Saving the planet is no longer just a politically correct cause. Environmental awareness is an urgent necessity that consumers, communities, cities and countries must all support. The state in which the planet is left to future generations is a human responsibility, a responsibility which extends beyond clever marketing. The effects of careless waste and depleted resources should not be put on the children of tomorrow to suffer with. Environmental awareness must become a natural part of everyday living and a great place to start is with the products we purchase.
Most consumers turn to a salesperson for information. At times, however, salespeople are just as uninformed about the products they are selling and are unable to give proper information leaving consumers just as clueless. A consumer should take things into their own hands to read between the lines or research the company and the quality before purchasing. $55 billion was spent on furniture in 2005 according to the federal Consumer Expenditure Survey, which means furniture was quite a large purchase for the average U.S. consumer. It is estimated that the 2007 survey will top $80 billion. But are consumers spending their money on the right products? Is the product they buy contributing to destroying forests around the world or threatening the homes of critically endangered species? Is the product a result of the destruction of indigenous people and the denial of their human rights or perhaps involved in localised violence due to illegal logging? If consumers were fully aware of where a piece of furniture really came from would it then be a product that consumers would want and be proud of?
Where should consumers start to gather truthful information or simply just more information before buying? First, start on the internet. A huge percentage of home furnishing shops have virtual stores which can have a huge advantage when shopping for furniture. It is quicker and easier to buy online and due to regulations, online stores are required to provide accurate descriptions and dimensions meaning consumers have sufficient information to make an informed decision before purchasing an item. Consumers can easily shop around for different prices and qualities on the web from the comfort of their own home. This simplifies the process and also helps save on gas. Some companies even carry more merchandise online because this cuts back on oversized stores and storefronts. Also, online stores allow the consumer to read up on the company’s history or quality whereas some in-store salespeople have no idea. The internet also gives consumers the opportunity to find out if a company is keeping up with the green movement or if a percentage of proceeds are being donated to a green charity.
It is also important to find out if the product is made from Forest Stewardship Council woods or another regulated council that certifies improved practice of forestry which helps cut back on illegal logging. Also, check to see if the product is Formaldehyde Free. Inhalation exposure to formaldehyde can result in respiratory symptoms, as well as eye, nose, and throat irritation. Short studies have reported that there is an association with formaldehyde exposure and lung and nasopharyngeal cancer. Animal studies have also shown an increased incidence of nasal squamous cell cancer. There are no long term health risk tests out there as of yet but we are unaware of what else formaldehyde could cause, let alone what is it doing to our atmosphere. It is evident that consumers need to be aware of the materials used to make a product before it enters their home or office. Notice how new cars, new construction, and new furniture all have a distinctive odour? That odour indicates harmful contaminants are evaporating into the air which is called off-gassing. Many government workplaces are subject to stringent regulations pertaining to the emission of these volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. So why shouldn’t the general public be as well? To help protect yourselves and your loved ones, choose low-emitting furniture. Look for key terms such as formaldehyde free, water base stains or adhesives, FSC approved woods, BiOH polyol, recycled materials and also natural materials like jute, hemp and 100% cotton. The word “Green” alone should not suffice when making a purchase. Consumers deserve and need to find out the truth beforehand!
Kermit the Frog was right when he said “it isn’t easy being green”, but it only makes sense for us and our spaces to be!
Stay green and until next time,
w&c designer girl!