3 tips for making safe, healthy and green furniture choices

Feature image: The LEED Platinum L'Avenir Townhome in Fort Collins, Colorado. Photo credit: © L'Avenir, LLC.

Decorating or remodeling your home while also making the most sustainable and healthy choices can be challenging. Here are a few tips to help you make those green choices about the furniture that will fill your space:

Find nontoxic furniture

“Fast furniture” has become a popular choice for homeowners looking to redecorate on a budget. However, it is not always the healthiest choice for your home. Many types of furniture contain known health hazards and carcinogens, such as formaldehyde—which is commonly found in pressed wood products like particleboard, hardwood plywood paneling and medium-density fiberboard. Formaldehyde can also be in glue, synthetic fabrics, chemically treated materials, plastics and vinyl. When buying furniture, always check the labels for formaldehyde or other harmful chemicals.

Also, try to avoid furniture treated with flame retardants. While you may think that adding flame retardants would make your home safer, research has proved the opposite. In fact, flame retardants can cause negative health effects, and are not the most effective way to prevent fires.

Whenever possible, buy or thrift furniture that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals. Natural wood is the best option for furniture, and other untreated materials are great choices since they won’t release any chemicals into your home.

Incorporate fire safety measures

Couches, chairs and mattresses tend to be very flammable and can make house fires more severe. While flame retardants are not very effective at preventing fires, there are other methods you can use. The most flammable part of upholstered furniture is the cushion, so a physical barrier can be added to prevent it from becoming a fuel source in a fire. Fire barriers can be made from flame-resistant fibers like carbons, polyesters and fiberglass, and they fully cover the cushion to reduce fire risk. To protect yourself and your home, consider adding fire barriers to your upholstered furniture.

Use certified sustainable and recyclable materials

When buying new furniture, it is important to look for the most environmentally friendly options. One of the best ways to do this is by checking for certifications. Make sure that wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Rainforest Alliance, which ensures that it was sourced from responsibly managed forests with consideration for social, economic and environmental impacts. Also, choose sustainably harvested organic cotton or natural fibers.

Reusing or upcycling older furniture is one of the most sustainable ways to furnish your home. If you are going to invest in new furniture, however, choose high-quality items that you plan to keep for a long time. Check that they can be recycled, and also look for Cradle to Cradle-certified products. By using certified furniture, you can be sure that you are making the most eco-friendly choice.

Learn more about ways to have a healthy home