Going Green with Furniture

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Going Green with Furniture
  The process of furniture manufacturing, if not carefully undertaken, can harm the environment. When selecting "green furniture", you should look for products that utilize lumber from renewable wood resources or select furniture made from recycled materials, following principles of Green Design. Many furniture companies have strict policies regarding the use of wood from threatened or endangered species of trees, many of which are found in rain forests. In some cases federal and state laws restrict the use of certain woods for furniture construction. Some species, such as maple and oak, are easier to replenish than other rare woods, such as mahogany, teak, and rosewood. Wood species that are endangered but are grown specifically for furniture industries and replenished are often used only as fine thin veneers. These woods may be farmed as plantation-grown lumber or in a sustainable forest. More plentiful wood by-products, such as particleboard, are used for the veneer backing. According to Design Solutions magazine, the Tropical Forest Foundation is one organization that works to educate consumers and producers about the benefits of conservation and forest management. One of their primary goals is to educate individuals and companies on the benefits of low-impact logging. Proper selection of green furniture also includes ensuring the items have safe, environmentally friendly finishes. The process of applying paint to furniture can cause the release of toxic volatile organic chemicals, or VOCs, into the air. These solvents are carried into the exhaust stacks and released directly into the atmosphere. VOCs contribute to smog and harm the ozone layer, allowing damaging ultraviolet rays to reach the earth. The Clean Air Act passed by Congress in 1990 requires companies to reduce these harmful emissions. Some companies have developed alternative painting processes to reduce emissions. At an Interior Design Educators Council conference, Elizabeth Rylan and Gordon Kerby outlined several ways this can be accomplished. For example, paint can be applied to wood as it rides on a conveyor belt, reducing the VOCs emitted into the air; metal furniture can be given an electrical charge and coated with paint of the opposite charge, bonding the two together electrically. Additionally, substituting water-based stains and natural coatings for paint, and using carbon filters can also lessen the release of VOCs.