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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Greener furniture, fittings and flooring

A surprising amount of energy and water is used to manufacture furniture and flooring. You can make a difference by choosing sustainably produced wood and furniture, and fitting energy and water efficient fixtures in your home.

The wider issue

Furniture made from illegally logged trees can contribute to climate change

The choices you make for furnishing your home can have an impact on the environment. For example, wood or furniture made from illegally logged trees can lead to habitat loss and contribute to climate change. Choosing more efficient water or light fittings at home can cost you less money to run, and help to save energy.

Reuse and renovate furniture and flooring

Producing floor coverings and furniture uses energy and resources and may do environmental harm in other ways. You can help by:

  • buying to last rather than replacing often if you have the choice
  • renovating old wooden floors or using reclaimed floorboards instead of buying new, which saves valuable resources
  • buying second-hand, sourcing vintage furniture or exchanging items - try Freegle or Freecycle, where you can offer and receive unwanted items for free 

Choose wood products from sustainable sources

You can find wooden furniture or flooring products made from sustainable timber in the shops or on the internet.

Look for labels from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) or other forest certification schemes. You can ask your retailer about certification schemes.

Be aware of treatments and finishes

Look for paint with the lowest VOC content possible

Many paints, adhesives and varnishes give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can damage the environment by reacting with other chemicals to produce what's known as surface level ozone.

When you are choosing a treatment, adhesive or varnish, look at the product labels to check the VOC content before you buy. Try to find the one with the lowest VOC content possible.

Install fittings that save water

When installing new fittings, there are a number of things you can do to save water:

  • fit water-saving shower heads
  • choose aerator or spray fittings to taps in hand basins
  • fit a low-flush or dual-flush cistern on your toilets

Choose low-energy lighting options

Low-energy light bulbs can use five times less electricity than old-style conventional light bulbs, meaning fewer carbon emissions. They work in standard fittings and lamps.

  • low-energy bulbs are now widely available at low prices (including in supermarkets)
  • a 20 watt, 12,000 hour low-energy bulb will save around £60 over its lifetime compared with an equivalent 100 watt conventional bulb
  • you can buy low-energy bulbs that look similar to old-style bulbs and give out the same coloured light
  • most low-energy bulbs have information about their brightness compared with conventional bulbs on the packet
  • many low-energy bulbs on sale can't yet be used with dimmer switches, but these are becoming more widely available
  • don't forget to keep low-energy lights switched off when not in use

Recycle wherever possible

Find out how to recycle your old, unwanted items:

  • use old floorboards to make a compost bin or to create raised beds in your garden or allotment
  • reuse old carpet in the garden for controlling weeds or keeping your compost bin warm
  • instead of throwing away your old furniture, try donating it to a charity shop, selling it on an online auction website or recycling it

You can only buy, sell or give away second-hand upholstered (padded) furniture, like sofas, if it has the original permanent fire safety label attached. Otherwise, it might not meet fire safety standards. For more information, see the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) website.

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