Not only consumers, but companies and furniture stores as well, often tend to confuse the terms “green” and “sustainable.” Many furniture companies claim that their products are “green,” but this does not necessarily mean they are “sustainable.” So, what is the difference?
When a furniture manufacturer or store claims that their products are “green” they are generally referring to the materials that are used for the construction of the product, and the manufacturing methods used. The main focus is on the material resources used, and the impact that the use of these resources will have on the environment. Green furniture emphasizes that the resource is either recoverable or renewable, and its use will not have an immediate effect on the environment or economy.
Green manufacturing also limits the use of toxic chemicals which cannot be recovered in the production process. One example is the European Union's environmental protection standards for the limitation of formaldehyde emissions, where emission in furniture material is limited to less than 0.3mg/L of product material. More and more companies are investing in these types of green products that are environmentally friendly and harmless to the environment.
Sustainable furniture takes a look at the long-term use of a product. Is it made from recyclable materials, thus reducing material sent to waste? Also, is the product manufactured in such a way that it will last for a very long, extended period of time? Furniture can be manufactured using a green process, but if it falls apart in a short time, and you need to replace it, that is only going to use more resources in the long run.
To be considered sustainable furniture, it should be manufactured in a way that uses low energy and resource consumption, and is of high quality so that it will last a long time, or is recyclable. Generally speaking, higher quality furniture will give longer service, meaning true sustainability.