What makes ‘eco-friendly’ furniture truly sustainable?

With Earth Day having just passed, we’ve all seen the myriad social media posts and advertisements celebrating our beautiful planet and encouraging us to be better stewards of its resources. But how do we ensure that this day is more than just a mark on our calendars?

Just like any meaningful human relationship, true affection is best demonstrated through actions, not just words. If we genuinely cherish our planet, we must actively seek ways to alter our behaviours—whether through big or small changes—to reduce our impact and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

At Homewood, we proudly contribute by manufacturing furniture that is 100% sustainable.

But What Makes Eco-Friendly Furniture Truly Sustainable?

Sustainable furniture is more than just a label; it’s a commitment to ongoing environmental responsibility and innovation. It’s a commitment to ensuring that every piece of furniture enhances your space while respecting and nurturing the environment.

Here are some key factors that should be considered before calling furniture “sustainable”.

  1. Responsible Sourcing

This means using renewable resources, such as wood from responsibly managed forests, recycled materials, or non-toxic substances that do not harm the environment.

  • Durability and Timelessness

Sustainability implies that products are built to last, avoiding the wasteful cycle of frequent replacement. Durable furniture also tends to be timeless in design, avoiding trends that go quickly out of style and lead to unnecessary waste.

3. Craftsmanship and Low-Impact Manufacturing

The production process should minimise environmental impact. This involves efficient manufacturing practices that reduce waste, energy consumption, and harmful emissions. It also includes labour practices that ensure fair treatment and safe conditions for workers.

4. Aesthetic and Functional Longevity

Sustainable furniture should maintain its functional and aesthetic value over time. This involves designing pieces that are versatile and can adapt to various spaces and needs, reducing the likelihood of disposal due to changing trends or functions.

5. End-of-Life Considerations

Consideration for a product’s end-of-life is crucial in sustainable furniture. This can mean designing for recyclability, using biodegradable materials, or offering take-back or trade-in programs to ensure furniture doesn’t end up in landfills. Practically, questions to ask can be:

  • If your furniture cracks or has scratches, is there a way to fix it without replacing the whole item? For example, could you sand it down, or is it made of chipboard, for example, which would not allow for this?

The Homewood Sustainability Story

6 years ago, Homewood’s founder and director, Ian Perry, made a call to change the way furniture was made to reduce our contribution to a global deforestation crisis.

The question was asked, “Surely there’s a way to craft beautiful, durable hardwood furniture without costing the earth?”

The answer came in the form of Homewood’s Amanzi-conscious collection, furniture made exclusively of timber sourced from alien-invasive species. It has the same stunning aesthetics and durability as furniture made from more “common” but extensively forested and imported wood types such as mahogany, ash, or oak.

This whole project was made possible with a collaboration with the Working for Water Programme (WfW), which seeks to tackle the issue of alien-invasive trees and their destruction of local environments and water reserves by facilitating their removal.

Homewood aims to sustain this excellent initiative by purchasing alien-invasive biomass from WfW and turning it into one-of-a-kind, artisanal furniture pieces.

Fast forward to today, and we are proud to say we manufacture our furniture exclusively from these eco-friendly timbers, with the “Amazi-conscious collection” becoming our entire offering.

From a manufacturing point of view, we are consistently looking at ways to reduce our environmental impact.

Some measures that we have identified include:

  • Implementing a zero-waste policy as far as possible, which has included repurposing leftover wood for smaller items such as chopping boards or tea trays and selling sawdust to local farmers.
  • Moving away from steam-bending, a method used to bend wood, to different techniques due to its water-intensive nature and high electricity requirement.
  • Installing solar panels to move off the grid and operate powered purely by the stunning KZN sunshine!
  • Ensuring we employ and buy most of our inputs locally – to minimise travel and our carbon footprint.
  • Offering our customers buyback / trade in deals so we can refurbish and increase the lifecycle of our furniture pieces.

To learn more about our other “sustainable ways of doing business, from the people we employ to the designs we stand by, browse the rest of our website or hop onto our social media pages.

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