpar materials
- Shipping materials and finished pieces all within the USA (rather than globally) requires less fuel
- The harvesting of North American hardwood is more heavily regulated and less likely to damage ecosystems compared to other common sources, like the Amazon
Bonus: Is the Furniture Crafted by Amish Woodworkers?
We won’t claim that Amish craftspeople have a monopoly on eco-friendly furniture made using ethical practices. However, there are certain assurances you’ll receive if your purchases are made by authentic Amish artisans, such as:
- Usage of locally sourced North American hardwood
- Painstaking attention to detail, leading to longevity
- Avoidance of harmful chemicals
- Supporting small workshops rather than large corporations
To learn more about the high standards and sustainability of Amish furniture, read What Goes Into the Cost of Amish Furniture and Why It’s Worth the Expense.
Buy Eco-Friendly Furniture From Countryside Amish Furniture
All of our pieces are hand-built by highly-skilled Amish craftspeople using the techniques that make Amish furniture so desirable. In turn, our furniture is eco-friendly and made under ethical work conditions. What’s more, your piece will begin production only after you place your order, meaning that you can personalize it exactly how needed. Customization options include choosing your specific hardwood species, the specific stain, and specialty features like table leaves, drawer locks, and more.
Browse our site to find eco-friendly furniture for every room of the house (as well as the great outdoors). Alternatively, check out some of our most popular categories, such as:
- Roll Top Desks
- Amish Patio Furniture
- Solid Wood Bedroom Furniture Sets
- Furniture Shown in Walnut
- Dining Room Furniture Shown in Cherry
- All Solid Wood Furniture