Green Is the New Black: How Eco-Friendly Living Makes a Difference in Your Home
Apr 01, 2017 01:10AM
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Nowadays, the mantra “go green” is deemed so intrinsic to mainstream culture that we notice this tagline just about everywhere––from kale and avocado smoothies plastered on social media to ethical boutiques touting their bamboo thread fashion to eco-activists wielding the banner “reduce, reuse, recycle.” These trends are making significant progress toward a safer, healthier and more sustainable earth, but in order to become more engaged and conscious citizens, we should direct this attention closer to home as well.
Take the furniture inside our houses, for instance. How often do we consider a sofa, table or bedframe’s environmental impact when purchasing these items? Do we spend time researching and educating ourselves on where the materials are sourced or how they’re assembled? Are we even aware of the chemicals seeping from our décor into the atmosphere? While furniture quality tends to remain overlooked or undetected in most households, the efforts to curb this hazardous reality have gained a promising foothold nationwide––and the Suncoast is no exception.
To glean further insight on the benefits of exchanging those traditional pieces for eco-friendlier options, I spoke with Rebekah Greer, owner of Top Drawer Furniture. This locally operated showroom is a member of the Sarasota Green Business Program and Sustainable Furnishings Council, and Greer is dedicated to pointing the community toward more natural, organic practices for both our well-being and the planet’s.
Natural Awakenings: What are the dangers associated with furniture that has been manufactured in a conventional process?
Greer: Both wood and upholstered furniture pieces that are traditionally manufactured often contain glues, foams and fabrics which off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can be harmful to breathe, and some are even known carcinogens. VOCs can also be hazardous to the environment, and while leather might seem like a more natural and durable choice, the tanning process uses unsafe chemicals and leaves a heavier carbon footprint too.
NA: Why do you recommend choosing organic alternatives, and which factors make a piece of furniture eco-friendly?
Greer: “When it comes to your mattress, it’s important to avoid chemical flame retardants and chemical-based polyurethane foams due to off-gassing. Your mattress is the most used item in your home, with the average person spending eight hours each night––or one-third of their life––in bed. We spend this time with our faces close to the mattress and could easily breathe in toxic VOCs released from a traditional mattress. Natural and organic options ensure the highest level of safety and environmental stewardship.
Eco-conscious upholstery and wood furniture is constructed with natural fibers, foams, and sustainable or domestic hardwoods that are responsibly harvested. Look for reclaimed wood products or “FSC Certified” labels which indicate the wood has been sustainably sourced and handled throughout the entire manufacturing process. In addition, a large amount of furniture is manufactured overseas and shipped around the globe to its final destination, so look for “Made in the USA” and “Domestically Produced” to reduce your carbon footprint even more.
NA: Which types of organic or natural materials are the safest, healthiest choices for home furnishings and décor?
Greer: When seeking a safer bedding and furniture option for your home, select items that are free of traditional foams and toxic flame retardants. Instead, look for solid hardwoods with low- or zero-VOC finishes, or natural fiber rugs with jute, hemp, latex, wool and cotton. Also, choose upholstery with natural fibers such as linen, cotton, hemp or eco-certified fabrics.
NA: How can opting for these more natural options in your home enhance both personal and environmental wellness?
Greer: Making the switch from traditional to natural furnishings will improve the indoor air quality which can support your overall health in numerous ways. A decreased use of chemicals throughout the manufacturing process––combined with sustainably harvested woods, natural fibers, latex foams and items sourced closer to home––can help to lessen your carbon footprint as well. In addition, these products tend to be sturdier and longer lasting than traditional furniture which means less repairs or replacements too.
NA: What organic and eco-friendly offerings can customers typically expect to find here at Top Drawer Furniture?
Greer: At Top Drawer, and our sister store Sleep Organics, we specialize in healthy bedding, so between these two locations, you’ll find the largest selection of non-toxic, natural and organic mattress options on Florida’s West Coast. For the rest of your home, we have a broad range of living room furnishings, all made in the USA, with solid hardwood frames and practically an endless selection of fabrics including natural fibers. Our all-organic sofa is the only one of its kind in this area. We also feature bedroom and dining room furniture available in reclaimed woods and custom finishes, made in North America, including low- or zero-VOC options.
This dedication to environmental stewardship also extends to our partnership with American Forests. Per every $1000 in furniture that we sell, we plant one tree (five during Earth Day weekend), and for every organic mattress we sell, we plant another five trees (10 during Earth Day weekend). As mentioned above, we are also members of the Sustainable Furnishings Council and Sarasota Green Business Program.
NA: April 22 is Earth Day, so how can the average person make greener choices for the environment, not just on this occasion, but year-round?
Greer: We can all take simple steps toward greener choices when furnishing and decorating our homes. This includes opting for naturally sourced materials, “Made in the USA” labels, and other eco-friendly certifications like “FSC,” “GREENGUARD,” “Made Safe,” “GOTS,” “GOLS,” “USDA Organic” and “Cradle to Cradle.”
So, by all means, continue blending those kale and avocado smoothies in your kitchen. Continue supporting ethical and fair-trade businesses throughout our area. Continue recycling shards of glass, paper, metal or plastic. These actions could generate a cleaner and greener earth for generations to come. But remember to prioritize the environmental impact of your home furnishings and decorations as well. Becoming a more conscious consumer benefits not just yourself, but this vibrant, dynamic world that’s all of ours to protect.
Top Drawer Furniture is located at 1955 Northgate Blvd., Sarasota. For more information, call 941-877-1381 or visit TopDrawerFurnitureStore.com. Its sister store Sleep Organics is located at 650 Central Ave., #5, Sarasota. For more information, call 941-312-5906 or visit Sleep-Organics.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer based in Southwest Florida. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features practical tips for embracing an active, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.