A Smaller Footprint: Sourcing and Disposing Sustainable Furniture

Sustainable Furniture

Furnishings are major investment for hoteliers, but as Susan Inglis, executive director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, told LODGING, when they are not sustainable, they can cost the environment—as well as the hotelier—more than they should. Inglis explains how everyone gains when environmentally conscious principles are considered in the manufacture and disposal of hotel furniture.

How would you describe a sustainable piece of furniture?
Furniture is a complex type of product that often is made up of many different materials. For example, an upholstered chair includes the wood in the frame, the metal in the springs, the cushioning, and the fabric or leather covering. What determines sustainability is the environmental impact of those material choices. The wood should be from a recycled or reclaimed source; from forests that are certified to be well managed; or from an established plantation known not to cause deforestation. Also to consider is durability, because—whatever the impact of manufacturing that piece of furniture—the longer it lasts, the less impact it will have over time.

How do you find out whether furniture is sustainable?
Ask questions. The website of the Sustainable Furnishings Council provides some useful information for our “What’s It Made Of?” initiative, which includes a pledge to ask that question, with a reminder of the harmful materials and chemical often found in residential furnishings products.

When a piece of furniture has reached the end of its life, how can you dispose of it in an eco-friendly way?

It’s important for us all to think of the entire circle of our economy—to use recycled materials when we can, but also to try to ensure that what we throw away won’t literally go to waste. Furniture that is too worn for a hotel may still be clean and sturdy enough for other environments. Many local churches and social organizations accept such donations. If that isn’t an option, perhaps the furniture can be dismantled to recycle components. You can check with organizations such as the Mattress Recycling Council, or refer to the Waste Reduction and Recycling sections under Resources on our website.

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