In 2009, U.S. EPA reported that furniture accounted for 9.8 million tons (4.1%) of household waste. Furniture is the number one least-recycled item in a household, and it was only up until 2008 that there was a recovery (materials used for recycling) greater than 0.05% since the 1960s — 0.1%. And by 2015, it is estimated that we will spend $121.7 billion to re-furbish our homes with new furniture. As we are increasingly persuaded by TV shows to remodel our homes and to replace old furniture, we are also adding more to the landfill in record numbers.
Tips on how to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Rethink on household furniture
- Measure twice, buy once! Plan and organize your space ahead of time before purchasing furniture pieces in your home. When purchasing new furniture, always research the company’s environmental policies and their initiative in reducing waste. Check out IKEA’s CSR policy.
- Try to look for multiple-function furniture pieces like convertible sofas and futons. Having a guest bed and a sofa built into one piece of furniture helps save on important materials such as wood and reduces deforestation.
- There is plenty of usable “pre-owned” furniture available through Craigslist, Freecycle or even a garage sale!
- Use slipcovers to keep your existing furniture looking fresh and new to last you for years to come.
- Renew your chair by removing the seat and fabric — check to see if the foam is still usable (no mold) — and replace the fabric with new (preferably organic) fabric with a staple gun.
- Donate your good-condition furniture to those in need, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill.
- Check with your local curbside recycling program or Earth911.com to find a recycling location.
- Do you really need new furniture? Could readjusting your existing furniture make your room look brand new? Sometimes it just takes a little shifting around on your existing furniture to add a little splash in the design. Try switching furniture pieces from different rooms. A simple dining room table can be used as a desk, or a book shelf can be used with storage bins to store socks and clothes.