More consumers than ever are choosing to decorate their homes with products made from sustainable green materials and sources, and upholstery is one item where green alternatives are available. One way to choose 'green' upholstery is to purchase furniture products made from recycled materials. Another way is to choose furniture made with environmentally friendly and sustainable fabrics; read the product label to be sure. However, it's also important to remember that the methods used to grow the plants that make the fabric may or may not be environmentally responsible.
Sustainable Fabric Choices
When it comes to fabrics made from environmentally sustainable materials and plants, hemp and bamboo are at the top of the list. Hemp has the distinction of being one of the oldest cultivated plants in history. Its deep root system is the reason why it needs less than half as much water to grow as other plants cultivated for fiber and it has no natural pests. Fabric made from hemp is highly durable and strong and is generally available in well-known weave patterns like herringbone and basket weave. Hemp is available in its natural off-white color, as well as an unbleached shade, and in neutral tones in shades of tan, brown and black. Hemp is also used in combination with other natural fibers like linen, ramie and organic cotton which results in a lighter, softer fabric.
Bamboo fabric is harvested from natural bamboo, which is one of the world's fastest growing plants. It does not require pesticides for good yields and it is easy to harvest: Most plants have to be dug up for harvest and replanted, but bamboo is harvested by simple cutting so it has little impact on the environment. If you are considering furniture or fabric made from bamboo, check the label and the manufacturer's website because some manufacturers use chemicals in their growing and processing methods.
Compare and Consider Growing Methods
The methods used to grow the plants that make the fabric need to be considered as well. For example, traditionally grown cotton is heavily treated with pesticides, but organically grown cotton is pesticide free. Organic farmers also shun chemical fertilizers and incorporate practices such as crop rotation to maintain the soil naturally, so this takes a lesser toll on the surrounding watersheds than farmers who use pesticides and fertilizers. Another advantage of choosing furnishings with organic fabrics is that the crops are typically grown on small family farms that help sustain small towns and villages all over the world and avoid all the environmental and economic pitfalls associated with massive farming conglomerates.
Other Ways to Go Green
When you want to go green with your upholstered furniture options, don't overlook the obvious. Instead of buying new furniture, keep what you have and refresh it slipcovers made from sustainable hemp or bamboo or from organic cotton. In the long run, the less waste you put into a landfill the smaller your carbon footprint which is better for both your local environment and ultimately, the environment of the planet.