Find out how the unique designs and construction of custom furniture by Thomas Studios, a Laguna Beach Art Gallery and Home Showroom, offers a safe and sustainable alternative to fast furniture
Eco-conscious consumers around the globe are struggling to strike a balance between a comfortable, contemporary home and a low impact on the environment. Fast fashion has been decried by countless environmentalists and nonprofit organizations focused on protecting the planet — with consumers and creators alike slowly coming around. However, fast furniture has captured the attention of millions of buyers worldwide. This often-discarded furniture offers light-weight materials, cheap prices, and fast shipping while custom furniture largely cannot.
Fast furniture purchases have skyrocketed in the last few months due to self-quarantine cabin fever. However, sustainability-minded consumers have found their way to artisan furniture makers, vintage shops, and antique dealers. They have begun to choose handmade or restored pieces over those made from dangerous materials and designed to fall apart. Follow below to learn more about the dangers of fast furniture and the benefits of artisan-made pieces like those offered by Laguna Beach furniture showroom Thomas Studios.
Fast Furniture and Indoor-Outdoor Pollution
Outdoors: Piles onto Landfills
Discarded furniture — typically made from non-biodegradable materials infused with harmful, continuously off-gassing chemicals — adds further strain to already too-full landfills. Additionally, the production of new fast furniture pieces spews new pollutants in the air. This is due in part to the fact that most production takes place in large factories, many of which follow few environmental protection regulations. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s brief “Durable Goods: Product-Specific Data,” across the United States in 2017, “the majority of furniture and furnishings…was landfilled (80.2 percent),” an increase from years prior.
The inclusion of polymer plastics and adhesives in today’s cheap furniture pieces makes them difficult to recycle. Because elements (wood, plastic, glass, adhesive, etc.) cannot be isolated, it can be complicated — if not impossible — to properly break down fast furniture. Cheap furniture is designed to be thrown away and replaced with a new piece whenever the consumer desires. Because of this, much of it sits in landfills for decades — or longer — hurting the environment. However, this furniture is not only damaging to the external environment. It can also pollute interior environments through off-gassing.
INDOORS: HARMS THE HEALTH OF YOUR HOME
“Off-gassing” might not be a familiar term to you, but you have likely smelled its results. You are likely familiar with the “new carpet” or “new couch” smell produced by recently purchased and unwrapped big-box store furniture. This “unpleasant chemical odor” is all too common today, notes Kathy Adams in her article “How to Remove the Chemical Odor from New Furniture” for SF Gate. Adams explains that the odor typically comes from upholstery that was “treated with flame retardants.” These odors also emanate from “other chemicals designed to protect the material” or from plastic-based coatings. The intensity of the smell may diminish over time. However, because the smell is the result of off-gassing, its effects will likely never truly disappear.
Get Green Be Well — a company focused on creating non-toxic homes — explains off-gassing on their website. The company notes that off-gassing occurs “when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released into the air that you breathe.” Harmful VOCs that can be released by fast furniture include formaldehyde, phthalates, methylene chloride, and benzene, just to name a few. The Minnesota Department of Health notes that formaldehyde can cause short term problems like “eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing, headaches, dizziness and nausea…[while] long-term exposure to formaldehyde may cause some types of cancer.” Formaldehyde may be found in furniture materials like “pressed-wood products…and foam insulation.” GetGreenBeWell.com warns that while “generally, the largest amount of off gassing takes place in the first few months…[it] can potentially go on for the life span of the product.”
A Sustainable Solution: Artisan-Made Furniture
Thankfully, interest in artisan furniture has been rekindled in recent months. This has occurred in part because interior design trends like Wabi Sabi and Japandi have gained ground. Wabi Sabi and Japandi — among others — are rooted in philosophies focused on the beauty, sustainability and practicality of the handmade. This renewed interest is unsurprising given that the benefits of custom-made furniture are many and the drawbacks very few. Firstly, custom-made furniture might be more expensive than fast furniture in the short-term, but it will likely save you money in the long-term. Because custom furniture is made with durable materials, it is likely to last longer than cheaply-made furniture. This is because fast furniture elements like those made from particle board and other flimsy, lightweight elements, cannot stand up to impact.
INSTANT HERITAGE PIECE
The thought and financial investment put into a custom-made piece of furniture also extends the time period of ownership. Secondly, custom-made furniture is frequently more sustainable. Custom-made furniture is often more sustainable because it is made by artisans in studios that use local materials rather than by companies in factories. This aids sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint of the furniture item, as large factories often ship materials from far away. Thirdly, custom-made furniture has the unique ability to become an instant heritage piece. This makes the piece perfect for storing a lifetime of happy memories and for passing down to future generations who will also appreciate it!
Learn more about Laguna furniture showroom Thomas Studios’ stunning artisan pieces through the Thomas Collection page.