With more people embracing the idea of green living, sustainability is a term that has become commonplace in conversations about everything from transportation to consumer goods. A new generation of adults who have grown up with a concern for the environment is driving these conversations forward and creating a demand for companies to create products using sustainable processes and materials. In the home furnishings industry, designers and company leaders are responding to this demand by offering quality pieces made from materials that reduce waste and are safe for the environment.
While some environmentally-conscious consumers choose to buy used furniture or pieces made of reclaimed materials, many are finding a variety of new-built sustainable furniture options that are as stylish as they are eco-friendly. As interest in decreasing one’s carbon footprint continues to build, consumers can expect to hear more about the trend toward sustainability in home furnishings. Here are some of the reasons the trend continues to gain momentum:
Modern Consumers Care about the Environment
In recent years, the relationship between consumers and the products they buy has changed. Rather than simply seeking the goods and services that give them the most satisfaction, modern consumers are reconciling their consumption habits with their commitment to social responsibility. For many, environmental issues are at the top of the list of concerns shaping their buying decisions.
According to a recent personal consumption report from The Hartman Group, 87 percent of adults are part of what the Group calls the “World of Sustainability.” This includes those whose values, attitudes, and purchasing decisions are affected by the social, cultural, and environmental matters that they care about.
Another study from the global consumer-based company Unilever found that one-third of consumers buy from brands committed to advancing social and environmental good. The Unilever study also found that the majority of shoppers in both developed and emerging economies feel better about purchasing sustainable products.
This desire for and willingness to buy eco-friendly and responsibly produced products is also president in the home furnishings industry. The latest Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study from the Sustainable Furnishings Council suggests that most people are interested in sustainable furniture. In fact, 90 percent of respondents said they would buy eco-friendly home furnishings as long as they could afford it. Even more (97 percent) of respondents expressed a general concern with environmental issues.
Furniture Industry Leaders Are Committed to Sustainability
To show their own concern for the environment while reaching consumers who value sustainability, many furniture companies are offering eco-friendly options in their stores. Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., one of the world’s largest home furnishings manufacturers, is helping lead the way in this area by using responsible materials and implementing sustainable practices in its manufacturing facilities and HomeStores across the country.
Since it was founded in 1945, Ashley has refined its materials and processes to stay ahead of design trends and consumer preferences. Today, the company manufactures furniture using not only solid wood, but also engineered wood, which is one of the most sustainable materials available in the furniture industry. Ashley also remains committed to using adhesives and water-based paint finishes that reduce formaldehyde and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
Each year, Ashley’s commitment to the environment also leads the company to recycle more than 280,000 tons of wood by-products and over 1,500 tons of metal. Because energy reduction is a major company-wide goal, Ashley Furniture also uses efficient lighting, intuitive machine controls, and advanced delivery logistics in its facilities and delivery fleets.
Responsible Manufacturing Is Good for Business
In addition to protecting the environment, furniture companies that are focused on responsible manufacturing have the opportunity to improve their bottom lines. By meeting the demand of consumers looking for sustainable products, they can increase sales and attract a loyal customer base. Improving manufacturing efficiency and decreasing energy consumption also enables companies like Ashley Furniture to reduce their overall operating costs.
Today, adopting sustainability as part of a business philosophy is more important than ever. A company that is mindful of its environmental and social impact has a competitive advantage in a market driven by consumers who value organizations working to contribute to the greater good.
Sustainability Doesn’t Have to Compromise Style or Durability
Most people in the market for new furniture would likely pass up a sustainably-made piece if it didn’t appeal to their personal sense of style. Fortunately, new materials currently used in the industry make it easy for manufacturers to create furniture that is durable, stylish, and sustainable.
The engineered wood used widely by companies such as Ashley Furniture is a renewable material manufactured with the same woods that comprise traditional lumber. Engineered wood products can be used for a variety of furniture designs and applications. Additionally, because they lack knots and a specific grain or texture, the products accept paint finishes very well and can be covered with a number of decorative surfaces. Highly resistant to warping or cracking, engineered wood is also extremely durable, making it an excellent choice for those who want sturdy furniture with a minimal carbon footprint.