“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” —John Muir
Here are a couple of statistics that may surprise you: Globally, furniture makers are third largest users of wood, behind construction and the paper industry, according to the national Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC). That’s huge! Furthermore, deforestation globally is the second leading cause of climate change, after the burning of fossil fuels. Those important bits of information underscore how critical it is for furniture makers to choose sustainably harvested and fast-growing, sustainable species of trees. But beyond that, it places a responsibility on designers and consumers to advocate for sustainable practices whenever possible. As a certified GREENleader and member of the SFC, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to continue raising awareness of the importance of sensible sustainable design, and supporting vendors who are committed to sustainable harvesting.
The frames of the four custom swivel chairs in this media room are built by Stanford Furniture with sustainably harvested wood. Photo by Brian Gassel
Why Choose Sustainable Woods?
Forests are crucial to our existence on this planet, and we must preserve them. They have been called the “lungs” of the world. In a sense, they inhale carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and exhale the oxygen we breathe. Because they store carbon, forests play an essential role in regulating the global climate, absorbing nearly 40 percent of the fossil-fuel emissions that humans produce. According to the RainforestAlliance, forests also provide habitat for 70 percent of land-based animals and plants, while more than 25 percent of the world’s people – nearly 1.6 billion – rely on forest resources for the livelihoods. That’s a staggering figure.
Among my go-to vendors for sustainable furnishings is North Carolina-based StanfordFurniture. As a member of SFC, Stanford makes a conscious effort to seek out sustainable materials, such as legally harvested forest products, responsibly produced plantation products and recycled content. In the media room pictured above, I chose four Stanford swivel chairs built with sustainably harvested wood
What is Sustainable Forest Management?
According to the ForestandAgricultureOrganization, managing forests sustainably means optimizing their benefits, including timber and contributions to food security, to meet society’s needs in a way that conserves and maintains forest ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations. That stewardship and use must maintain the forests’ biodiversity, productivity, regeneration, capacity and vitality.
This textural media console is built by CAI Designs, which is committed to sustainable practices.
How Can We Make a Difference?
Have you ever seen the dolphin-safe mark on cans of tuna? Consumers made that happen. They refused to buy tuna without that assurance. The key was awareness. When consumers learned that fisheries were capturing and killing dolphins along with tuna, they held the industry accountable, and it changed. We have the power to do the same with furnishings. The more we ask about sustainability in what we buy, the more incentive manufacturers have to provide those goods. Fewer forests will be destroyed!
For the master bedroom above, I turned to another one of my go-to showrooms, CAIDesigns, for the Old Biscayne Designs console opposite the bed. Also a member of SFC, CAI seeks out sustainable materials such as legally harvested trees, responsibly produced plantation-grown trees and recycled content. I love this piece too for its understated elegance and textured front panels, which add another layer of interest to a luxurious master bedroom.
Is There Any Good News?
In fact, there is great news, at least here in the United States. We have proof that awareness and sustainable practices are making an impact. According to the FoodandAgricultureOrganization, the United States has more trees than it did 100 years ago. That makes me smile! “Forest growth nationally has exceeded harvest since the 1940s,” reported the FAO. ”By 1997, forest growth exceeded harvest by 42 percent and the volume of forest growth was 380 percent greater than it had been in 1920.” The increase is due to a number of factors, including sustainable harvesting, the cultivation of trees by plantation owners, who plant more trees than they harvest, and conservation. But sustainability world-wide is still an issue. According to the RainForestAlliance, each year the earth loses 32 million acres of forest – 26 times the size of the Grand Canyon – or 60 acres per minute. That cannot be sustained.
When U.S. manufacturers import wood, they must source it from suppliers who are adhering to sustainable practices. As consumer demand becomes greater and greater, suppliers will want to conform to sustainability.
For my client’s lodge-like study, above, I chose a sustainable, renewable, crocodile leather ottoman and a pair of swivel armchairs with renewable, sustainable mohair upholstery from SFC member Stanford Furniture. The rug is made of 100 percent sustainable, New Zealand felted wool string yard, from SFC member DelosCompany. Clearly, sustainability does not require any sacrifice in outstanding design!
This handsome, contemporary console from Abner Henry is made of sustainably harvested wood.
Why Source Locally?
The curly maple wood for this dramatic console above was sustainably harvested in North America and sourced by SFC member www.abnerhenry.com Sourcing locally dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of shipping timber from overseas vendors and helps us gain control over global warming.
I am currently customizing this piece for an in-progress project in curly maple in a subtle blue finish that allows the grain to show through. Plus, I am re-sizing it to precisely fit in the space I have specified. My clients love the bold curves and the pewter nuts and washers I selected, which combine for a polished yet industrial look. I appreciate that I can also specify formaldehyde-free finishes as well as Abner Henry’s Pro Tekt finish, which after 21 days will have minimal to no off-gassing. Both protect furniture from hot coffee, finger nail polish remover, tomato juice, even acids! No more worrying about ruining the finish.
Why Are We Green?
All of us at Michelle’s Interiors are committed to creating healthier homes and communities world-wide by connecting people to sensible, eco-friendly interior design solutions. My love for family, friends – and yes, my pet – inspires my dedication to improving indoor and outdoor air quality, protecting our natural resources and reducing the size of the world’s carbon footprint. Each small step that we take can make a big difference in our health and the health of our planet. I call that approach “50 Shades of Green,” because we don’t have to be 100 percent green to make a difference. We encourage all of our clients to start with the furnishings and materials that will have the greatest impact, including sustainably harvested woods and water-based wood finishes. Simply put, eco-friendly design makes everyday life better for all of us. I call it a life insurance policy for the future. It is my way of giving back.