Environmentally Responsible, Sustainable Furniture
most sofas, loveseats and chairs, our furniture is eco-friendly,
for the following reasons:
1) It is extremely durable and also economical to maintain, and therefore does not go to the landfills and cause carbon emissions and energy waste after a short life, which would otherwise result periodically from the repeated replacing of typical furniture.
2) It is also not bulky in the way that requires large, energy-consuming living spaces. The frames of typical seating in stores these days are stapled together (no exaggeration there; read the labels yourself, if information is available at the store). The typical sofas made currently sometimes start falling apart after a few years, or the cushions or suspensions cave in, or the fabric looks shabby; and they usually cost so much to re-upholster and/or repair that most people discard them instead.
3) It is made in the United States, as opposed to most furniture in stores and online these days that is made in China or Vietnam, with seriously harmful and very often fatal emissions resulting from shipping it halfway around the world to us (more on this below).
Our customers, who normally place our eco-friendly furniture in the heavy-use areas of the home, call back after 6 to 20 years for their first set of replacement covers. They normally replace the cushion filling after 15 to 25 years, but some of our customers are just re-covering their original cushions after 25 or more years. Despite our ten-year warranty and excellent service beyond that, we almost never hear of structural problems. One family that bought their first replacement cushions after 24 years had boys growing up, plus dogs. Another couple with two children purchased their first replacement cushions after thirty years with our furniture, and she was delighted with how the easily-updated furniture looked as part of her new decor.
Among the primary actions recommended to protect our environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website emphasizes the well-known phrase, "reduce, re-use and recycle," It's logical that "reduce" comes first (as in preventing waste and emissions before they become problems). To help achieve that reduction, the very first thing the EPA suggests is "purchasing durable, long-lasting goods.." Continuing, "...reduction also conserves resources and reduces pollution, including greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.". Recycling often can't be done -- as is almost entirely the case with most sofas and chairs -- and even if feasible it consumes much energy and emits considerable CO2 when doing the collection, extraction of usable materials, re-manufacturing, and re-shipping. But merely repeatedly disposing of short-lived furniture and replacing it is certainly the worst alternative, especially as regards greenhouse gas emissions (see quotations from the EPA's website on this at the bottom of this page).
When you're considering purchasing a sofa that is stapled together, as most are these days, and/or one that can't be re-covered at a reasonable cost (that's the case with almost all competing sofas), think not only about the long-term cost to your family but also about the costs to the environment.
Consider how much fossil fuel is consumed and CO2 emitted when short-life furniture is manufactured and then shipped from the distant manufacturer to your home (typically from the other side of the world these days, although customers normally won't be told that). Before that, there is the extracting, processing and shipping of the raw materials to the manufacturer, with much accompanying carbon emissions. After a relatively brief life, the discarded furniture is then shipped to the often remote dump. And this cycle is repeated many times over the decades for a typical family. All of the above carbon emission and wastage of material resources and energy applies to relatively massive products in the case of sofas and chairs, resulting in major waste and emissions.
Note that sellers will rarely indicate where their sofas and chairs were manufactured, given the publicity about toxicity of many Chinese imports (it's not just pet food, toothpaste, etc.; details to follow). One clue as to whether a sofa comes from China: If the sellers don't disclose the national origin, and/or don't name the manufacturer, they are very likely trying to conceal something, such as the sofa's origin.
If you're considering a purchase of furniture from an unnamed manufacturer, of unspecified national origin, consider the following: (a) Chinese goods now account for 60 percent of all consumer-product recalls in the United States (Associated Press article, 8/09/07, in The Washington Post), and (b) there are specific health risks that have been documented in materials imported from China, to which the customer is exposed by merely being in the vicinity of the product. The most famous case has been Chinese drywall, which was found to off-gas hydrogen sulfide at about 100 times the average rate, causing respiratory problems and corrosion of electrical wiring and gas pipes, prompting two Federal agencies to state that the drywall from China should be removed from homes containing it (New York Times, April 3, 2010, p. B3). This case was sufficiently major and obvious that it was discovered and verified; there is no way to know how many other toxic exposures from Chinese products have actually occurred and will occur in the future, contributing to disease but without being discovered as the cause or part of the cause of a disease.
But harm to others should be given at least as much weight as potential harm to you and your family members, regarding imports from Asia. James Corbett, professor of Marine and Earth Studies at the University of Delaware, along with five colleagues, co-authored a thorough and eye-opening study of pollution caused by shipping, "Mortality from Ship Emissions: A Global Assessment," published in Environmental Science & Technology, 2007, vol. 41, pp. 85128518. (This is a journal of the American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C.). These scientists reported that their results "...indicate that shipping-related particulate matter emissions are responsible for approximately 60,000 cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths annually...," worldwide. This article can be read at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es071686z. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has arrived at very similar conclusions regarding health effects of ocean shipping pollution in the U.S. and Canada, which can be read (with reference to where the full document can be read), at www.comfy1.com/epastatement.htm .
Other harm from ocean shipping includes inevitable oil spills and other pollutants released, including substantial numbers of harmful invasive species dumped into our waterways (New York Times, 9/04/07, p. A23). Over the past 200 years, more than 185 invasive species have found their way into the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, including the sea lamprey and the notorious zebra mussel. (www.greatlakes-seaway.com)
In many cases, this harmful ocean shipping (which enables American shoppers to benefit from China's very low wages and low worker-safety and environmental regulation) actually takes bulky things twice half-way around the world before getting a sofa to the customer. Inquiry at a huge (70,000 square foot) new Fredericksburg, Virginia furniture store in May of 2010 revealed that much of their furniture is made with materials that come from the USA , but they are shipped to China for manufacturing before being brought back as completed products. (Products of Ashley were mentioned specifically.)
By comparison, purchasing furniture that can be kept in use indefinitely by means of replacement covers and cushions, and that's made in America, is doing a good deed for our world and for its future occupants.
One customer wrote to us something
that we wouldn't say ourselves, but he has a good point, and we
can quote him directly, as follows: "I hate Chinese c_____(obscenity deleted). With all the toxic revelations -- who knows what
they stuff their cushions with?" (e-mail from a California customer, 10/17/2010)
(1) We use only water-based (low-VOC) wood finishes and glues, including a final two coats of water-based polyurethane, (Once cured, these finishes are also harder, more durable and much more resistant to water and other household liquids than the cheaper, polluting, solvent-based finishes normally used in furniture production.)
(2) We purchase all of our electricity as "Green Power", a product of Virginia Dominion Power Co. Dominion Power has informed us that our use of this option has helped avoid the release of 4689 pounds of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere in our first year with that program, the equivalent of not driving 49,200 miles.
(3) The foam and fiber filling in almost all sofas is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable, so the usual pattern of sending short-lived sofas (the typical kind sold in stores) to the landfills just keeps adding to the growing heaps, with their often toxic drainage.
(4) The basic wood we use is oak, from North American forests, where it is plentiful, with growth consistently exceeding harvesting (data collected by U.S. Forest Service, quoted in Woodshop News, January 2009, p. 5). A large part of the solid oak that we use is FSC certified. To see the statement of Environmental Commitment by our hardwood lumber supplier, click here.
(5) The softwood plywood that we use for supplementary panels in our frames is "Plytanium" by Georgia-Pacific, which is APA rated, allowing only adhesives that are so low in emissions that they are exempt from formaldehyde regulations of U.S. HUD and the state of California. (At a surcharge, we can substitute plywood that has no formaldehyde added.)
(6) For packing, in addition to new cardboard we also use scrap cushioning foam and old, clean packing material, and boxes; we don't buy plastic peanuts.
(7) Our cushion filling does not contain PBDE's (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, a hazardous chemical sometimes used in foam cushioning).
(8) Our exposed-wood models use less fabric than typical furniture (in the new product and also when re-covering), reducing waste of resources and carbon emissions that result from the manufacture of fabrics. Some of our fabric suppliers are making major efforts towards environmental responsibility, including one of our most important suppliers, JF Fabrics; for more information on that, see www.joannefabrics.com/english/green_initiatives.asp .
(9) We have a wide selection of natural-fiber fabrics, mainly of 100% cotton, or the customer can provide his/her own material. (But be aware that, as a rule, the synthetic fibers are more durable and cleanable than the natural fibers, with the exception of wool). We also have a moderate selection of fabrics that are made principally of recycled content.
(10) The polyurethane foam and polyester fiber used heavily in almost all sofas and chairs require large amounts of oil derivatives to produce, so our emphasis on furniture that won't need to be replaced for decades helps avoid waste of non-renewable resources.
(11) Not only is our furniture made in America, keeping carbon emissions from shipping to a minimum compared with those resulting from imports from China, but most of our materials also originate in North America. The major exceptions are screws, some of our fabrics, and oak veneer plywood. (As mentioned, we don't used plywood for structurally-important parts of our furniture.)
The following sums up what normally happens when people buy ordinary sofas, loveseats and chairs:
Does the short life of a typical sofa justify use of non-renewable resources and energy, addition to global warming, increased pollution, and addition to the ever-growing landfills? It doesn't have to be that way.
Landfills are an especially vast source of dioxins in the environment. (Dioxins are best known as a cause of cancer, but they are also very strongly implicated as a cause of mental disabilities, especially during development of the infant brain -- see www.pollutionaction.org.htm , Section 1.2) The EPA is unsure of the accuracy of their figures for quantity of dioxins emitted from landfills; but their best estimate for the year 2000, counting only emissions from accidental fires and burning of flares at landfills, is that the dioxin emissions from landfills alone were equal to 81% of all dioxins released by all of the U.S. sources that they were better able to measure for that year: That includes emissions from all industrial sources, all utilities, all vehicles, all incinerators, all backyard burning, and all of many other quantifiable sources. (EPA/600/P-03/002F November 2006: An Inventory of Sources and Environmental Releases of Dioxin-Like Compounds in the United States for the Years 1987, 1995, and 2000). The above deals only with one form of pollution released from landfills. See below concerning some of the other types of landfill pollution.
For New York City alone, decomposition of the city's garbage releases about 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other gases, primarily methane, into the atmosphere each year; an additional 55,000 tons of greenhouse gas are emitted in the process of hauling the waste hundreds of miles to landfills, where it despoils the landscape at the rate of 140 acres per year. (Op-Ed article by Norman Steisel and Benjamin Miller, former officials of New York's sanitation department, in the New York Times, April 28, 2010, p. A23).
Even our fully-upholstered Custom 05 model has an extra-durable hardwood frame and is relatively easy and inexpensive to re-cover.
If you're interested in helping prevent some of the many thousands of shipping-pollution-related deaths and millions of illnesses that result from pollution from shipping of bulky goods from Asia to America, you may be interested in a letter written by the owner of Comfy 1 to the administrator of the EPA, suggesting some effective ways of responding to that problem. You'll probably agree with the substance of the letter, and you would be doing a good deed if you were to send a letter or email to the Administrator of the EPA and/or to your legislators expressing your thoughts on the matter. Our letter can be read at www.comfy1.com/epaletter.htm
Also, when you express your thoughts to your legislators, we urge you to push for "closed loop production systems," which are designed to make sure that manufacturers bear the costs of disposal of products they have made. Some other advanced countries are already adopting such requirements (Harvard Business Review, July-August 2007, p. 179). We would be delighted with passage of such laws, since our costs of meeting such a requirement would be very small, whereas almost all of our competitors would have to increase their prices dramatically in order to bear the disposal costs of all the short-lived furniture they continually produce. Also, we encourage you to promote the adoption (as has been the case in 6000 U.S. communities already) of "pay-as-you-throw" policies for waste disposal. When companies and their customers start having to pay the real, full costs of disposal of each bulky product that is sold, sales of disposable furniture (i.e., most upholstered furniture on the market) would probably plummet.
From the EPA's "Climate Change Home" website page:
"The disposal of solid waste produces greenhouse gas emissions in a number of ways. First, the anaerobic decomposition of waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Second, the incineration of waste produces carbon dioxide as a by-product. In addition, the transportation of waste to disposal sites produces greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of the fuel used in the equipment. Finally, the disposal of materials indicates that they are being replaced by new products, .(requiring) use of fossil fuels to obtain raw materials and manufacture the items.
Waste prevention . is a potent strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. ....Waste prevention is even more effective at saving energy. .energy is needed to extract, transport, and process raw materials and to manufacture products. When energy demand decreases, fewer fossil fuels are burned and less carbon dioxide is emitted to the atmosphere.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood, in a process called "carbon sequestration." Waste prevention allows more trees to remain standing in the forest, where they can continue to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."
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To go (or return) to the Comfy 1 home page and much more information on our various eco-friendly designs, quality features, sofas, sectional sofas, and prices (on individual product pages), click here.