Office furniture is a great place to start taking responsibility for your environmental impact in the home office. Desks, shelves and chairs can do more damage to the environment than simply using up energy and natural resources when they’re manufactured. They can also introduce toxic chemicals into the environment, both during their manufacture and after their disposal. These days, there are many options for choosing sustainable, environmentally-friendly office furniture certified by third parties like BIFMA and SCS. With a wide variety of eco-conscious manufacturers, and online stores focusing on green furniture and solutions to fit any budget (including your employer’s), it’s easier than ever to go green with home office furniture.
Herman Miller has made a name for itself with its sustainable, environmentally-friendly products that feature award-winning design. Proving that you can have the best of best worlds, the company has married functional, beautiful design with high standards for recyclability, minimal packaging, and minimal waste. The much ballyhooed (and quite pricey) Aeron is not the only chair they make with environmental sustainability in mind. The Celle, Embody, Cetu and Mirra are also Cradle-to-Cradle Gold and Silver certified by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), the global sustainability consulting and product certification firm.
Steelcase is another company that’s focused on producing high-design furniture to strict sustainability standards. In fact, its Think chairs are 99 percent recyclable, made of 44 percent recycled material, and were the first product to receive Cradle-to-Cradle certification from MBDC. It also has a number of of Silver-certified products, like the Siento, Move, Leap and Amia chairs, that are made of recycled material and are recyclable themselves.
While Herman Miller and Steelcase are well-known brands in the eco-friendly furniture business, these companies aren’t the only ones. Haworth‘s Zody chair is Gold certified by MBDC, and the company also has a range of other seating products — like its Improv and LOOK chairs — that boast environmental and sustainability ratings. Also check out Allsteel’s Acuity Chair, Keilhauer‘s Simple chair, and Orangebox‘s ARA chair.
Steelcase also makes environmentally-responsible desks. Its Walden and Garland private office product lines meet MBDC, BIFMA sustainability and SCS indoor air quality standards. Not to be outdone, Herman Miller has produced its Intent furniture line, which is currently undergoing the certification process.
Knoll makes wood office furniture with 100 percent recycled plywood, like its Reff line. Its GreenGuard certified products are made using water-based adhesives and virtually VOC-free sealants. They are also available with FSC-certified veneers and composite wood cores. Legaré‘s Sustainable line features sustainable bamboo and eco-friendly finishes. Best of all, its furniture assembles without the use of tools, screws or bolts.
Online retailers are a great source for eco-friendly furniture. Sites like EcoWork, Eco-Furniture and Vivali offer a range of green furniture (desks, chairs, and storage units) from a number of manufacturers. Just be sure to check out the environmental credentials of each piece to avoid greenwashed products. Customers can also order online from other retailers for Herman Miller, Steelcase, or direct from Legaré.
Of course, the best stewardship of scarce resources comes from reusing them. Buying used furniture not only saves the planet, it saves money. Look for used office furniture on eBay (s ebay), craigslist or the US government’s surplus equipment auction site. Thrift stores and yard sales are great places to pick up quality furniture locally for a fraction of the price. Feeling handy? Get creative with do-it-yourself solutions for your home office, like this stand-up desk or a desk made from salvaged doors.
What have you found to be the best options for eco-friendly office furniture?
Trenton DuVal has managed the online communications efforts of nonprofits focused on creating a more sustainable, just and equitable world since 2005. His varied experiences living and working on five continents have included professional gold farming, crossing the Atlantic by sailboat, a few meals with Nobel Laureates and a tragic run-in with a three-toed sloth.
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