It’s hard to know where to find cool sustainable furniture and whether to believe it’s as good as it claims to be. ‘Greenwash’ is the term used for products that ride on the environmental bandwagon when they’ve only made a token gesture to be green. However, it’s very difficult for any company to claim their product is 100% sustainable, but there are a lot of people who are making big efforts to produce beautiful products, using the bare minimum of resources and energy.
Below is my selection of the most sustainable, stylish chairs I’ve been able to find this week, all available to buy in the UK. Please send me your own discoveries and I will try to feature them on a future blog.
Each Tom Raffield product is hand-made by a skilled set of craftsmen, in their woodland workshop in Cornwall, and individually finished “with the care and attention of a fine piece of art”. Sustainability is a vital factor in their production process and they aim “to be the solution to the throw-away culture that is omni-present in many of our lives”.
In sharing the belief that every piece must be beautiful in form and practical in function, they utilise the traditional craft of steam-bending wood in the most incredible way, to create amazing furniture that is not cheap, but is made to last and will look stunning in any environment.
Benchmark was founded by Terence Conran and Sean Sutcliffe in1985, to be "a celebration of the material that Benchmark is inextricably associated with: wood. Beautiful, expertly-selected, hand-crafted wood that is sustainably sourced". These are investment pieces whose prices reflect the quality of the materials used, as well as the skill that goes into making them - furniture that has lasting value and will be kept and passed on to future generations.
As well as using only sustainable timbers, the company prioritises on energy conservation, and they make every effort to develop the business in a responsible and sustainable way.
Benchmark products are made to order – another sustainable factor as nothing is made that doesn’t sell. All it takes is a little patience, to wait up to 8 weeks for delivery. But delayed gratification can be a good discipline and some things are worth waiting for.
The Boundary Carver, designed by Terence Conran for Benchmark, is made in sustainable oak or walnut. First designed for the Boundary Restaurant in Shoreditch. You can provide your own fabric for upholstery.
Of course these beautiful examples are not within everyone’s budgets, so here are some more affordable options:
Last but not least, IKEA say they want to have a positive impact on people and the planet. They are switching their entire lighting range to energy-efficient LED and sourcing all of the cotton used in their products from more sustainable sources.
They are also working towards 100% renewable energy - producing as much as they consume in their operations - and sourcing all wood from more sustainable sources by 2020. Since 2009, the IKEA Group has committed to invest EUR 2.1 billion in purchasing their own wind and solar power generation equipment.
This is an initiative that some may say does not go far enough. But many companies are not even trying, so buying from companies like these, that are trying, must surely be a step in the right direction.
And I hope I’ve shown that there’s no need to compromise on style.