We've spent more time Netflix and chilling than ever before, 2021 is surely one for the record books as we slowly get back to "normal life" you might be thinking about redecorating!
Buying a sustainable eco friendly sofa is a big decision, and not just because it's pricey, it also comes with a slew of toxic chemicals.
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Why choose a sustainable sofa or couch?
Who does not love a huge comfy couch that you can just fall into at the end of the day? I mean whoever invented the overstuffed couch is a genius. But when we introduced stuffing made from polyurethane foam that's packed full of toxins and chemicals like formaldehyde, neurotoxins, carcinogens, and even heavy metals, we kind of ruined it!
These toxins can also off-gas air-polluting chemicals into the air inside the home know as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). In addition flame retardants like PBDE can shed harmful dust into your home.
PBDE (polybrominated fire retardant) can be found in foam couches and pillows, and fabrics like upholstery and drapery. It's why choosing eco-friendly pillows and sustainable bedding is so important.
PBDEs have been found in breast milk, wildfire and even umbilical cords and can cause severe health problems, they stick to fatty tissue and can mess with thyroid and liver functions.
If that was not enough, there is also the waste created from cheaply made DIY furniture. According to the EPA, furniture waste generated by Americans in 2017 totalled a staggering 12.2 million tons, and 80.2% of it went to landfills.
Cutting down trees from old-growth forests (to make furniture) and replacing them with monoculture plantations is hardly sustainable. That cheap "wood" is costing the planet big time. Homegrown Canadian or American FCS-certified wood is your best bet.
How to minimize your exposure to PDBE:
- Dust often, I know it seems obvious but most of us are not doing it enough. Use a damp cloth and get to it!
- If you have crumbling crumbling cushiosn, its time to ditch them. Here are some idaeas on how to get rid of you old pillows.
- Shop for furniture that is PBDE-free, look for natural latex and organic materials.
- Look for furniture that's treated with natural flame retardents!
How to shop for Sustainable Eco Friendly Sofas & Couches
Shopping for eco friendly furniture is not easy. Most of it is made up of a combination of materials, some natural and some synthetics, much like clothing, and in most cases, it's impossible to really know what you are buying. Looking for natural materials and fabrics is key. For all of our fashion and home decor shopping guides we focus on three main criteria, all of which you can apply when shopping.
Natural or organic fabrics & materials;
In the case of sustainable couches and sofas, you will want to stay away from formaldehyde, PDBEs, stain repellent furniture and anything made with polyurethane foam! As mentioned before sustainable fabrics should be at the top of your shopping list. Some examples are organic cotton, ethical down, ethical wool, modal and in some cases upcycled fabrics can make the cut too!
In place of Polyurethane foam or fillings, brands are looking to natural latex, CertiPur certified foam (verifies that registered foams are made without mercury, lead and other heavy metals), responsible ethical wool and down and even recycled polyester filling.
Third-party certifications will also help you make more informed decisions, some of those include:
- Better Cotton Standard,
- EU Ecolabel,
- Forest Stewardship Council
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- Oeko-Tex 100,
- Organic Content Standard (OCS),
- Greenguard Gold,
- Recycled Claim Standard,
- American Tree Farm System (ATFS),
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative
- SCS Recycled Content Certification, and
- USDA-Certified Organic.
The next criteria have to do with sourcing. When I buy any item I want to know where it came from, how the raw materials were sourced and how the people who are making it are treated and paid.
Opting for locally made furniture and couches is more reliable than buying something imported from some far-away place. We have much stricter laws in North America and Europe, don't get me wrong bad stuff can still happen, but there is more accountability over here. The same goes for the chemicals used in the production, we have much stricter laws than continues like India, China and Bangladesh, where a lot of cheap furniture is being made and sold here.
Reflects a company’s level of commitment to more ethical practices through the actions they take beyond materials and sourcing. So are items also shipped entirely plastic-free? Are they a Certified B Corporation? Do they support their employees and the communities they work in? Are they offsetting their carbon footprint or promoting sustainable practices throughout their company? Is their manufacturing done locally? Corporate responsibility is super helpful for selecting brands and products that are truly about what you stand for.
Top picks for Sustainable Eco Friendly Sofas & Couches
Savvy Rest is one of the best sustainable sofa companies. You have the choice to customize your eco couch and choose between sofa, loveseat and armchairs. Savvy Rest is known for its organic mattresses which are worth a look and non-toxic bedroom furniture. Their mission is simple, to develop products that are non-toxic and are both good for you and the planet. Oh, they even sell organic pet beds!
Savvy Rest's natural or organic fabrics & materials;
It does not get any better than this, they are the real deal offering organic sofas that do not contain any chemicals like flame retardants, formaldehyde glue, cardboard, metal coils, particleboard, plywood, veneer, polyester, polypropylene, polyurethane, toxic stains, dacron batting, feathers or down.
You have a wide variety of organic fabrics to choose from like;
Certified sustainable maple (used for the base)
Cradle to Cradle GOLD-certified natural Talalay latex (used for stuffing)
Certified organic wool (used as a natural flame retardant)
Certified organic hemp
Certified organic cotton
Natural coir (coconut fiber with natural latex)
Natural jute webbing
Zero-VOC linseed oil
All of their fabrics are certified by Greengard, Okeo-Tex and Appalachian Harwood Verified Sustainable.
Savvy Rest's ethical sourcing;
Savvy Rest is an employee-owned company that ensures all workers are paid fairly and work in positive environments. All of the materials and fabrics are sourced responsibly and are fair trade. To ensure that workers are being treated well, they partner with Intertek Testing Services to "study their business and report on how well they comply with fair trade practices."
Savvy Rest's corporate Rresponsibility;
As a certified B Corporation, Savvy Rest has pledged to uphold larger benefits consistent with its company values. Community, employee and supplier concerns, and environmental impact are all integral to the corporate mission.
Love the fact that they are also Cradle to Cradle certified which means "products are certified for material health and reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness."
Medley has a huge range of sofas including their sustainable sectional sofas. If you are not sure what to choose from you can actually order samples to see the eco-friendly materials in person and work with one of their Furniture Stylists for free design help. They also carry sleeper sofas in case you need something for your spare bedroom.
Medley's natural or organic fabrics & materials;
Their wooden frames are made from FSC-certified kiln-dried alder hardwood that is sourced in the United States. They don't use any toxic finishes on the wood instead opting for wood polish made from olive oil, carnauba wax and beeswax.
Fabrics are GOTS certified organic cotton. And the foam is CertiPUR certified and the latex is GOLS certified organic.
Some of their materials are synthetic but have been certified by Greenguard Gold or OEKO-Tex.
Medley's ethical sourcing;
All of their sofas and couches are made in-house at their Los Angeles-based factory. All of the workers and fabrics and woods are sourced locally as well.
Medley's corporate responsibility;
All of their furniture is built to last and because its made locally and not beating shipped from far off places, they are actually reducing emissions noting that:
"Medley doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store. That’s on purpose, so we can keep our prices lower (the cost of renting a retail space isn’t something we want to charge you for). We're obsessed with quality, comfort, and eco-friendly materials. And it all comes right from our hands, to your home."
If you are looking for an organic modular sofa, look no further than The Futon Shop. They also carry organic sofas and sustainable sectionals and even have a vegan line of sofas and sectionals. You can choose the type of sectional couch you want, where the armchair goes etc.
The Futon Shop is all about Farm to Furniture. It was founded by Suzanne Diamond who wanted to give her customers an option for a natural non-toxic futon. They have a ton of online videos to help you choose the right option for your home.
The Futon Shop's natural or organic fabrics & materials;
All of their materials have been verified by some of the best certifications like GOLS certified organic latex, GOTS certified organic cotton, USDA certified organic cotton, Okeo-Tex certified coconut coir, hemp coir, horsetail, camel hair and cashmere.
The vegan Modular couch is a Non-GMO Potato Based PLA Fiberand Latex Modular Ottoman. You can customize your organic sofa with certified organic ingredients, by blending your modern style with natural, affordable comfort. The Non-GMO Potato Based PLA Fiber and latex cushions are customizable in any colour, every piece handcrafted in the USA with certified organic ingredients and zero VOCs.
They have over 40 fabrics to choose from and 6 different designs. When it comes to the wood, this is what they have to say:
"All of the lumber used by our expert Amish craftsmen is regionally sourced and our responsibly managed forests make our wood truly a renewable resource. The trees chosen for lumber are carefully selected by farmers with an eye toward the health of the rest of the trees, and the continuation of their family’s legacy in forestry."
The Futon Shop's ethical sourcing;
All of their items are made in the USA in their factory based in San Fransisco. The Futon Shop ensures the highest standards of craftsmanship and transparency pass through to all aspects of its products and company.
The Futon Shop's ethical sourcing;
The Futon Shop distributes masks to vulnerable garment workers in Myanmar and Bangladesh. And because they are local, their emissions are reduced substantially. They are also members of 1% For The Planet with donations going to California Wildlife Center, Aquarium of The Pacific, The Surfrider Foundation and many more.
Sabai is all about "sustainable production to closed-loop solutions – and every lounging session in-between." This eco-friendly couch brand makes all of its home goods in a family-owned factory in High Point, North Carolina. They offer free fabric swatches to help you make your decisions. If budget is an issue, they made one of the most affordable sustainable sofas. You can also customize what fabrics and colours you want.
Sabai's natural or organic fabrics & materials;
All materials are certified. The wooden frames are FSC certified and assembled with VOC-free water-based glue. Their velvet couches are also OEKO-TEX Standard 100 and Global Recycling Standard (GRS) certified and are actually made with recycled water bottles.
And you do not need to worry about the foam, it's CertiPur certified.
Sabai's ethical sourcing;
They source and make all of their sustainable furniture in-house in the USA.
Sabai's corporate responsibility;
They are currently working on a new business model where you can repair rather than replace an item. Love this! And since they make everything close to home, they can reduce emissions. They also have a program called Sabai Revive where you can trade-in your old couch or buy one secondhand, all of this is part of their closed-loop initiative.
VivaTerra has been around for as long as I can remember (2004 to be exact), not only will you find the best environmentally friendly couches but pretty much anything you need for your home's sustainable decor from lighting to rugs and more! I could honestly spend hours looking through all of their amazing home options.
VivaTerra's natural or organic fabrics & materials;
You can feel secure knowing that not only are the fabrics non-toxic they are also certified by one of the best.
For the foam/filling they use a material called BiOH polyol, which is a soy-based core made from recycled plastic bottles.
All wood used is part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. No dyes or toxic chemicals are used at all.
VivaTerra's ethical sourcing;
They source from and support artisan communities in more than 20 countries across the globe, as well as seek out fair-trade partners and sustainable methods of production adding:
"We support artisan and fair trade organizations worldwide to work for healthy working conditions, fair wages, and sustainable development for their communities + helping to provide a sustainable market for their goods, our customers benefit from a selection of unique, artisan- and hand-made goods and gifts for your home and garden."
VivaTerra's corporate responsibility;
Even though they work with artisans from all over the world, they make a lot of their items in the USA, buying domestically can be more eco-conscious, as it reduces transportation needs and the energy and natural resources expended in the process.
ABC is such a beautiful ethical furniture shop. They carry runs, dining ware, and of course couches and sofas. If you are in the market for an eco friendly leather sofa or eco sleeper sofa give them a look.
Their sustainable sofas have an impressive range of colours and styles to choose from.
ABC's approach to sustainable design is all about supporting a healthier planet and home and they do that in a number of ways.
ABC's natural or organic fabrics & materials;
There is a range to choose from, from linen to velvet and cotton. According to them the wood they use is "Crafted with wood from responsibly managed forests or reclaimed and salvaged sources, protecting old-growth and endangered forest species." And the legs are made from recycled metal.
Stuffing used for the cushion comes in the form of recycled fibers or foam core. The feathers are down and organic and are part of the Responsible Down Standard.
ABC's ethical sourcing;
Most of their items are handmade by artisans who they support through their ethical business practices.
ABC's corporate responsibility;
ABC Home & Planet Foundation is a manifestation of ABC Carpet & Home’s dedication to improving the world. Founded in 2004, ABC Home & Planet Foundation is a registered 501(c)3, and offers the ABC customer an opportunity to participate in meaningful change through charitable giving.
West Elm is mainstream, it's one reason why they are on the list, the other one is their Sustainably Sourced Collection is pretty impressive. If you've ever gone into one of their stores you know how beautiful their furniture is!
Did you know Pottery Barn actually owns West Elm? But don't let that deter you! If you are shopping for an organic comforter or even environmentally friendly towels you will find them here.
Along with that their range of sofas, couches and chaises are impressive too!
West Elm's natural or organic fabrics & materials;
The fabrics they offer range from canvas (cotton), vegan leather (nylon, not the best), leather and eco weave, made from recycled plastic bottles. Most fabrics are certified by OEKO-Tex 100 certified or GREENGUARD Gold.
Most of these are GREENGUARD Gold or OEKO-Tex 100 certified. The frames are made with FSC-certified wood, and in some cases, they do use reclaimed wood. The cushions are stuffed with either polyester fibers, or down or duck feathers. They do not use harsh chemicals to treat the fabric.
They also work with the Better Cotton Initiative which provides training for more than 2.3 million cotton farmers in 23 countries. These farmers learn sustainable farming practices.
West Elm's ethical sourcing;
They offer home goods that are Fairtrade, organic, handmade, local and even ones that have low emissions. Their website is so easy to navigate and you will easily find what you need based on your values.
Their 15 Fair Trade factories ensure workers are being paid and treated fairly.
West Elm's corporate responsibility;
West Elm has given over 50 million dollars to charities around the world. Including HERproject, ASPCA and the Human Rights Campaign.
Reclaimed and Second Hand Couches and Sofas
If the couch you are eyeing was made between the late '80s and 2006, I'd leave it here you found it! Over time cushions and foam start to crumble, and if you are buying a second-hand couch made between those dates odds are it contains toxic PBDE, which will affect your indoor air quality. If you are buying a vintage couch from the 1960s it's most likely stuffed with latex. You can get it reupholstered you just want to make sure the foam is eco-friendly.
When shopping at Etsy look for reclaimed woods and upcycled fabrics like all the ones I have mentioned already in this article.
Where to find second hand furniture
You know how much I love Etsy. I feature them in a lot of blog posts, from zero waste essentials to makeup to furniture and everything in between. Esty has so much to offer in the reclaimed furniture section BUT although I am a HUGE proponent for shopping at secondhand shops, there are a few things you need to keep in mind, especially when it comes to the stuffing.
Etsy is a wonderful place to find vintage home decor and second-hand sustainable couches and sofas.
Urban Tree Salvage is another place, they are a family-owned and operated company that has mastered the art of creating beautiful furniture and accessories from locally salvaged logs.
Forever Interiors has to be at the top of my list. The owner Martin is a good friend and makes some of the MOST STUNNING furniture you will find!
Craigs List, Facebook Marketplace, local Facebook groups, salvage shops are all great places to find second-hand couches and sofas.
I hope I've given you some useful info on how to shop for a sustainable sofa. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me anytime.
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