Eco Incentives to Shelter Better
With the home now the central hub for all areas of our lives, indoors is the new outdoors in terms of staying healthy and being environmentally aware. “By choosing safe and sustainable materials, we can positively impact our own health along with the health of the planet. By understanding strategies to bring more sustainability and wellness into our spaces, we enhance both their beauty, and their function,” explains Laurence Carr, CEO & creative director of Laurence Carr Design.
Carr’s comment gets to the heart of the home furnishings approach to sustainability, a commitment driven by the belief that making eco awareness personally relevant and easy to understand will have the greatest impact.
A new campaign called JUST ONE launched in 2020 by the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) reflects this communication style. “It came out of Board discussion earlier this year — even before COVID-19 — of the confusion and overwhelm people too often feel when they think about operating in a more sustainable fashion,” explains Susan Inglis, executive director, Sustainable Furnishings Council, a North Carolina-based organization she helped found in 2006.
“Thinking in terms of one action at a time, no matter how small a first step it might be, helps with approachability. And, of course, once just one thing is accomplished, there is always just one more thing to accomplish next,” adds Inglis, who also serves on the Board of the American Sustainable Business Council. She notes that the JUST ONE campaign, supported and emphasized by SFC Ambassadors, and getting a good response.
According to Inglis, more companies are making voluntary decisions to move toward water-based processes and away from using so many flame retardant chemicals. Based on SFC research, 98 percent of members are very concerned on a range of sustainability issues, up from 50 percent a decade ago. “The industry feels pressure from the public and we’re seeing the voice of the consumer making a difference,” says Inglis.
“In today’s Covid environment, when staying healthy at home is top of mind, it’s a good opportunity to talk about air quality air filtration, water use reduction, and energy efficiency.” — John Oppermann, Executive director of Earth Day Initiative
Other notable trends in home furnishings include use of recycled and re-claimed materials. Pulling re-claimed wood into regular lumber streams is also starting to happen. “Furnishing is the number three user of wood resources after construction and paper industries; we need to take care of the forests,” states Inglis who underscores the importance of “good, simple, communication.”
Educate & Promote Positive Attributes
“People want to do the right thing for the environment but the real motivation is personal,” explains John Oppermann, executive director of Earth Day Initiative. “We need to communicate why the average person should care.” He gives as example that exposure to natural daylight promotes better sleep.
Oppermann recently taught a New York University class, “Marketing the Green Home,” that examined how other industries address sustainability. “Sustainable food was the first category to breakthrough to the mainstream. That the market didn’t create itself and there are lessons to be learned from how that happened,” says Oppermann, who also writes Green Building news. “The average person is not thinking about how this is better for the environment, but how it’s better for them. For example, why go to the farm-to-table restaurant? Because the food is better!”
The Earth Day Initiative is focused on being a climate communicator. “In today’s Covid environment, when staying healthy at home is top of mind, it’s a good opportunity to talk about air quality air filtration, water use reduction, and energy efficiency,” Oppermann explained during a SFC webinar on the topic of how to design and furnish indoor and outdoor spaces that promote sustainability, health and wellness at home.
Webinar panelist Andrea Scharff of Andrea Scharff Landscape Design sees value in re-using materials onsite and take advantage of existing trees, but also how to source sustainably. “Why import something from Portugal when you can get it in Utah?” Scharff suggests. Increasingly her clients are looking for “functionality of landscape,” with spaces designed to workout, to dine and to just relax and contemplate nature.
SFC member Simbly aims to become the first climate positive furniture company in the world. That starts with material selection; 100 percent of the wood Simbly uses is sustainably managed, from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified forests; the brand features Appleply, a premium hardwood plywood, from Eugene, Oregon. Asheville, NC-based Simbly works with a local, family-owned factory, bucking the offshore trend that has impacted the domestic furniture manufacturing business.
Brands, designers and member organizations alike agree that in the world of home furnishings, sustainability is more important now than ever before. States Laurence Carr, “Understanding how it affects our health and wellbeing gives us a deeper appreciation for the need to consider sustainability in all areas of our lives.”