The average piece of furniture generates nearly 47kg of carbon dioxide, from production to distribution. Thankfully, there are now a range of sustainable furniture brands that make beautiful, high-quality, and eco-friendly tables, sofas, and other pieces for an elegant home.
What is sustainable furniture?
In short, sustainable furniture consists of pieces that will brighten up your home without costing the planet. Some people still think of this kind of furniture as being dowdy, low-quality, or offering limited options.
However, this is simply not the case. There’s now a wide range of stunning and well-made pieces that are made from sustainable materials using environmentally-friendly practices.
Furthermore, one of the principles of sustainability is to avoid disposable products that need to be replaced often, so you can be confident that these items are built to last.
Sustainable furniture is created using renewable, long-lasting, materials that have the lowest possible negative impact on the environment. There’s also a strong emphasis on sustainability in how the pieces are made and distributed.
Overall, the goal is to create a product that is useful and meets consumers’ needs, without harming the planet, from sourcing the raw materials to delivering the final product to the customer.
Why should you buy sustainable furniture?
Of course, the major reason to invest in sustainable furniture is to do your bit to protect the environment. As society becomes more eco-conscious, more people are realizing the impact that everything we buy can have on the environment. This isn’t just small things like plastic straws, but also the appliances and furniture in our homes, and the buildings we live in.
Mainstream furniture can be made from a range of environmentally-destructive and even toxic materials, from wood that is not responsibly sourced to chemical glues, stains, and dyes.
Using wood to make furniture can cause deforestation, either because old-growth forests are used as a raw material, or they’re cleared in order to plant quick-growing monocultures like pine and eucalyptus. Deforestation, in turn, destroys habitats, makes planets and animals vulnerable to extinction, and contributes to climate change as well as water shortages.
Chemicals used in production can generate water and air pollution during manufacture, and leach into the soil or waterways when thrown away at the end of the item’s life, further damaging the ecosystems. Aside from environmental concerns, these chemicals can off-gas into your home, threatening your and your family’s health.
In particular, plywood is typically packed with formaldehyde, which has been found to cause a range of short-term health effects, such as a burning sensation in the eyes, coughing, and wheezing, and has been linked to cancer risk.
Furthermore, cheap modern furniture is not built to last, and in most cases needs to be replaced within a few years. Most furniture is difficult to recycle – though it is possible in some cases, learn how here – meaning that it will likely end up in landfill, contributing to the world’s growing waste problem.
What to look for when buying sustainable furniture
It can be hard to know if a piece is truly sustainable. Here are some features and attributes to look for to make sure the furniture you’re looking to buy really is eco-friendly.
What materials is the piece made from?
The first thing to consider is what raw materials were used to make the piece of furniture. Materials like plywood, solid wood, petroleum-based foam, as well as fabrics like polyester are all eco red flags.
Sustainable alternatives include sustainably-sourced and reclaimed wood, recycled aluminum, organic latex, and organic wool.
How is the piece of sustainable furniture made?
Eco-friendly furniture is not just about using sustainable materials, but also how it is made. Sustainable manufacturing practices can include using green energy, avoiding toxic chemicals, and avoiding pollution.
Transportation and carbon footprint
Once the piece of furniture is made, the sustainable practices don’t stop there. It’s also important to consider how it is distributed, and how many greenhouse gases are emitted in order to bring it to your door.
One of the best ways to keep this carbon footprint as low as possible is to buy local, and choose pieces that are manufactured as close to your home as possible. You can also look for brands that use green modes of transportation as well as energy-efficient practices throughout their supply chain.
Certifications are an excellent way to be sure that the product you’re buying is really sustainable. There are a few labels that will indicate the brand uses eco-friendly materials and practices, such as:
What are the best sustainable furniture brands?
Here are our favorite sustainable furniture brands, offering a range of pieces to give any space a fresh look, while looking after the planet.
1. Viva Terra
VivaTerra has been a pioneer in green manufacturing since long before it became a global issue – and they make gorgeous sustainable furniture. The brand skilfully uses recycled glass, reclaimed wood, salvaged metal, and vintage fabrics to handcraft elegant pieces of furniture.
This brand strives to preserve the authentic beauty of nature, emphasizing FSC-certified woods and natural fibers finished with chemical-free oils, waxes, and dyes. Their extensive range includes not only indoor and outdoor furniture, but also home décor, candles, and balms.
Top pick: Their Mango Wood Meditation Chair is made from sustainably-sourced wood and is designed with ergonomics in mind to encourage proper back alignment and help you concentrate for long periods of time.
2. Vermont Woods
Vermont Woods partners with talented artisans to provide quality handcrafted, innovative pieces of sustainable furniture that are manufactured responsibly too. This brand offers multiple design collections in collaboration with contemporary and traditional designers, encompassing bookcases, dining tables, and beds.
Based in Vermont, all of their pieces are made from locally-sourced timber and they take special care of this resource by reusing the wood chips to heat their facility and donating sawdust to local farmers. The brand also supports local reforestation projects.
Top pick: Vermont Woods’ Quilted Vermont Rocking Chair features a stunning wood mosaic pattern and is available in sustainable Walnut, Cherry, Oak, and Birdseye Maple woods.
3. Tidy Books
Tidy Brooks is renowned not only for its clean, practical designs, but also its commitment to conservation and sustainability. The brand offers a range of scratch-resistant and modular designs for environmental enthusiasts.
It specializes in designing ergonomic and stylish bookcases and storage pieces for kids made from sustainable wood and built to last.
Top pick: Their award-winning Original Kids’ Bookshelf is made of sustainable, FSC-certified wood with a water lacquer finish, and is designed to encourage independent reading and empower children.
4. Eco Balanza
Based in Seattle, this brand is known for its sustainable, hand-crafted couches made from safe, toxic-free materials. Eco Balanza uses responsibly-sourced materials to manufacture all its pieces and aims to minimize carbon emissions in all of its operations.
The brand offers classic furniture made with traditional techniques using FSC-certified hardwoods and other natural materials, such as organic latex instead of petroleum-based foam.
Top pick: The Cleo is a new, modern spin on the traditional sofa, with an inviting, chic design made to the highest standards of craftsmanship.
5. Joy Bird
Based in San Diego, Joybird is all about eco-friendly furniture with a mid-century aesthetic. Their pieces are custom manufactured in a Mexican workshop using ethical work practices, which are strictly monitored by the brand.
They offer a range of furniture, from living and bedroom pieces to storage and home décor items, and offer customization options. For every piece that Joybird sells, it plants more trees than were used to manufacture that particular item.
Top pick: Joybird’s classic Bell Accent Chair is the perfect blend of retro styling and luxurious comfort all presented in a supremely stylish piece.
You’ve probably heard of Avocado’s comfortable, eco-friendly mattresses, but you may not be aware that the certified B-Corp also offers premium, reclaimed furniture. Their pieces are made by expert craftspeople in California, from 100% reclaimed wood with no chemicals or retardants.
All of Avocado’s items are also made using renewable energy and the company is climate-neutral certified. The brand is also committed to giving back to the community.
Top pick: Simple and modern, Avocado’s Coffee Tables’ unique design makes them a statement piece that is also highly practical.
DaVinci prides itself in offering top-quality baby furniture sustainably made from ethically sourced materials. With a range of unique designs, they’re a top pick for parents looking to design a dream nursery that is both creative and environmentally- friendly.
This brand offers a large collection of GreenGuard Gold-certified products, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability.
Top pick: Their Kalani 4-in-1 Convertible Crib is made from 100% sustainable New Zealand pine and adapts as your child grows, converting from an infant crib to a toddler bed, daybed, and finally a full-sized bed.
8. West Elm
West Elm is a large brand that is a one-stop solution offering furniture and accessories for virtually every space. Their extensive eco collection is sustainably-sourced and FSC-certified.
The brand is also a member of Fair Trade USA, providing fair wages and health conditions to factory workers, as well as invests heavily in the communities it works with.
Top pick: Their Mid-Century Dining Table is made from sustainably-sourced wood in a Fair Trade Certified facility, and can be expanded from 39 to 55 inches.
9. Crate & Barrel
Crate & Barrel is headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois with more than 100 stores across the USA, Canada, and internationally. A one-stop shop for everything you need to decorate your home, they offer a range of FSC-certified furniture that is sustainable and eco-friendly.
Crate & Barrel’s space-friendly furniture is both cozy and elegant, made from materials such as responsibly-sourced wood and sustainable bamboo.
Top pick: Their Gather Sofa is simple and elegant, with a benchmade frame of FSC-certified hardwood and Greenguard Gold Certified, so guaranteed toxin and chemical-free.
From seating and tables to office furniture, Burrow is particularly known for their stain-resistant sofas that are perfect for families with pets, kids, or anyone who doesn’t want to have to worry about spills. Their pieces are not only comfortable and highly practical, but they’re also responsibly sourced and made.
All of the brand’s pieces are made in the USA and shipped using environmentally-friendly packaging.
Top pick: Burrow’s Block Nomad Sofa has a unique modular design that makes it super easy to move, with loads of handy features like a built-in USB charger.
This Brooklyn-based brand offers a small range of high-quality, sustainable loveseats, chairs, sofas, and ottomans. They will gladly customize their designs based on your needs and preferences.
Sabai makes great use of FSC-certified wood and other sustainable materials like recycled fabrics, water-based glues, and Certi-PUR-US-certified cushions. They also deliver all of their remarkable designs in eco-friendly packaging.
Top pick: The Essential Loveseat is super comfortable, and boasts a sleek design in your choice of plush recycled velvet or upcycled polyester.
12. Resource Furniture
For more than 20 years, Resource Furniture has delivered multi-functional designs that are not only stylish and luxurious but also sustainable. Their wide range includes dining tables, sofas, chair, cabinets, and coffee tables, made from recycled materials.
Most pieces are certified under the Toxic Substances Certification Act (TSCA), and all are built to last for decades.
Top pick: Their Brooklyn Table is not only stylish but highly versatile: it can be transformed from a compact coffee table to a dining table.
This brand emphasizes transparency and honesty in everything it does. Emeco has invested in an energy-efficient factory that makes use of renewable power, LED lighting, and welding machines designed to conserve water.
They emphasize recycled materials, and even manufactured a 100% recyclable and recycled chair in collaboration with Coca-Cola using 100 post-consumer recycled bottles. All the products are then carefully shipped in 100% recyclable packaging materials.
Top pick: The brand’s flagship product is the durable 1006 Navy Chair, made by hand in Pennsylvania from recycled aluminum.
13. Floyd Home
Floyd make unique and colorful sustainable furniture designed in Michigan and manufactured across the US. The brand focuses on affordability and longevity, striving to offer its customers excellent value for money. Their pieces make use of natural materials such as sustainably-sourced Walnut wood from Pennsylvania and Michigan, and natural New Zealand wool.
Top pick: The versatile Floyd Rug is made from responsibly-sourced New Zealand wool and Indian cotton, making it breathable and durable, so ideal as a floor rug, throw, or picnic rug.
14. Maiden Home
Maiden Home brands its sustainable furniture products as “design-driven luxury for modern homes”. This company was created with the vision to make high-end furniture more accessible and affordable, without compromising on quality or uniqueness of design. All their pieces are custom-made to fit the customer’s exact criteria, with each artist taking on the client’s vision to hand-make each item sustainably in the USA.
Top pick: The Leroy Chair is a stunning statement piece inspired by modern Danish design and made from cozy, low-maintenance Merino wool.
Etsy is a great place to find sustainable furniture. The online marketplace has a range of sustainable policies including offsetting its carbon emissions.
If you take a look at their sustainable furniture category and you’ll find a range of pieces made from recycled and reclaimed materials.
Top pick: This Console Table by ArttZone is handmade from reclaimed wood, and can be made to custom measurements.
Final thoughts on sustainable furniture
Sustainable furniture is the future of the furniture industry, with many interior designers promoting green materials and practices. Brands are focusing more on effectively using materials to create ethically made furniture from sustainably sourced materials.
With exciting brands like the ones listed above, you don’t need to choose between an environmentally-friendly home and stunning décor.
For more advice and ideas for eco-friendly home décor, take a look at our posts on the best non-toxic rugs and solar rope lights.