While finding organic beds these days is getting easier, at least on-line, finding a truly organic, chemical-free sofa or armchair is a veritable challenge.
What’s wrong with a “normal” sofa in the first place? Well “normal” in this case means the foam used to fill the cushions is petroleum-based, and then flame retardants are added to the highly flammable polyurethane foam. (A petroleum-based product flammable? Weird, huh?) The health hazard: as the synthetic foam in the cushions breaks down, it sends fire-retardant laden dust into your air. Flame retardants are environmental toxins and are found in wildlife, breastmilk and other human body fluids. Low level exposure to flame retardants has been linked with all manner of illnesses we’d all like to avoid. You can read more about flame retardants in this NY Times article.
So why is it so hard to find a healthy, eco-friendly sofa? One of the reasons for this is because of some gooey greenwashing in our midst. Googling “organic sofa” brings up regular sofas that happen to have organic cotton upholstery (while nothing else is healthy about them), but mostly it brings up sofas made with soy foam. What’s wrong with soy foam? “Soy” and “foam.” The lovely ladies at O Ecotextiles have written a great article on the issues, summed up succinctly in the statement that soy foam is actually “polyurethane based foam with a touch of soy added for marketing purposes.”
The biggest challenge, though for an informed buyer, comes on the purse strings. There are few truly organic couches out there, and what’s rare dears, is cher. As more of us demand sustainable and healthy furniture for our homes, there will be more options and gentler prices. In the meantime, those of us who don’t want to settle for the chemical couch will either have to invent ourselves a sofa hack or sit on the floor. If you, however, are feeling splurgy there are here are some healthy, sustainable choices in sofas and such.
eco-terric – Ecoterric has 7 style lines, including sofas, chaises, chairs, ottomans, benches, and beds. All items in the collection use FSC-certified hardwoods, chemical free natural upholstery, non-toxic rubber latex, organic cotton, sustainable wool, vegetable or low impact dyes. Fabrics have been laundered with chemical-free detergent. A building biologist helped designed this collection, so both environmental impact and health impact were upheld as criteria. Sofas around $3000 and up.
furnature – Furnature has been making organic sofas since the early 1990’s so it seems like a good bet that they know what they are doing! Their styles and fabric selection look rather traditional, but they do offer custom designs as well. Quoting from their website, Furnature offers “the worlds only complete line of mattresses, bedding, fabrics, and furniture specifically designed for individuals with multiple chemical sensitivities.” The sofas are made with natural rubber, organic textiles, FSC and non-aromatic woods and water based glue. Prices on request.
eklahome – Nine smashing models to choose from, the materials include FSC and reclaimed wood, organic natural latex, organic wool, zero or low-VOC wood stains, non-toxic adhesives, organic cotton, recycled steel springs and staples. I appreciate that they have their price list on-line. $2000-$6500 for sofas.
ecobalanza – Here’s a design-focused company with high standards in health and ecology. Eight models to choose from, EcoBalanza offers seating made with FSC certified wood, natural latex foam, recycled polyester – hemp – organic cotton – or organic wool, and no-VOC adhesives. These sofas are made with steel coils. Pricing not yet available. Bummer!
If you know of another company not listed here that makes ecologically sound, non-toxic upholstered furniture, speak up! We’d love to hear from you! Or if you already have one of these and want to brag, well, that’s ok too!
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