Eco-Furniture: Where to Find It

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Mother Nature is all around us, providing for us at every turn. Food, water, warmth, shelter and beauty are just a few perks of being a human amongst the vast, living ecosystem that is Earth. No, this is not a prayer, merely recognition of the abundance of all things natural and, combined with unique human creativity and ingenuity, all things naturally made.

In short, if you're looking for eco-friendly furniture, look around you. It may not be as easy as stepping out your front door and walking into a finely crafted rattan chair covered in rapidly renewable hyacinth fibers. But you are likely to run into plants that are very useful in making eco-furniture. Or perhaps you'll stumble across an old oak table for sale in someone's driveway. Or you might drive by an old dilapidated barn and becomes inspiration for some distressed wainscoting around a new kitchen island. Or it could be a tire fire you drive by, leading to thoughts of a chaise longue made with recycled tire tubes. A landfill might spark interest in the wealth of possibilities for recycled plastics that would otherwise fester underground for thousands of lifetimes.

Indeed, the realization that junk can generate green home décor is the foundation of the budding eco-furniture marketplace. Especially when combined with humanity's seemingly limitless creativity.

Still, while the materials and inspiration for eco-furniture may lie all around us, the question is where to find the finished product. Obviously, not all of us have time to follow our every eco-whim — even an avid maker of recycled-plastic chairs may want a bamboo table for his or her back patio. Fortunately, the answer to this question is much the same as the first...it’s all around us. And the closer to home you find your furniture, the more "eco" it is. Here are some excellent places to start.

#1 – The Garage

Summertime equals garage sale time as people exorcise the ghosts of purchases past to make room for purchases to come. Buying furniture used — i.e. recycling or reclaiming old chairs, tables, sofas, beds, vanities, mirrors, artwork, etc. — is essential to our collective green lifestyle. Bear in mind that everything left over after a garage, yard or estate sale is one step closer to the landfill; even if it all goes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army first. And remember that garage sales are where good deals abound.

#2 – Thrift Store

Goodwill, Salvation Army, secondhand furniture dealers, vintage shops and other peddlers of once-new wares are excellent stops for eco-furniture. Here, the point is more about saving products from the landfill than what that product is made from. Yet keeping these things in circulation is very important, at least until our recycling techniques are able to catch up with the amount and variety of waste we produce. And who doesn't go home smiling after a sweet vintage find?

#3 – Google It!

The web is a virtual eco-garage and a search engine takes the place of paper posters. Google is obviously top in this department (and a fairly eco-friendly company as well). But any engine will allow you to search however you want and for whatever you want, be it reclaimed leopard-print moon chairs or vintage coffee tables resurfaced with wheat pennies. It will also provide links to online "garage sales," such as Craigslist and Kijiji. Remember that the good thing about Craigslist is the ability to search and shop local to maximize the eco-friendliness of an online purchase.

The web holds the keys to all the eco-materials you might want as well — bamboo, cork and other rapidly renewable wood or plant products, recycled plastic or rubber products, formaldehyde-free and FSC-certified wood furniture.

#4 – Eco-Friendly Retailers

Finally, as a quick localized internet search revealed, there are a number of eco-friendly craftsmen and retailers available online, including group sites like Etsy, in which many of the individuals listed may specialize in creative recycled or reclaimed products. While it does cost a serious amount of energy to, say, buy a recycled glass tabletop from Vermont and have it shipped to Los Angeles, purchasing from one of these reputable eco-furniture retailers (or any number of other outlets) is usually better than the foreign-made, free-trade products peddled by multinational corporations. So here is a short list of online eco-furniture retailers. Do you know of any others? Add a comment below!

  • Sustainable Furnishings Council - Not a direct retailer, but rather a network of manufacturers, designers and retailers of sustainable furniture. A good place to start.
  • Vivavi – “Your home for modern green furniture and furnishings,” Vivavi offers a wide array of stylish eco-home décor. Search the site by genre (tables, beds, kids, pets), by room or designer.
  • Eco-Furniture - Patio, home and office furniture, as well as accessories and lighting options, are available from Eco-furniture.com. It's one of the web’s biggest sites for green furniture, or as they call it, GREENCulture.
  • Futures Furniture - A cornucopia of green furnishings, from furniture made from sustainable or reclaimed materials or Made in the U.S.A. or non-toxic or low-VOC finishes to organic textiles. Every design from contemporary to traditional to eco-chic is represented.
  • Furniture Home Design - Not so much a retailer as a clearinghouse for eco-friendly furniture information and design ideas. Find something you like posted at Furniture Home Design and then look for it at a retail outlet or direct from the designer. Or better yet, use it as inspiration for your own home furnishings project.

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Dan Harding is a veteran of solar critique, commentary and reporting. He has published well over 1,000 articles on a wide variety of solar industry topics, ranging from cutting-edge technology and gadgetry to political satire and powerful editorials. CalFinder is proud to tout Dan as our resident solar expert. He holds a B.A. in English from Michigan State University and enjoys reading, writing and home construction.