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27 Mar

Being Green: The Materials (Part 1 of 3)

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Sustainable. Eco-friendly. Environmentally responsible. Many home furnishings retailers, designers, manufacturers and suppliers pride themselves on embodying these values—ideals that more and more consumers demand in the products they buy. In this three-part series we'll take a look at the materials, the environmental impact and the messaging surrounding this topic.

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According to the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s latest Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study, consumers are willing to pay up to 5 to 10 percent more for environmentally friendly furnishings. But what does sustainable home décor actually entail?

Organic furnishings crafted from reclaimed or recycled materials might spring to mind, but sustainability extends far beyond that. It encompasses every aspect of manufacturing and retail, from working through a verifiable supply chain and avoiding toxic chemicals in finishes to employing energy-efficient practices in administrative offices and utilizing eco-friendly packaging.

“We take that responsibility very seriously,” says Stefanie Lucas, CEO of New England-based home furnishings
retailer Boston Interiors. “To us, that means thinking about the kinds of products we carry, acting responsibly in the way we run our business, being forward thinking in the way we operate our warehouse and, hopefully, taking time to educate our employees and our customers about better products and processes that will lessen any damaging impact on the environment.”

THE MATERIALS
The raw materials that comprise the finished product and where exactly those components come from are crucial elements of eco-friendly furnishings. Soft goods manufacturer Avasa sources its materials from only a handful of fabric mills that uphold the same commitment to sustainability that it does. The company uses natural fiber-based fabrics in its top-of-bed collections, such as natural linen and cotton-linen blends. About 65 to 70 percent of Avasa’s collections are made from unprocessed fabrics, meaning the fabric doesn’t come into contact with any potentially harmful chemicals.

Avasa embraces green manufacturing down to the small details, like recycled coconut buttons and fabric tie closures made of leftover cuttings. “Our packaging is designed to minimize the use of plastic by providing a fabric cover for most pieces,” says Abi Sood, founder and CEO of Avasa. “Our goal is to continuously reduce the usage of plastic and industrial chemicals in the production process in as many stages as possible.”

Asha Chaudhary, CEO of area rug specialist Jaipur Living, says her company works continuously to reduce waste and reuse materials that might otherwise end up in landfills. Some of its designs incorporate repurposed sari silk; others give recycled plastic bottles new life in the form of durable PET yarns. Jaipur Living also embraces sustainably harvested natural materials such as jute and sisal, as well as wool sheared from “live, happy sheep” in New Zealand and India that grow new fleece every year.

“Fiber content can subtly influence the kind of design you may want to create,” Chaudhary says. “Some sustainable materials are coarser, while others have a different pile ... You must educate yourself and accept that there will be variations. Certain materials may show imperfections that some people embrace, but others don’t. It can be a
challenge that is also quite gratifying.”

Boston Interiors makes an effort to work with vendors that are certified by the Sustainable Furnishings Council and use wood from Sustainable Forestry Initiative-certified suppliers, who promise to replant forests after harvesting. Many of the retailer’s manufacturer partners also have low-emission machinery in their plants and use water-based glues that don’t emit damaging chemicals. Its eco-friendly product offerings range from bleach-free organic fabrics to cushions stuffed with recycled fiber filling.

“We ask new suppliers to provide background on their sustainable practices and manufacturing practices in general,” Lucas says. “We ask them to sign a commitment to ongoing improvement, eco-compliance (to California standards, which are the most stringent in our country) and fair labor practices.”

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Click here for Part 2, The Environmental Impact.

Click here for Part 3, The Messaging.

 

You can find these exhibitors at The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market, July 9-15, 2019. Or visit them Monday - Friday between Markets.

Photo credit: Phillips Collection

Contributing Writer
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