The Furniture Society is a member-based nonprofit organization founded in 1996. Its mission is to advance the art of furniture making by inspiring creativity, promoting excellence and fostering an understanding of this art and its place in society. By sponsoring a variety of programs that contribute to the education and enrichment of members and the public, the Furniture Society champions excellence, refinement, responsibility, and craftsmanship in furniture.
It seems that when it comes to woodworking and working with our hands, we are inherently more connected to nature than many other occupations. I attend the Furniture Society's annual conference every year in June. In almost every furniture maker presentation that I've listened to, the artist has mentioned nature as a source of inspiration. And in most encounters with fellow makers, I find that the lot genuinely tries to do good by our planet and its limited resources. Of course, the level of awareness varies among each maker, but consciousness of how we're using resources seems to exist on at least some level.
What is green furniture? There are many elements to consider when identifying green furniture, and I've listed only some of the ingredients below that responsible furniture makers are taking into account as they design and build. There are other elements to consider, and within the list below, one can continue to dissect each depending on the degree of responsibility a person chooses to pursue.
Materials – How are materials sourced and used, and is there waste? Are they renewable, recyclable, reused or repurposed? Are they safe? Do they off-gas?
Manufacturing Practices – Is the object designed well, and is it easy/efficient to manufacture? Are alternative sources of energy used during its manufacture?
Use – Keep it out of the landfill! Is the object durable, useable, and/or multi-functional? What happens at the object's end of life? Is it easily recycled or repurposed?
Fair Labor – Are the folks involved in the manufacture of the object treated and paid fairly? Maybe this doesn't apply to a one-person woodshop, but what about the laborers who made or processed the materials the furniture maker is using?
Transportation – Is the object going to a local client? How are materials transported to the woodshop or place of manufacture? How does the final product reach the client? Is the maker able to walk or ride a bike to work?
Rather than try to place my own judgments about what's green enough, I opted to highlight the green practices that Furniture Society members are endeavoring. There's always room for improvement just like there's always more to learn. It's my hope that this peek into what different makers, educators, and businesses are doing will inspire even better things to come.