Friday, July 29, 2011

Finding Environmentally Friendly Furniture – the Basics

Ah summertime…the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and everyone is outside playing. This season really makes us appreciate all Mother Nature has to offer us, and we want to make sure we do everything we can to keep our Earth healthy. There are so many manufacturers promising green, sustainable, eco-friendly products for your home. All of these terms suggest some level of environmental responsibility, but there are no concrete definitions for them yet.  If you are in the market for eco-friendly furniture and other home goods, you need to know what to look for so you know you are not being deceived.

Search for a product or manufacturer that is certified by a coalition promoting sustainable practices, like the Sustainable Furnishings Council
The goals of this council are to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability, help companies adopt eco-friendly practices, clear up false information in the industry, and assure customers that they are supporting companies that operate sustainably. As a founding member of the council, American Leather produces custom leather and fabric-covered furniture that meets the standards established by SFC. 

Environmentally-secured leather
Modern tanneries use closed-water systems and private water treatment plants to prevent the pollution of surrounding water supplies.  At American Leather, the dying process involves water-based products that are chrome-free and completely chemical free.  This prevents more toxic materials from entering your home and ultimately the atmosphere. Leather scraps are also recycled in producing small leather goods.

Pay attention to the furniture frame
Wood from American Leather comes from sustainable forests, and over two million pounds of leftover wood is recycled.  The glues used to bind the wood are chemical-free and do not release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

Recyclable Cushions
High-resiliency foam that is 100 percent free of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs,) helps to prevent ozone depletion.  Plus, when your sofa reaches the end of its lifetime, the cushions from American Leather furniture are recyclable.

Clearly, every part of the furniture needs to come from proper sources and be manufactured in the right way to be certified by the Sustainable Furnishings Council.  If environmentally friendly practices are important to you, you can find American Leather and other environmentally friendly manufacturers through the Sustainable Furnishings Council.


Tim said...

I'm pleased to see American Leather's efforts toward sustainability. I'm wondering what AL's approach is to toxicity of materials. In particular, how are you meeting California fire resistance standards?

I assume you've phased out PDBEs, which have generated a lot of health concerns. But what are you using in their place? I've read that many manufacturers are now using new brominated and chlorinated compounds, and that little is known about their health effects.

Any information you can provide will help me, and other health-conscious purchasers, make informed buying decisions. I love the Comfort Sleeper design, but if it's going to adversely impact the health of my family, I may settle for a wool futon couch, or some other alternative with less toxic materials.

Thanks for the info!

Wendy said...

I'm glad to see Tim's post as I, too, am in the market for a sofabed and am concerned about the toxicity of fire retardant chemicals. Is American Leather using Tris to meet fire resistance standards? Tris used to be used in children's pajamas but was then banned for that use due to toxicity. My understanding, however, is that Tris still continues to be used in sofa cushions and mattresses.

I believe IKEA has committed to stop using Tris. How about American Leather? If you're not using Tris, what are you using?

Also, if American Leather is using fire retardant chemicals are they solely in the interior of the cushions or is the fabric/leather exterior treated as well? Is there any difference in how fabric is treated vs. leather in terms of fire retardance?

Thanks very much! I will say that American Leather's sofabeds are the most comfortable I've found thus far.

Louie said...

Now that there are cars, roofs, and houses that promote eco-friendly purposes, it’s no surprise that furniture makers have also taken made the move. More and more people are now buying products that help the environment and, at the same time, beautify homes. Ain't that a catch?

Louie Cunningham

aaron said...

I would love to see the answers to the questions asked by Tim and Wendy in these comments. Considering the series that the Chicago Tribune has just run on flame retardants in household furniture, and the article that Nichloas Kristof published in the NY Times on this, perhaps AL should present this information more clearly on the website.

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togias said...

Has anyone gotten a response to Tim and Wendy's questions? I would love to know as well.

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This comment has been removed by the author.
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G F said...

This is an old thread but I am sad to read it and see no response from American Leather. If you clink on the link below you will see the answer:

Apparently American Leather has been using Tris for years. Unfortunately I purchased my sleeper sofa in 2011 and my three young children have been playing on it for the past 3 years. This 'environmentally friendly furniture' is required to be labeled as potentially harmful by proposition 65. Hopefully this has stopped but it looks like I will be getting rid of my American Leather sleeper sofa.

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