Habit #1. Buy carefully
A big thanks to Grand Designs for selecting us for this ECO + DESIGN feature! Being a responsible business is very important to us both in terms of our practices and our products. We've won some awards in this area and continue to seek out and work with manufacturers that produce responsibly. The workshop that makes our contemporary Caspian range, featured in this article, is based in Croatia. We’ve worked hard with them to ensure that we have transparent, traceable certification. Our FSC COC number is proof that we can track the piece from forest to showroom to your home. Each piece in our Caspian collection has this FSC certification. Continue reading
Does it matter you might ask? Yes it does! Sustainability is as important in the furniture industry as any other. Wood offers a wonderful sustainable resource which is much less damaging to the environment than metals or plastics. Timber is a beautiful, durable and renewable raw material, not to mention its environmental attributes. Yet wood is only sustainable if the forests are managed correctly. And then there are issues of workshop practices, transportation methods etc. You may well take pride in your home, and part of that is knowing your furniture is responsibly sourced. So if you're interested in this issue, here's how to get through the industry smokescreen and find out the truth!
There's a quiet revolution going on in the world of sustainable furniture design and manufacture.
As the novelty of claiming an item as being in some way recycled begins to wear off, a more sophisticated set of distinctions begin to be drawn.
The words "upcycle" and "downcycle" have entered the language and offer a new way of looking at sustainable production.
These terms have been in use since as early as 1994 when German businessman Reiner Pilz expressed his frustration that so much of what is called recycling essentially results in things of potential value being ground into some form of bulk material or hardcore: "I call it downcycling. They smash bricks, they smash everything. What we need is upcycling, where old products are given more value not less."
It's an interesting perspective and one that’s particularly relevant to us as several of our most important and popular products are made from a material which has come to the end of one useful life - large solid walnut building posts – and is looking for another. The onus is on us not just to squeeze another use out of that material, but really to make something that releases the value inherent in it and gives the wood itself the best chance of a long time in service.
Solid construction is clearly a big part of this. We sell furniture which we’re confident enough to guarantee for life. Good joinery in these pieces is not just about creating a high quality product. It’s also about making the most of a finite resource.
Timeless design is important to this too. Gimmicky furniture may find itself swept away to the local dump to be downcycled on a wave of irrelevance once fashion moves on.
Whether you call it reclaiming, recycling, upcycling or just good use of materials the thing that really excites us is making timeless pieces of furniture, built to last, that take nothing away from the environment in which they are made.
When we began research for our furniture rating label back in 2003 we asked forest campaigners at Greenpeace to identify gaps in our scheme. While they were enthusiastic about the label, they were very clear that the best independent & credible certification scheme was the FSC. Continue reading
These are cool, they have street cred and eco cred! Levi's have been busy making a fuss over waterless jeans, a project that looked at full life cycle of a pair of 501s and came up with a way to reduce the amount of water used over the life of the jeans to between 28-96%. What's really interesting is that 45% comes from the washing of the jeans once a consumer buys them. So that bit is not entirely in their control but that doesn't stop them - they have teamed up with a large laundry product manufacturer to address that side as well. Read more on their site. A pair of Levi's always looked good, now they look even better! So make sure to wash your Steve McQueen's in cold water!
We met up with Tim Larcombe, MD at Levi's, at the Guardian Sustainable Business awards where Levi's won an award for this project. Read what Tim's got to say about it on our interview page. There's a great video too!
Yipee! We scooped the Guardian’s Sustainable Business Award last night. Beating fellow finalists and multi-nationals Unilever and Lend Lease for a shock victory in the supply chain category. With other category winners being Tesco, Levi, British Land and Marks & Spencer, it shows that you don’t need to be big to be innovative and make a difference.
Director Kim Corbett said “We are absolutely thrilled - all of us, the staff, our suppliers, even my hard to impress children who wanted to take the award to school with them this morning! This means so much to us and all our staff, and of course credit belongs to our loyal customers too. We have always concentrated on long lasting, well designed furniture from sustainable sources, but we never thought we could win an award in such salubrious company. We see this as simply another step in a long process of showing that businesses, large and small, can be run with a responsible attitude to the environment.”
Tonight we’re off to Kings Place - where they’ll announce the winners of the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards. We're shortlisted in the Supply Chain category along with Uniliver and Lendlease [LINK] . The competition is tough so we're keeping our fingers crossed. Jason Delf, a director at Chest of Drawers says, "The awards are great and we're pleased just to have made it to the final and to be in such salubrious company. The concept of sustainability is vast but the supply chain is a major part of it. We began our environmental rating label project after we read a book by Felicity Lawrence about food labelling. We wanted to give customers information about our workshops' working practices and wood sourcing, as well as transportation issues summarised by ‘furniture miles’. It was our campaign to change the furniture industry one chest of drawers at a time! Information and education are all part of raising awareness of the issue. We still believe that transparency is the key to convince both consumers and manufacturers that there is a way forward that will benefit both. When we began our environmental label project there was a distinct lack of interest from everyone, or at best a mild bewilderment. Nowadays suppliers actively try to increase their ratings with us and our customers ask more and more about where the wood comes from etc. These are all important steps in the campaign to change consumer buying habits. Legislation may ultimately pave the way for a more sustainable industry but consumers can play a major part in making this happen. Changing buying patterns has an immediate effect because manufacturers ultimately provide what the market will pay for. Keep your fingers crossed for us please!"
Back to our favourite Danish accessories brand, RICE... We've now helped over 150 families in the one-to-one project with partners RICE and Danish Refugee Council. When you buy a Cup of Hope or a Spoon of Hope, they give families help when they are in difficult times. If you buy a set of our Cups, you give a family a water can and wash kit. If you buy a Spoon of Hope you give a family 24 servings of soup. RICE are aiming to sell 10,000. We have just reached a more modest figure of 154. RICE believes that no one can help everyone but everyone can help someone. It's a good motto. Go on, listen to Phillipe, one of the directors. Then look at the products - you know you want to!