Awareness of sustainable purchasing and the environment has grown considerably in recent years, not least in the furnishing industry. Here, the key issue is timber, as furniture is obviously heavily reliant on wood, which continues to be the obvious material for furniture: it is resilient, versatile, easy to maintain and provides a warm, natural feel to any home.
The perils of unsustainable logging
Of course, we’d all like to furnish our homes with wood. It is so much warmer and more natural looking than the alternatives. Trees grow back, so on the face of it they would seem much greener and sustainable than synthetic countertypes. Yet the global desire for wood is great and relentless, and timber demand is higher in some areas than there are trees. Unsustainable logging leads to widespread deforestation, leaving huge swathes of land that will never return to their green woodland glory.
It is therefore very important that when purchasing wood, you always make sure to buy sustainable.
FSC certified timber is sustainable timber
A lot of furnishing firms have now switched to using sustainably sourced timber. What this means is that they only buy their wood from FSC certified suppliers, which means that the wood used in the furniture, as well as the manufacturer that made it, meets the strict requirements of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The FSC is a non-profit organization that ensures forestry is carried out in an environmentally and socially responsible way. All FSC forests are properly managed, ensuring that new trees grow and that the forests are not depleted. In addition, the FSC certifies that the social and economic wellbeing of forest workers and local communities is also respected.
A similar certification system is undertaken by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC). PEFC certification is also the mark of sustainable timber.
You can find out if the furniture that you are intending to purchase is sustainable by checking if it possesses either of these labels.
Another rule of thumb is that European sourced wood tends to be more sustainable than in other parts of the world, simply because the EU has set up stricter standards.
Endangered and exotic woods
Avoid buying exotic woods from tropical countries. In particular, ebony, teak, sapele, merbau, wenge and Brazilian mahogany are endangered and should be avoided, as the supply cannot keep up with demand.
Softwoods such as bamboo, pine and other evergreens are sustainable because they grow quicker than hardwoods, such as oak and mahogany. The word ‘softwood’ can be a little misleading, as these woods remain very resilient and hardwearing, especially when compared to synthetic materials.
It is true that furniture items that are made sustainably may cost a little more. However, they usually turn out to be a better investment, as they tend to be better crafted and last longer than cheaper, lower quality alternatives.
Sustainability is not only about creating a greener lifestyle; it is also a sign of quality. Many of the definitive, age-old brands have now turned to sustainability and classic brands such as Ercol are now manufactured using sustainably sourced timber only.
How will manufacturing address the needs of the planet in the following decade?
Over the years, people have become more environmentally aware. This is due to better education, research, and understanding of how we impact the ecosystems around us. As a result, consumers have begun to demand that products are manufactured in an environmentally sustainable manner. Those businesses that choose to manufacture products with traditional methods are at serious risk of falling behind the competition.
Advanced manufacturing methods and greater precision
New manufacturing methods have made it possible for products to be made with more precision. This means that waste is reduced. This has an environmental impact on many levels. When less materials are transported there is less carbon monoxide released, so there is less greenhouse effect. Water can be saved because there are less raw materials being used to get the same product. Transducer Techniques specializes in providing industry with load cells and other equipment that is used to reduce waste.
Renewable energy solutions are gaining a lot of ground in the industrial sector. Some plants are using panels to heat water for production and employee use. Even small businesses are sporting solar panels on their roof to offset electrical costs. Manufacturers that use a lot of water can generate energy using hydroelectric turbines.
Energy costs can fluctuate. Conducting an audit of the energy used in your manufacturing process can help you find where you can improve your energy usage. Sometimes simple solutions can save a lot of money in energy costs over time. When manufacturing burns less energy, both the company and the environment win.
The manufacturing process and maintaining a facility can lead to a lot of water being used. With the price of water on the rise and many areas experiencing drought, if there is a good way to conserve groundwater reservoirs, then it should be done. Although rainwater might not be able to be used for drinking water, it can be used for flushing toilets, manufacturing processes, washing hands, etc.
While a manufacturer can make a good effort to not waste anything, some waste is bound to happen. Recycling has become more common at all levels of manufacturing. Sometimes costs can be reduced because some recyclables have a value; metals particularly so. Making sure all breakrooms and boardrooms are equipped with recycle bins ensures a higher recycling participation rate. Explaining to employees the importance of recycling can also encourage participation. Perhaps money recouped from recycling could be donated to an environmental non-profit in the names of the employees. This can spread goodwill and camaraderie at a facility.
A green future ahead
Green manufacturing technologies will continue to become a larger part of the manufacturing industry. This is because everyone benefits. When waste is reduced, manufacturers save money. Less materials used means less environmental resources being used overall, leading to positive environmental effects. As processes improve, we will all be able to enjoy a higher and healthier standard of living.