Many of us are making smarter, greener choices when it comes to our clothes, our food and other items we have around the home. Sadly though, unwanted furniture is still one of the bulkiest burdens on landfill. But it really doesn’t have to be. Seeing pre-loved furniture in a new light is just one way to make a positive impact and, at the same time, create an interior with real staying power.
Why is being eco-friendly important?
We’re all starting to realise that small changes can make a big difference, and many of the most obvious switches are sitting right under our noses.
My mission is to create things that last, not things that end up in landfill. I’m very vocal on the subject of ‘fast furniture’ – in other words, pieces that have no lasting place in our homes. Not just because I know the value of reupholstery but also because the statistics on what we discard are alarming. Did you know:
It’s estimated that 1.6 million tonnes of bulky waste – 42 per cent of which is furniture and 19 per cent textiles, equating to a total of 670,000 tonnes of furniture and 310,000 tonnes of textiles waste – is disposed of by householders in the UK annually and sent to landfill*.
That’s approximately 22 million pieces of furniture discarded in the UK each year.
32% per cent of bulky waste is reusable in its current state, and around 51% is estimated to be functional with repair.
Apparently, less than 1 in 10 people consider repairing their furnishings to extend their lifespan.
*Statistics according to Wrap.
How can you make furniture more sustainable?
My job makes me realise we don’t NEED new furniture.
There are all kinds of reasons why a piece of furniture may be cast aside. Could be that it’s never been comfortable, or the fabric is ripped, stained or faded. Some pieces come to me in a terrible state – wobbly, saggy and occasionally falling apart at the seams.
But it’s very rare that an item of furniture can’t be fixed. In fact, I’d say you can almost always create something more fabulous than you could have ever imagined.
Buying carefully doesn’t just mean you get to own an exceptional chair or sofa; it’s so much more than that. It makes total sense to me to use what’s out there already and reinvent it beautifully. My processes – along with most trained and accredited upholsterers – will be more environmentally friendly than a large-scale manufacturer in every way.
For a start, our use of harmful chemicals is far less prevalent. I make greener choices in production where I can – lower VOC paints, plus water-based foams, glues and finishes. We keep the supply chain as small as possible, which reduces production costs and carbon footprints. There is no unnecessary packaging or waste involved in delivery logistics (although everything is shipped with the utmost care, of course). Most of all, we create upholstery that is designed to last.
When you recycle or upcycle a chair, sofa or any other item of furniture, it is more sustainable than buying new and reduces waste.
Instead of surrounding yourself with things that aren’t quite right or making do with short-term solutions, creating something with longevity in mind allows you to really care for, invest in and maintain the things you own.
Customising your own vision turns something you may have overlooked into a lifelong possession you absolutely LOVE.
The spotlight has been shone brightly on the world of soft furnishings, and as a result, manufacturers are doing more than ever to review their production processes and deliver solutions that are affordable and sustainable. Eco-friendly textiles and fabrics offer a good quality option with just as much longevity and durability as their less planet-pleasing alternatives.
While materials like wool, which is completely natural, readily available and biodegradable, have been used for centuries, more innovative solutions are now being introduced. Made of environmentally conscious, sustainable materials such as 100% PET recycled polyester from waste plastic bottles, recycled wool, recycled acrylic and Tencel lyocell, these textiles can be repurposed for future use and are, therefore, ‘circular’ in nature. It’s good to see some seriously clever innovation coming along.
Some of the bigger companies leading the charge are Kirkby Design, Linwood Fabrics and Arley House. In fact, Arley House has launched a range of fully recycled base cloths that can be printed with any of their designs – no compromise on style when you choose sustainable.
Camira and Clarke & Clarke also do some great, recycled collections. I’d recommend seeking out smaller brands too, such as Cable & Blake, who are preserving the heritage of the ancient Herdwick sheep breed and community by sourcing wool from local farms.
What can I do with unwanted furniture?
I get it – sometimes you will get bored with something, or perhaps you move house, and your much-loved piece doesn’t fit anymore.
BUT, if you can, I urge you to look at your unwanted item with a new perspective before you say farewell to it for good.
Try these eco-friendly tips:
1) If you’re tired of your décor, consider painting or upcycling furniture to give it a new lease of life. Similarly, reupholster sofas, armchairs, footstools and other soft furnishings. Re-purpose curtains into cushions and re-invent old items. The only limit is your imagination.
2) The process works in reverse too. If you really can’t breathe new life into something or it no longer fits your home, sell or donate second-hand furniture. Passing on to friends or family members, donating to charity, or selling through eBay or Facebook Marketplace are all good ways of repurposing. Don’t chuck it out!
3) If you need ‘new’ furniture, sourcing second-hand, as opposed to buying brand new, will cut down on the huge furniture waste burden. Best of all, you stand a good chance of finding something unique, high-quality AND affordable.
Upholstery makes you look at all your furniture in a new light.
In fact, you might start to see brand-new furniture with hefty price tags as a total waste of money when you realise how affordable it is to reinvent furniture you already own. And you know what – you’re doing your bit for the planet, too 💚.