When one thinks of furniture, we’re probably not alone in not considering the provenance of what we sit on. But, here’s the thing, the sofas or chair that furnish our home are often full of synthetic materials, like plastic, which can be hidden away under the velvet or cotton that cover them.
So what is natural furniture? To us, it starts with traceability. Natural furniture should be composed of components where the provenance can be traced. For instance, even luxury furniture can use soft, or plywood, sourced from all over the planet, to create the frame of a sofa.
Sometimes the foam that goes into more expensive sofas can be made from a plastic called polyether. Polyether is a material that has revolutionised furniture production but can be harmful to people, and the planet in two important different ways. Firstly, as it is plastic, it never degrades and our oceans (and fields) are blighted with it. Polyether is also a known carcinogen.
Natural furniture should also be kind. Some furniture producers may some natural ingredients but in a cruel way. For instance, some producers of down feathers pluck birds whilst they are still alive, then let the feathers to regrow for re-plucking which is painful for the animals and clearly cruel.
Often, our furniture can be full of other, unnatural components, velcro, is, of course, a plastic. Most sofas will also contain some metal components. To make a sofa feel ‘bouncy’, as well as fillings like latex there will also be springs. Most manufacturers will use metal springs.
So if you take plastic and metal together when a sofa reaches the end of its natural life, we are left with a non-biodegradable mass of junk. Inevitably, as these materials are so hard to separate the materials will either be burned or end up in landfills and one way or another will harm our environment.
So, to us, natural furniture should be just that. First and foremost plastic is the antithesis of natural. Of course, some manmade components are unavoidable, a zip, for instance, will have to be made from either plastic or metal, but if a metal is used then it should be used sparingly and be easily recycled when it reaches the end of its life but clearly, natural products should be used wherever possible. If animal ingredients are used they should be used in a way that isn’t cruel. For instance, down feathers can be sourced as a by-product of the meat industry.
The benefits of making furniture in a natural way are salient. Creating springs from a natural material may cost the producer more but this will make the end product last longer and, crucially, will make the product itself much more comfortable to sit on.
And really, that’s the key point. Natural furniture may take longer and more money to produce (and, of course, buy) but the level of both comfort and longevity of the piece will make the extra investment in buying and producing worth it, for the consumer and the environment.