Buying green: The ecological impact of buying used furniture vs. new
Making an Environmentally Sound Decision
Whether in search of essential, functional, or decorative pieces for the home, determining the ecological impact of any furniture can be a tremendous undertaking. There are many things to take into consideration, from the construction of furniture pieces – including the materials they are crafted from – to aspects of furniture production such as sourcing and shipping. When attempting to make an environmentally sound decision for purchasing furniture items, even more factors come into play.
The most obvious difference between new and used furniture is the carbon footprint of each. The footprint of brand new furniture pieces begins with the process of cutting down the trees to make the product (if it is a wood product) and continues on through the manufacturing, shipping, and storage processes. On average, the overall cost of new furniture equates to about 125 tons of CO2 for every 100 rooms outfitted with new furniture. On the other end of the spectrum, less than two tons of CO2 may be produced in the acquisition of used furniture for a space, even when accounting for processes such as shipping and refinishing of the item if necessary.
One of the best ways to start making environmentally sound choices is to choose those made with sustainable materials such as teak or bamboo furniture. Other options such as sustainable and fast-growing hardwoods such as walnut and hickory can make a great addition to any room.
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It is true that buying used furniture ensures that no new trees are cut down for the purposes of crafting a new furniture item. You can further decrease the furniture’s overall environmental impact by using woods certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC Certification ensures that companies don’t use environmentally harmful methods such as clear cutting in the production of the furniture item.
It also is important to remember that many manufacturers craft great new furniture from reclaimed wood or recycled materials. This can be a great option for the buyer seeking an environmentally sound product with a modern appearance and style.
Sustainable Home Design
Furniture items are among the least recycled and account for upwards of 4% of all household waste. Purchasing used furniture helps reduce the amount of waste from furniture that goes into landfills.
However, whether homeowners purchase new or used furniture, purchasing the furniture and planning their home in a sustainable manner can help to reduce waste overall. Choosing durable materials and avoiding materials such as particleboard ensures the longevity of furniture items. Additionally, multi-functional furniture items such as pull out couches and ottomans with additional storage space can reduce the amount of materials sourced to produce multiple furniture items.
Buy Local When Possible
Whether purchasing new or used furniture items, transporting an item a long way leaves behind a large carbon footprint. Often used furniture incurs lower transportation costs than buying new furniture because people typically purchase used furniture closer to home. Production accounts for almost 3 tons of CO2 on average for every 100 rooms of furniture, and shipping the item to the customer adds another 3 tons of the greenhouse gas.
Shoppers can make environmentally-sound, sustainable decisions with their furniture whether they choose to purchase new or used. In the short term, buying new furniture produces about 1,000 times more CO2 emissions than buying used or refurbished furniture. However, opting to use sustainable materials and to optimize the long-term usage of a furniture item can reduce its environmental impact for years down the road.