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Office Furniture Sustainability

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Green wall at a Haworth building

Office Furniture Sustainability

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At a time when climate change is affecting the planet so much, businesses, medical offices, educational institutions, and other organizations are all looking to do their part to make every aspect of their business sustainable, including their office furniture. We actively pursue sustainability for all our projects and align ourselves with many manufacturers who build sustainable office furniture in a sustainable way, made with sustainable and recyclable materials.

Materials and Sourcing for Office Furniture Sustainability

The traditional approach to finding and using materials for office furniture evolves, moving away from processes like harvesting standing timber and using synthetic fabrics. Today, companies like Haworth are taking a different direction with an eye toward creating a sustainable supply chain with less impact on the environment and on finite resource supplies.

Using Sustainable Materials in Office Furniture

Haworth sustainable fabricsAdvances in technology and a constantly growing emphasis on sustainable manufacturing make it easier to repurpose and reuse materials typically bound for the landfill. For example, Vondom, a Spanish furniture manufacturer, makes a line of office chairs using 100% recycled fishing nets which they pelletize and use in the injection molding process. Haworth has a similar initiative for recycling plastics found floating in the ocean and turning it into new fabrics, which are used in Haworth furniture and can also be applied to furniture from other manufacturers.

Haworth, a recognized leader in office furniture sustainability, uses trees reclaimed from Lake Michigan as a source of many of its veneers. Using these logs, which were already naturally removed from the forest years or decades ago, avoids the harvesting of live timber. The icy temperatures of the lake have preserved the wood, making it perfectly usable for furniture veneers.

Among natural materials, bamboo is a workhorse in sustainable manufacturing. It is fast-growing, tightly grained, and durable, qualities ideal for tabletops, cabinetry, case goods and other applications. It also replenishes itself in a remarkably short time frame, ensuring a continued supply.

Sourcing Materials Sustainably

Whether materials are newly manufactured, recycled or reclaimed, the distance between the source and the manufacturing facility can be a significant contributor to sustainability. Ideally, material sources will be nearby the manufacturing facility. Sourcing from the closest provider reduces the fuel needed to deliver the materials, reducing emissions. While not always possible or practical, the furniture manufacturers we work with are making steady progress in this area.

Sustainable Furniture Manufacturing

Companies who have committed to sustainable manufacturing will re-engineer their manufacturing processes to minimize adverse environmental impacts, reduce energy consumption during manufacturing and conserve natural resources.

In practice, this involves a comprehensive rethinking of the manufacturing process that includes using environmentally friendly finishes, designing furniture for sustainable manufacturing, eliminating scrap waste with precision production, achieving a zero waste to landfill manufacturing operation, and refurbishing old furniture components for use in new products.

Zero Waste to Landfill in Furniture Manufacturing

Lake Michigan cold water sourced timberFor example, Haworth has been a zero waste to landfill manufacturer in the United States since 2009 and its European plants since 2012. Haworth developed a cradle-to-cradle solution to reuse powder coating overspray and keep it out of landfills in another sustainability and zero waste initiative.

Continuing with Haworth innovations, the company now offers a knitted chair back option for certain chairs. The knitting process creates a zero-waste, perfect-fit chair back. In addition to reducing material waste, the knitted backs simplify repairing damaged chair backs or upcycling them to a new color palette.

UL GREENGUARD Certification

The UL GREENGUARD Certification Program is another part of office furniture sustainability. GREENGUARD certifies furniture materials as low emitters of volatile organic compounds (VOC), a significant source of indoor air pollution. Manufacturers must switch to sustainable materials like water-based finishes and organic fabrics to receive the GREENGUARD Certification. Once certified, these products qualify for LEED credits in environmentally conscious building projects.

Practicing Office Furniture Sustainability in Your Office

Achieving office furniture sustainability in your own office requires developing a different view of furniture disposability and an openness to reuse and refurbish. For your next office redesign project, consider following these sustainability practices as much as possible:

  • Instead of buying all new office furniture, add compatible and complementary furniture to what you already have.
  • Refresh and update quality older furniture with new fabrics, upholstery, and hard surface refinishing. Many of our premium furniture manufacturers create furniture using methods that make it easy to refurbish or redesign, with interchangeable parts and non-destructive fasteners.
  • Consciously recycle the furniture you cannot adapt like laminate surfaced particle board tables.
  • Resell or donate the furniture you cannot use, potentially adding years to its useful life.

Office Furniture Sustainability Starts with Design

Sustainably manufactured furniture cannot benefit the environment or workspace until a designer specifies it for their project. Sustainable office furniture design relies on:

  • Design projects that specify reconfigurable and recyclable furniture
  • Knowing which manufacturers use sustainable manufacturing processes
  • Selecting furniture with LEED certifications or credits
  • Specifying furniture with UL GREENGUARD certifications
  • Reusing existing furniture wherever possible
  • Refinishing and refurbishing existing furniture instead of buying new furniture
  • Using designers dedicated to creating and furnishing sustainable environments

Office Furniture Sustainability Starts with a Pacific Office Interiors

Start writing your own sustainable story today. Pacific Office Interiors offers all the resources and experience to build office furniture sustainability into your next design. Our relationships with the industry’s premium manufacturers put sustainably manufactured furniture at your fingertips. Contact Pacific Office Interiors today, email us at hello@poi.bz or call us at 818.735.0333 to learn more about how we can meet your sustainability needs.

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