When it comes to anything we buy – be it socks, bedsheets or coffee, it might seem reassuring to see the term ‘sustainable’ in the brand’s story. Further research into what makes them sustainable however, can be utterly confusing, so-called sustainable furniture brands included.
With any product, it’s impossible for the consumer to quantify exactly much how one manufacturing process or material can be considered less harmful to people and planet than another. So when a brand makes loose claims about being environmentally and socially conscious, how do we separate the facts from the greenwashing? Throw in time and monetary constraints and it’s easy to give up.
There are many facets to what makes something ‘more’ sustainable and no production process is 100% impact free. Buying nothing or buying second hand is often the greenest thing to do. Until legislation bans ALL unsustainable practices, we have to make up our own minds as to who is going the extra mile to minimise waste, reduce carbon emissions, remove toxic ingredients, treat workers fairly, whilst also deciding for ourselves which values we feel most strongly about.
Below is a regularly updated list of selected sustainable furniture brands, chosen for their transparency and tangible steps to become greener. It also takes into account third party certifications, (such as the FSC – Forest Stewardship Council – who have set the standard for responsible forestry around the world).
Header image – Shake Sideboard by Sebastian Cox for Benchmark
Adventures in Furniture
- Adventures in Furniture are a London-based company with showrooms in Islington and Chiswick
- Furniture is made from FSC certified or recycled wood
- An eco rating system shows the different eco and ethical credentials for each product
- More than 90% of furniture manufactured in Europe
- Winner of the Guardian’s ‘Sustainable Business Award’ 2011
- Pictured – Ethnicraft walnut Tripod coffee table £689
- Sebastian Cox is an award-winning British furniture designer. Pieces are handmade from his London-based workshop.
- Wood is sourced from managed woodlands in Kent that are rich in biodiversity.
- Wood is extracted through the traditional method of coppicing. Trees are pruned at ground level and one cut will lead to several new stems sprouting in the spring instead of one. This provides a continuous crop of wood that can be harvested sustainably on a rotational basis. The system creates ideal habitats for wildlife and offers efficient carbon storing benefits. Read more here.
- Environmental impact measured via LCA (Environmental Life Cycle Assessment) so that each product has a carbon value.
- Penatonic are a Berlin and London based company making products from 100% recycled and recyclable materials such as chairs made from plastic bottles and glassware from old smart phone screens
- Modular designs means they don’t require glue and parts can be replaced as needed
- Each component is made from a single material so it can be infinitely recycled and each is numbered so that it can be tracked throughout its lifecycle
- Buy back program in place for when products and components are no longer usable
- Pictured – Pentatonic Airtool Table
- Geyersbach are a small furniture company based in Berlin with everything made from reclaimed wood. The collection includes dining tables, benches, stools, shelves and cabinets, available in a range of paint finishes.
- Discarded wood sourced mainly from local houses and buildings in Berlin and Brandenburg.
- Pictured – #36 Coffee table made of wood sourced from Schonenschen Strasse, Berlin 480€
- Knoll was established in New York in 1938 and specialise in iconic furniture for the home and office, inspired by the Bauhaus school. Knoll have showrooms and dealers internationally.
- All products undergo Life Cycle Assessments during design and development to measure potential environmental impacts.
- Member of the Carbon Disclosure Project
- Details of products with third party certification from USGBC, LEED; FSC®; SMaRT©; level®; ISO 14001 and OSHA, listed here on their website
- Pictured – Krusin Lounge Chair from £840 at Twentytwentyone
- Grüne Erde is an Austrian company specialising in the production and trade of ecological, sustainable and fairtrade products
- Solid wood furniture from sustainably managed European forests, manufactured in Austria and neighbouring EU countries
- GOTS certified cotton used in their textile products, natural and recyclable materials in their home accessories
- A reforestation initiative aims to restore 31 hectares of mountain rainforest in the Brazilian region of Mata Atlantica
- Factories heated with waste wood chips which are burnt carbon dioxide-neutral in a biomass heating system
- Pictured – Alpina bed approx 1,790 € + VAT
Par Avion Co.
- Par Avion Co. is a British company with manufacturing in both the UK and USA
- Frames made from 100% FSC European and British timber and are hand made at their workshop in Norfolk
- They work with local craftsmen and woodturners for their machining and turned products
- Wood products are sealed with environmentally-friendly hand rubbed finish called Osmo Oil™
- Seats are woven either with Danish paper cord by traditional weavers in Eastern England or handmade split willow skein using white willow from Somerset, made and woven in their Norfolk workshop
- Pictured – pi3 Stool from £1200
- Ekomia are an eco-conscious furniture brand based in Berlin
- Certified wood sourced from Germany or the European hinterland. Pinewood is sustainably sourced from Sweden.
- Furniture made in Berlin from solid wood with lowest possible amount of glue
- Products use solvent free glazes and oils from 100% natural ingredients
- Products delivered direct from manufacturer to customer
- Carbon offset via the Atmosfair compensator
- No plastic packaging
- Pictured above pine bed with storage from 900€
- Solid Wool make furniture from a composite material made from natural wool and 30% natural bio-resins
- Wool is sourced from Herdwick sheep from the Lake District, upland, hill-farmed sheep, historically used in the UK carpet industry. Demand for this wool has declined and is considered almost worthless, a by-product of sheep farming.
- The bio-resins used claim a minimum 50% reduction in carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions during manufacture over traditional resins.
- Pictured – Hembury chair with scorched black ash legs £395
- Benchmark was founded by Sean and Sir Terence Conran in 1984, with eco friendly furniture making at heart of their business. All pieces are made by a skilled team at their workshops in Berkshire and Dorset.
- One of the first furniture makers in the UK to have chain of custody certification from the FSC and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
- ISO14001 certified and awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category twice.
- Life Cycle Analysis of core product collections provide independently verified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to demonstrate the low environmental impact of their furniture.
- As an alternative to plastic foam, Benchmark’s upholstery has been developed in collaboration with Naturalmat, which uses natural, sustainable and biodegradable materials – coir, latex and sheep’s wool.
- Furniture has Red List Free and Declare labelling. Red List Free means that it contains no harmful toxic chemicals and meets the standards for WELL certified buildings.
- Pictured – Puck table from £265
You might also be interested to read our post on beautiful reclaimed wood furniture designs.