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If you read the paper, watch tv or subscribe to any number of magazines (Dwell for instance), you’ll notice that a number of furniture makers are coming out with a “green” or “organic” line of furniture. These guys of course are on the footsteps of eco-furniture specialists such as Vivavi (founded by the Lazy Environmentalist, aka Josh Dorfman), Greener Lifestyles and If Green to name a few. These are companies that work uniquely with various kinds of “eco” production ranging from SFI certified wood and non-toxic glues, to bamboo and recycled material furniture. In addition, there are generalists, like upscale New York home store ABC Carpet & Home which carry a wide variety of designers’ sustainable products.
Now, for organic. Organic furniture means the raw materials the products are made from have been grown without pesticides and harmful chemicals. Generally organically grown products use less resources to produce and are therefore often more sustainable then their non-organic counter parts.
So, what does all this mean? Well, in the perfect piece of furniture, you would be using locally harvested or recycled materials, assembled using minimal and non-toxic glues and dies, which you would purchase from a locally based store or retailer. This assures you minimize the environmental impact from: 1) the transportation associated with raw materials, 2) shipping distances of the finished product, 3) harmful toxins form dyes and glues entering the soil or groundwater, and 4) energy used to produced to grown and assemble the raw materials. Furthermore, by purchasing from local designers and retailers you stimulate the local economy, encouraging employment and a higher rate of reinvestment in the community (i.e. if you purchase a locally harvested and produced chair, 100% of that will be returning to community in the form of wages and materials purchased, which is then spent locally. If you purchase a chair from a big chain, 50-70% of the chairs value goes to costs outside of the local community).
Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world and have to make some sacrifices. For instance, much of the bamboo used in furniture is produced in China, which means energy consumed to ship it to the U.S. Or you may have a piece of furniture that is made from recycled products but assembled abroad and shipped locally. The important lesson is to know what exactly you are buying when you purchase a “green” sofa or a “sustainable” chair. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made, and you should be aware of what they are. There is still no “green” certification for products, so each piece marketed as such, will vary in terms of their sustainability factors.
Finally, I feel used furniture remains king. The energy and raw materials are already spent, the piece is in production, and the hope is that by re-using it you will reduce the demand for new furniture. While some sites, such as ebay and Furniture Trader provide online used furniture, unless you know exactly what you need, it is still best to find a local store for used goods. Oh, craigslist is a fantastic place to find furniture, but as my girlfriend will tell you, it’s not for everyone.
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Last Saturday I was invited by Waylon, editor in chief of Elephant Magazine to attend a Pangea Organics hosted event for breast cancer awareness at New York’s ABC Furniture store. Needless to say, the venue is pretty impressive, and after talking with ABC’s corporate responsibility czar Amy, I learned they are committed to sustainable (incredibly expensive!!) furniture and design pieces. The event was a fundraiser for Beyond the Pink Ribbon, a cancer awareness campaign supported by Pangea, Elephant and a slew of other companies including Whole Foods, Lexus and Eileen Fisher, amongst many more (for a full list of sponsors see here).
At the end of the evening attendees were given a gift bag (not very sustainable packaging, but sustainable products inside, including a bamboo plate and reusable bamboo cutlery). The king of the basket however was the Pangea organics face lotion…not because of the product, which is undoubtedly great, but for the packaging. All of Pangea’s products come in a 100% recycled box made from seeds and organic material. According to the company, all you have to do is unwrap the box, plant it in the soil, and it will actually grow you a plant (See here for more). I’m blown away and intrigued. I would like to know if this works. I’m going to try it and update when I see buds. For anyone that is interested, I will try and find out more on the company Pangea works with for the packaging.
Remember to recycle the glass bottles their products come in when finished. Happy planting everyone.
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Earthwisesingles.com, greensingles.com, green-passions.com, planetearthsingles.com …these are just a few of the sites dedicated to finding an environmentally conscious partner. Traditional dating sites like eharmony.com, perfectmatch.com, match.com, and others all have the option to search for eco-friendly singles. [I didn’t link to any of these sites, but I think you all know how to access them if you’re interested!!] If you are thinking that online dating is used by just a minority of people, think again. According to an article from MSN, 40 million Americans use online dating services, which represents approximately 40% of the country’s single population. Busy schedules, longer work weeks and increased internet usage have all added to the online dating phenomenon.
So why is online dating of interest to sustainability? Well, it’s no secret that we adopt our partners habits, good and bad. Eco-dating serves the dual purpose of finding the “special someone” who in turn bolsters your environmental convictions and actions. In my humble opinion it’s exciting to see these types of sites popping up, and I wish them the best.
Even celebrities are throwing their hats in the mix. We all know Leonardo DiCaprio is interested in the environment, but Rosario Dawson went a step farther, apparently revealing she is only interested in dating someone who is eco-conscious. (I am an avid environmentalist and must say that this is excellent news…I finally have an in!). Hopefully this is the coming trend and next Academy Awards not only Susan Sarandon is stepping out of a hybrid onto the red carpet.