How to choose environmentally friendly office furniture
Going green doesn’t mean forfeiting aesthetics. With environmentally friendly office furniture it is possible to create a dynamic office space that has minimal eco-impact. Many businesses have recognised the importance of choosing ‘green’ office furniture and because the demand is there, there is now plenty of choice, so really the only challenge is understanding what will work best for you, your team, and your business.
It’s all about knowing what to look for. Every business has different demands for the kind of equipment and furniture it needs, and understanding this first will make your search for environmentally friendly office furniture much easier. Make a detailed list of everything you need in order to accommodate your team and ensure the office runs smoothly. This way you can search for individual products and items one by one, and you can also make sure you haven’t omitted something essential.
Features of Green Office Chairs, Desks & Sustainable Furniture
Recyclability: What Materials Can Be Recycled?
If there is a piece of furniture, or component of it, that cannot be recycled then this is damaging to the environment in the long run. This is because non-recyclable materials end up in landfill. Choosing furniture with recyclable components helps decrease the impact of waste during its manufacture and also during its disposal too.
Environmental Packaging & Waste Regulations
A big consideration in environmentally friendly office furniture is packaging and waste. Many goods come with excessive packaging that could be recycled, but certain types of packaging are not able to be recycled including Styrofoam and plastics. You can avoid this in your businesses by choosing items that aren’t excessively packaged, or only packaged in materials that can be recycled.
Sustainable Wood & Timber Furniture
Many pieces of office furniture, notably desks, are comprised primarily of wood. This can be damaging to the environment when taken from unsustainable sources. Sustainable wood materials such as bamboo are alternative materials, in addition reclaimed or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood is environmentally friendly.
Recycling Plastic & Metals
It’s not just wood that can be reused in furniture production. Metal and plastic can be too. For example Emeco’s Navy Chair 111 is made from recycled PET bottles and would be suitable for an office kitchen. Furniture with recycled materials such as metal or plastic is much more sustainable.
VOC: Volatile Organic Compound Level
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can emit environmentally polluting gas at ordinary room temperature. These are frequently located in the materials of the furniture itself, or the treatment chemicals used during production. The smell of a new piece of office furniture’s fabric is often due to VOCs for example. Manufacturers who don’t use VOC’s in their furniture production are more environmentally friendly. Examples include DASBF and Elite Furniture.
Locally Manufactured Furniture
Choosing furniture that is made from materials and by manufacturers local to you is an environmentally friendly option. By using local sustainable materials and avoiding unnecessary transport across multiple countries is a good way to keep the environmental impact of manufacturing furniture low.
One thing to look out for is whether the furniture adheres to the Cradle-to-Cradle certification from MBDC (McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry). This certification is based on a “evaluation and certification of your product on five important sustainability aspects. These are: material health, material reutilization, water, energy and social fairness” according to the official website. Chairs like the Herman Miller Celle, Embody, Cetu and Mirra all have this certification.
Many manufacturers are members of associations that promote environmental sustainability. Examples of such organisations include BIFMA (the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association) and SCS (Scientific Certification Systems). Buying from these manufacturers means you can rest assured that they are working towards producing products which have minimal impact on the environment.
Another indicator of environmental quality is if manufacturers are a member of FISP (the Furniture Industry Sustainability Programme) which was launched in 2006 as a result of the UK Government’s Department for Trade and Investment (DTI) pushing the Sustainable Development Strategy.
Sustainable Fabrics & Green Upholstery
Using responsible fabric manufacturers who are developing materials with higher wool content (or other natural fibres) as opposed to man-made fabrics is another way to ensure your office furniture is environmentally friendly.
Man-made fabrics can contain pollutants in when they are dyed or during the manufacturing process. As a natural process of aging, fabric fibres are released into the atmosphere. When this happens in synthetic fabrics significant problems occur. Leah Messinger reported in The Guardian in June 2016 that “Synthetic microfibers are particularly dangerous because they have the potential to poison the food chain. The fibre’s size also allows them to be readily consumed by fish and other wildlife”.
Some manufacturers have dedicated lines that are environmentally friendly. For example, Herman Miller’s range of Canvas office furniture is mostly FSC certified and all the products in the range have the GREENGUARD Gold certification. The GREENGUARD certification “ensures that a product has met some of the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into indoor air”.
Choosing office furniture that meets this standard results in a healthier workplace for you and your team. As GREENGUARD states – “Indoor air quality (IAQ) is closely tied to health, and is therefore recognized as an important concern in homes, schools, healthcare environments and commercial spaces”.
The availability of eco-furniture lines varies by manufacturer and the more established manufacturers will list the eco-credentials of each piece of furniture.
Buy Recycled Office Furniture
Recycled furniture is very environmentally friendly. Extending the lifespan of furniture with no additional manufacturing or materials used is very low impact. Used furniture on sites like eBay for is also often cheaper than new items and you can create your own bespoke office look!
Freecycle are active in numerous regions throughout the UK. There are also companies which refurbish recycled furniture specifically for office use so the hard work is done for you. Examples of such suppliers include Recycled Business Furniture and ORS.
Some manufacturers, including The Senator Group, have extensive recycling and remanufacturing services in addition to using recycled packaging and sustainable materials. This option can provide a compromise for furniture that feels new but still has some recycling within the process of manufacture and delivery.
Environmental Office Fit Outs
Whilst sometimes there may be need for replacing furniture, fitting out a new office space is more difficult. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have an environmental assessment system for sustainable fit outs that make the process of choosing a total fit out provider much simpler.
They make use of a standard known as the SKA Rating, which rates suppliers through a series of compliance checks. Suppliers with this rating can be a good indicator of the quality of various environmental standards for office fit outs. When fitting out a whole office a good environmental choice is to buy for the longer term. This may mean an additional expense but also that the furniture will not need to be replaced so soon.
At Swift Office Cleaning Services we are committed to providing environmentally friendly practices and incorporate green cleaning services throughout our work. Feel free to contact us to get a quote and you can start boosting your green credentials today.