So what do most people do, especially during a pandemic? They search for replacement furniture they can order online—preferably for a low price—that will show up at their doorstep soon. Unfortunately, most of that furniture is really fast furniture.
With the average sofa producing about 200 pounds of carbon dioxide, it’s essential to consider where your furniture comes from and how it’s made.
What Is Fast Furniture?
Fast furniture usually comes from big retailers like Wayfair, IKEA, and even Amazon. Its hallmarks are quick production and quick delivery to consumers—whether it’s shipped to you or you pick up the flat pack boxes from the store.
Most fast furniture is made in China. But a large portion of it, specifically seating, is produced in the United States. Fast couches, benches, and chairs are often US-made because the manufacturing process requires less labor than other products, making the cost savings from outsourcing to other countries insignificant.
Unfortunately, fast furniture is low cost and low quality, regardless of the manufacturing location. We throw away nearly 9 million tons of furniture every year. Fast furniture contributes to this problem because it’s designed to last for just a few months. Rather than heirloom-quality pieces made from solid materials, fast furniture relies on particleboard and flimsy construction.
How Burrow Designed Their Company to Do Things Differently
They wanted to design a beautiful, high-quality sofa that didn’t cost hundreds of dollars to ship or take months to arrive. Eventually, they landed on a modular design. This design allows them to send their sturdy pieces in standard boxes for a fraction of the cost.
“The cost and carbon footprint of shipping a sofa that’s in the traditional model is massive,” Stephen says. “If you think about it, even if it’s made in the United States… it gets made by somebody, then it ships in a larger container because you can’t fit that many sofas in a truck when they’re fully made.”
It ships from the factory to the regional warehouse. Then, it sits in the regional warehouse. It goes to a local retail store, and then the customer picks it up themselves. Or you pay extra for white glove delivery.
“With our model, you can ship the finished product directly from the factory to a customer’s home via UPS, and it takes up significantly less space in the shipping process,” he adds. “And so it costs less money, gets there faster, and has a much better carbon footprint.”
Durable and Recyclable Materials
Burrow uses high-quality materials meant to last. Stephen says their sofas can last from 5 to 10 years, depending on use, and that many of the materials are recyclable.
Right now, Burrow is developing a recycling program for the foam in their cushions. Customers will be able to send back worn-out cushions so that Burrow can recycle them properly. Since their sofas are modular, it means that replacing a worn-out piece is easy for their customers.
Why You Should Prioritize Sustainable, Ethically-Made Furniture
Before, it was common to see a massive price difference between sustainable goods and “fast” goods. These days, that’s not the case.
“You don’t have to pay a premium for it. So there’s really no excuse not to,” Stephen says. “There’s enough sustainably forested lumber to make the frames and whatever type of wood that goes into any piece of furniture that you buy.”
According to Stephen, the really big suppliers have to sustainably harvest it. “Wood supply companies can’t just keep wiping out forests and coming up with new places to find wood,” he says. “If you’re going to create a sustainable business model in the long run, you have to replant the trees.”
With the cost of planet-friendly and ethically-made furniture lower than ever before, it’s worth doing some upfront research to find an option you love.
How to Find Pieces That Align With Your Values (and Your Wallet)
As more and more consumers ask for sustainable products, more companies include information about their materials and manufacturing processes in their marketing materials.
1. Check for Certifications
Start by taking a quick look at a company’s website. You should find any certifications they have for their materials and processes listed. If you can’t find those, send an email to their customer service team to ask.
One certification to look out for is from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Their certifications guarantee that lumber is harvested, meets human rights standards, and isn’t genetically modified.
2. Avoid Furniture “Marketplaces”
Next, make sure you are looking at a furniture company that makes their furniture. There are tons of “marketplace”-style furniture sites, such as Wayfair or Amazon. Others aren’t as easily recognizable. That’s because companies will source furniture from manufacturers and rebrand it as their own.
You can always run a reverse image search to determine if multiple companies are selling the same piece. If they are, you’re probably looking at a piece of fast furniture.
3. Finance Higher-Quality Furniture, or Buy Used
Durable furniture often comes at a higher price point. Check your local Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or NextDoor forum first to find a gently used piece.
If you’re comfortable with it, many furniture companies do offer financing programs with zero interest. A low monthly payment can be easier to digest than a grand total.
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