Wood is only a renewable material if more trees are planted. Mahogany and exotic timbers often come from long-established tropical rain forests, rather than sustainably planted forests. Friends of the Earth publish the Good Wood Guide and have lots of advice on their Good Wood website. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council mark on wood products as a sign that they have been produced from responsibly grown timber.
Using reclaimed wood reduces the waste of resources and the environmental problems caused by throwing out good wood, so look for businesses and projects which reclaim and use wood. There are a number of furniture manufacturing businesses which use reclaimed or locally produced timber, and you may also find local craftspeople who use environment-friendly materials. Buying second-hand is environment-friendly – sometimes very good quality furniture goes for reasonable prices at local auctions, if you avoid the antiques. Some charity shops also sell furniture and there are projects repairing and refurbishing furniture which provide employment. Freecycle groups match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them and can be a way of finding second-hand furniture and other useful items.
Real Wood Studios is maximising the potential of the human and natural resources of the Scottish Borders. It combines the talent of young furniture designers and makers with low grade or waste hardwood from the area to produce a range of furniture.
Tripod Home specialise in unusual furniture and statuary imported from all over Asia including furniture made from reclaimed teak salvaged from old ox carts, fence posts, buildings and other disused farming implements.
Ethical Wood Furnishings create bespoke gifts and eco-friendly furniture for the home and garden from reclaimed wood, working in conjunction with the Brighton and Hove Wood Recycling Project and the National Community Wood Recycling Project.
Ecotopia sell some furniture made from cardboard or recycled plastic.
Alphabeds is a co-operative manufacturing wooden bedframes, and mattresses, using all natural materials.
Upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedlinen are among the many products found in our homes which contain chemicals which are on the European Union’s list of chemicals ‘of Very High Concern’, according to Greenpeace.
Bed linen, towels and other furnishings are now available in organic cotton, grown without using pesticides. Suppliers include Natural Collection, who have a useful guide to organic cotton, and Greenfibres with a range of eco-friendly and organic clothing, organic bedding and eco-friendly household products. Nigel’s Eco Store sells towels made with 70% bamboo fibre, which they claim is one of the most eco-friendly materials on the planet as it grows extremely quickly and doesn’t need any pesticides. There are increasing numbers of green retailers who sell organic products.
Onevillage.com is a fair trade business supporting craftmakers’ cooperatives and societies in economically poor places in Asia and Africa and offering an extensive range of articles, including bedlinen and rugs, and home accessories made from natural materials and in a sustainable way in co-ops of artisans themselves to avoid human exploitation.
A wide range of household goods made from recycled materials are now available, including glassware made from recycled glass, coasters from recycled juice cartons or coffee cups, stationery from recycled plastics or old car tyre and toys from recycled cardboard. These are all in the Ecotopia range but other online shops sell similar ranges. Fairly traded household goods, crafts and gifts are also available from Oxfam, some other charity shops, Traidcraft and specialist retailers.