Whether you’re reading, watching TV or on social media you cannot get away from hearing about being “green or eco-friendly.” So, what’s your take on being green?
According to a study released by the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) in August last year consumers remain concerned about their spending on home furnishings and while quality, style and price are their main consideration, about half are just as concerned with being eco-friendly. Consumers are significantly interested in purchasing green home furnishings with two important qualifiers: if they like the style and if it costs roughly the same.
The main reasons consumers gave for not purchasing green home furnishings is lack of awareness and availability, suggesting a supply and awareness problem but the SFC study also reported that 25% of respondents don’t trust advertising claiming that products are green. 56% thought that green products would probably cost more.
As an accredited green designer, I would start by asking prospective clients how interested they are in purchasing green products for their homes. Many are not but for those who are interested we are able to lead them through the minefield of available information. Others are perhaps ripe to learn more about it.
Many large chains import furniture from the Far East to keep costs down but the ramifications are many: child labor, inferior quality, harsh chemicals and deforestation, to name a few. During the recent Winter Olympics, it was gratifying to watch a TV special on logging in British Columbia that followed a man employed solely to plant a new tree for each one cut down. That’s the way it should be.
Ask questions. Find out where your furniture is being made. Look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label on furniture you’re interested in purchasing as this is the most widely recognized international wood standard with national initiatives in 46 countries and with 81 countries receiving certification. The FSC’s mission is to prohibit land use conversion, the use of hazardous pesticides, prevent genetically modified trees, and to respect the rights of indigenous people. You can find out more at www.fsc.org
You can guarantee that most custom American bench-made furniture will be made using wood from sustainable forests, and many of the larger chains such as Crate & Barrel do too.
Paint & Wallcoverings
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about 23 million people, including 6.8 million children, have asthma which accounts for nearly 17 million physician office and hospital visits, and nearly 2 million emergency department visits each year. Indoor air quality is another hot topic right now and the figures above show why.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds that vaporize into the atmosphere and can be harmful and toxic especially to children. They can be found in paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, building materials and furnishings. Paint stores offer a variety of sustainable paint options and for very little extra you can use low or no V.O.C. products.
York Wallcoverings (www.yorkwall.com) in York, PA are the oldest and largest manufacturer of wallcoverings and have a huge selection of low VOC vinyl wallpapers used in hotels and nursing homes due to their long life and easy-to-clean surfaces. Ask your decorator to show you what’s available.
Although this blog has only covered two key elements of the green debate there is much more to discover. The green market is more established in hospitality and many consumers have already stayed in a green hotel yet 75% of consumers polled have never heard of a green designer.
Sue Thomson, C.I.D. is an accredited GREENleader Accredited Professional and Member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council .