Whether you’re looking for a statement decor piece or a sofa to update your space, shopping for sustainable furniture is no easy feat. Like fast fashion, which is often made of cheap single-use materials derived from questionable working conditions, fast furniture is manufactured quickly and en masse to keep up with ephemeral trends and cabin fever (raise your hand if you couldn’t stop rearranging your space during lockdown). And that kind of consumption is having real ramifications on the planet. “The EPA estimates that over 9 million tons of furniture is tossed in landfill every single year,” says Jhánneu Roberts, sustainability expert and content creator. “Once furniture is sent to a landfill, as it decomposes, it can emit gasses like methane and carbon dioxide, [which] are big factors in climate change.”
While fast furniture has sadly become as ubiquitous as its Shein and Fashion Nova counterparts in the fashion space, there are several ways we can break the cycle. Ashlee Piper, sustainability expert and author of “Give A Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet,” first suggests opting for secondhand items “because they already exist and using them means they’re kept out of landfills,” she says. Even better is repairing or repurposing what you currently have.
If those options are not available to you, Piper suggests looking toward sustainable furniture and decor items “that are made with attention to the planet and people from supply chain to design to manufacturing to shipping, which is miles better than just buying some random fast-furniture piece.” Roberts says she likes to remind people that “it’s not just about the materials, but who is making them is just as important.”
When shopping sustainably, Piper suggests keeping longevity in mind. Look for natural and renewable materials like wood or recycled synthetic materials of your choice, ideally with certifications like Certified B Corporation or made with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood, Roberts says.
Before making your investment, verify whether you or the brand can easily repair a piece of furniture, or if the brand offers any type of end-of-life recycling program, says Roberts. While it’s certainly a thrill to keep up with trends, Piper suggests looking for a timeless aesthetic that can integrate seamlessly into any setting. Finally, opt for versatility from a functional perspective. “For instance, I have a vintage midcentury solid wood credenza,” says Piper. “In the six years I’ve had it, it’s been a media console, a bureau in an office to hold papers, an extension of my pantry, a buffet for a dining room, a dresser for clothes and, when friends with kiddos visit, a baby changing table. The style is classic, the utility is versatile and the materials and repairability mean I’ll continue to have it for decades to come.”
So, how to move forward with both the planet and the Instagrammability of your living space in mind? Roberts recommends looking for durable secondhand items on Facebook Marketplace as it “can be a great place to look for used items in good conditions,” she says. Other popular and well-reputed marketplaces include Amazon Warehouse full of near-perfect-condition home accessories; VarageSale, whose interface feels like a dating app for your dream secondhand items; AptDeco, a used furniture marketplace that offers free pickup and delivery; and Etsy, boasting plenty of heirloom-worthy furniture with a charming rustic feel. For newer furniture models, Roberts recommends checking out nearby shops that carry locally made items, “as the furniture is often made in small batches and there isn’t long-distance shipping involved.”
If you prefer to peruse the internet’s limitless selections, shop with a focus on “the authenticity of a company’s values and an item’s attributes,” says Piper. “I believe every small step counts and we vote with our dollars, so consumers buying more sustainably minded products shows companies and industry that this is the direction we want. And that message is extremely powerful.”
Here are the top sustainable furniture brands to shop for a better home and peace of mind.
“Sabai is a great example [of sustainable furniture],” says Roberts. “They’re known for their couches, they use recycled and natural fabrics, they’re ethically produced in the USA and even offer plastic-free shipping.” Thanks to its Repair Don’t Replace program, you can guarantee a comfortable seating experience for up to 10 years, after which you may resell your piece through Sabai Revive, the brand’s secondhand line.
This sustainable sofa uses your choice of recycled velvet or upcycled polyester in sweet colors like seafoam and farrow. Its frame is made of FSC-certified wood, its legs are derived from locally sourced maple and it gets its plush fill pillows from 100% recycled fibers.
For the perfect piece to pair with your Essential Sofa, look to this practical coffee table with your choice of bone-, slate- or sage-colored legs. Its recycled steel and ash wood materials are obtained from fallen trees in Baltimore, Maryland, which explains the charming and unique appeal of each table.
According to the most recent sustainability report from Barron’s, Williams-Sonoma — West Elm’s parent company — was the only furniture brand to make the list of 100 most sustainable companies. West Elm furniture isn’t just pretty to look at — thanks to its new partnership with FSC, many of its pieces are sourced from reclaimed wood and well-managed forests. Its partnership with Better Cotton Initiative trains farmers associated with the manufacturing of West Elm products to use more sustainable harvesting methods. Its recycled polyester has also kept nearly 60 billion plastic bottles out of landfills.
Made of sustainably sourced kiln-dried wood in a fair trade-certified facility, this bestselling midcentury modern nightstand withstands the test of time and trends. It comes in your choice of finish, width and quantity with the option of a charging station.
These reclaimed wood wall shelves are a great way to take advantage of oft-unused space. They’re made of a gorgeous reclaimed pine from a variety of sources (like shipping pallets), are available in three sizes and are wide enough to display books, trinkets and decor.
Thanks to its climate neutral certification, you can feel good about knowing most Parachute furniture (and its associated shipping) won’t harm the planet. The brand is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Oeko-Tex certified, which eliminates any chemicals and dyes from its supply chain known to harm human health, all while promoting fair labor practices.
Virtually every facet of Parachute’s bestselling mattress is sustainable, from its pure New Zealand wool insulator pad certified by the Wool Integrity NZ program, ensuring ethical and transparent sourcing, to its recyclable design that keeps it out of landfills.
Unlike a flimsy plastic shower curtain you’ll have to replace every few years (or months!), this shower curtain made of GOTS-certified organic cotton is Oeko-Tex Standard certified with no artificial softeners and finished with a chic linear design.
When updating your home with Joybird’s minimalist furniture, you can feel good about the way the brand promotes fair working conditions while taking steps to preserve the planet. It’s partnered with FloorFound to create New To You, a marketplace allowing you to invest in pre-loved Joybird pieces at a fraction of the cost. Each Joybird purchase supports One Tree Planted global reforestation efforts that help protect the planet’s climate.
This crowd-pleasing rug uses a sustainable hand-woven polyester and jute chenille to create a classic boho effect with a low-maintenance, low-pile height.
Made of reclaimed wood with a sun-washed charcoal finish, this desk chair may as well be a chameleon for its ability to integrate into a variety of aesthetics, from rustic to industrial.
Herman Miller, one of the most prestigious industrial furniture brands, commits itself to sustainable furniture production by using FSC-certified wood, and offering a RePurpose program to divert used product away from landfills and toward nonprofits that need it most.
Not only is this multipurpose UV-coated chair suitable for both outdoor and indoor use (be it as a desk or dining chair), but it’s made of 100% recycled and recyclable polypropylene.
As one of the most recognizable pieces of Herman Miller furniture, this ergonomic desk chair in Onyx is designed from 2.5 pounds of plastic that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Choose your ideal back support, tilt, arms and more for a desk chair you’ll never need to replace.
Like its sister company West Elm, Pottery Barn is one of the most consciously designed mass furniture brands. The brand has committed to planting a tree for each piece of indoor wood furniture purchased, all of which is FSC certified.
It doesn’t get more practical than this FSC-certified dining bench made of responsibly sourced acacia hardwood. It comes with adjustable levelers to keep it aligned on uneven surfaces.
Make your dreams of a fairy-tale-like canopy bed come true with this sustainable version made from ethically sourced mango hardwood as well as water-resistant acacia hardwood to keep it looking pristine for years to come.
Founded in Oregon initially as a restoration shop, Rejuvenation has sustainability etched into its DNA. As an elevated label under the Williams Sonoma umbrella, over 80% of its wood is responsibly sourced, and the brand saves millions of liters of water by opting for GOTS-certified organic Turkish cotton.
This multifunctional side table comes in your choice of FSC-certified solid white oak or walnut wood. Its steel base is adjustable, making it suitable for nearly any corner of your home.
Because this sofa is suitable for both indoor and outdoor settings, you’ll get unlimited year-round use out of it. Its frame is made with FSC-certified teak that, like a fine leather, gets better with age. Plus, its seat cushions resist water, mildew and harmful rays to keep it looking and feeling new.
Crate & Barrel
As a recipient of one of the highest scores in furniture sustainability, according to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC), Crate & Barrel has some of the most ethical wood sourcing policies in the industry. Most wood furniture is FSC certified, and more than 600 items are Oeko-Tex certified, guaranteeing the omission of harmful chemicals.
Made with FSC-certified white oak and white oak veneer with an ivory ceruse finish and contrasting brass handles, this sustainably sourced dresser can seamlessly fit into any decor scheme or aesthetic.
In this metal bed frame that expands to support everything from a twin to California king, recycled train tracks are used as a sustainable alternative to single-use materials. It’s made of iron with a matte black finish with built-in linen protectors and floor gliders.
What once began as a mattress company has devolved into a full-fledged furniture brand rated a “Best For The World” Certified B-Corporation that’s carbon neutral and fair trade. Materials are sourced locally and designed with nontoxic materials.
As part of the brand’s Zero Waste collection, this elegant yet functional entryway or hallway table uses locally sourced upcycled FSC-certified beechwood. For additional safety, it mounts to a wall and uses nontoxic glues and stains.
Have your best pal lay their precious head at night on this sustainable dog bed made from upcycled FSC-certified reclaimed wood and Douglas fir slats. It’s also made using nontoxic stains and varnishes.