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Shopping for furniture can be a challenge, a chore, and/or an adventure. But, when it comes to finding and shopping for sustainable furniture, from companies that care about our world, the endeavor grows greater.
You have to weigh your budget with conscientiousness with availability (harder than you’d expect post-pandemic), among other factors. Sometimes, popular “fast furniture” options like Ikea and Amazon are easier, or that your most sustainable option is finally accepting an old dresser from your parents’ house.
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However, some furniture companies are investing in sustainability and designing and creating brand new home goods that help the planet out by repurposing materials like reclaimed wood, food waste, and ocean plastics. Buying a sustainably sourced and produced item will probably cost you a bit more at the outset, but you’re contributing to an eco-friendly product that has diverted waste and—more often than not—supported local communities.
Here are three of our favorite exciting companies making awesome sustainable furniture for you to bring home.
Room & Board
Room & Board is an American home design company and furniture brand based in Minnesota.
We spoke with Gene Wilson, Room & Board’s director of merchandising and vendor management, about the Urban Wood Project, an incredible partnership between the brand, the USDA Forest Service, and several U.S. cities.
The Urban Wood Project began when Room & Board heard that Baltimore was tearing down vacant rail homes, barns, and sites that were built in the 1800s and just tossing everything.
According to Wilson, Room & Board wanted to create “a market for the material and save it from the landfill.” By reusing and repurposing the materials (also known as upcycling), Room & Board is able to continue the lifespan of these materials for many years by using them as the materials for manufacturing new products, like the Henson table lamps or the McKean media cabinet.
The Urban Wood Project also works with Live Edge Detroit, a father-and-son business that, says Wilson, “reclaims trees in the Detroit area that are cut down due to disease or storm damage and repurposes them into sustainable wood for furniture and décor that is truly one of a kind.” Gorgeous tableware options include the Warren oblong bowl, the Moore salad serving set, and the Elliott salad bowl set.
And, then, in Sacramento, the Urban Wood Project works with a “small team of dedicated tree-lovers,” says Wilson, to repurpose trees at the end of their life into a form of usable lumber, instead of having it mulched or thrown away.
“We are taking logs and turning them into products, called live-edge, so you can actually see the live edge of the tree,” Wilson explains. Items like the Eliza coffee table. These sell out fast.
Back in Room & Board’s home city of Minneapolis, there are efforts to take wood from ash trees already being cut down because of ash-boring moth disease. “This latest phase, procuring dimensional lumber taken from an urban canopy that would have been taken down anyway, we are looking to replace what we already carry—what would have been taken from the forest. But, we have a long way to go before we could consider making this the main thrust of the initiative.”
The resulting products are unique, earthy, and high-quality.
Wilson says, “This is not just set up for plug and play. We’re literally supporting the development of this. It’s a time-consuming effort, but the good news is that organizations like the Forest Service are trying to get this going.”
Also based in Minnesota, eco-friendly outdoor furniture company Yardbird makes sustainable furniture and delivers it directly to customers, rather than selling through distributors and retailers, which for consumers means it doesn’t cost as much as it could.
All of Yardbird’s sustainable furniture is made from recycled materials, namely ocean plastics collected on beaches and other waterfront locations in the Philippines, and is also again 100% recyclable at the end of its life. So, when you’re done with your dining set, loveseat, or pillows, the company “will happily reclaim and repurpose it, giving it new life far from any landfill.”
In fact, according to Yardbird, in 2020 alone, it used over “150,000 lbs of [ocean plastics] in furniture and packaging, which accounted for 64% of plastic used on our wicker sets.”
The sustainable furniture collections at Yardbird are high quality, made with durable, water-resistant, rust-free materials like aluminum, teak wood, ocean plastics, foam and Sunbrella performance fabric.
As two examples, the Eden Collection features plush cushions, muted colors, and narrow weathered teak frames, while the Langdon Collection celebrates a modular wicker look. But there are many more collections to fit whatever vibe you’ve got going on your patio or porch.
Model No. has three core missions that work together: design, technology, and sustainability. The sustainable furniture company is tackling this in its own unique way, and very differently from both Yardbird and Room & Board.
In fact, Model No. is challenging and changing the way furniture is produced, which its three founders, through their website, describe as “crafted from sustainably sourced materials, such as upcycled food waste, and produced using the latest eco-friendly tech including 3D printing.”
If you’re wondering how food waste becomes a sleek, made-to-order chair for your dining room, you’re not alone. Model No.’s 3D-printed pieces are made from biopolymers and plant-based resins and exclude harmful petrochemicals. The resins and biopolymers come from leftover food crops remnants. And the wood that is used is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Not only does 3D-printing furniture allow for more sustainable practices, it allows incredible customization.
Model No. says, “This customization goes far beyond the typical color and maybe a few set sizes. Options include size, shape, color, materials, ergonomic fit, and “twist” (the curvature of the product). The products, each with their own unique model number, can be produced quickly, and ship within a two-week timeframe.”
This whole process reduces the number of products just sitting in warehouses waiting to be bought, too.
Another great aspect of Model No.’s production is the shortened waiting period. Items are made and delivered in the span of a few weeks. And, with the last year of work taking place at home, Model No. released a series of items to “make working and learning from home beautiful, sustainable, and fun,” including abstract chairs and benches for children, functional tables and desks, and a range of storage options.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: These American companies make unique sustainable furniture.