We all want to live sustainably, but it can be difficult to know what’s actually eco-friendly and even more challenging to live up to the standard. Does a hamburger really require more than 600 gallons of water to produce? You could take the bus or a train to the country for the holidays, but flying to the Caribbean just sounds more fun!
One thing’s for sure, the products we buy have a BIG influence on our environmental footprint; so, it's important to identify what things are made of, where they come from and how they get there.
When analyzing sofas, there are several aspects of the product's lifecycle to consider. Specifically, it’s important to calculate the materials used to make the frame, cushions, fabric and packaging as well as the manufacturing location and expected longevity.
It’s also important to know if the furniture was treated with chemicals like fire retardants, fumigants, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). (BTW everything has VOCs, they just have them at different levels- some safe and some very unsafe.) Once you add up the facts you can identify the sustainability of a given sofa.
Another thing to consider is how accurate your information is. To ensure furniture makers don’t greenwash people by stuffing dirt under the cushions, there are some government standards that guide the industry.
Here’s a breakdown of furniture industry regulations and how they relate to sustainability:
State and federal laws mandate furniture manufacturers comply with certain regulations to sell products in the United States. California’s progressive environmental policies have set some industry-wide standards for manufacturers and distributors that you should know about.
(This is about to get all policy wonkish, so hold onto your seat!)
The Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation Act section TB117-2013 has important implications on sustainability of the levels of harmful chemicals in some cushions and fabrics.
Before the state amended the law in 2014, all furniture sold in California had to pass an open flame fire test and be treated with fire retardants. Many furniture companies also adopted this standard so they could sell to the entire country. The problem is that fire retardants are derived from toxic chemicals that slowly leach into the air from cushions and fabrics creating environmental and health hazards.
The updated regulation allows manufacturers to meet fires safety standards with a new smolder test that doesn’t mandate the use of flame retardants. Unfortunately, flame retardants are still an acceptable way to comply with TB117-2013 and some furniture manufacturers use them to meet the safety standards. California, however, does require furniture brands to mark their label if they use flame retardants.
Another standard that influences sustainability in the furniture industry is the California Air and Resource Board’s (CARB’s) Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM section 93120) for composite wood products. This regulation limits the amount of formaldehyde emissions in things like hardwood plywood, particleboard and other wood materials. The current standard, known as Phase 2 in the industry, keeps formaldehyde emissions below 0.08 parts per million (ppm).
Here’s a scary fact, Duke University did a study and found that 85 percent of the sofa’s sold between 1985 and 2010 were made with formaldehyde or other toxic flame retardant chemicals.
Although regulations have made the industry safer and more sustainable, many furniture brands do the bare minimum to comply and there’s still a wide spectrum of sustainability.
How Burrow Does it Better
To tackle sustainability head on -or feet up- Burrow goes above and beyond industry standards to ensure their couches are as good for the planet as they are for your behind.
All the wood in Burrow sofa’s is grown on U.S. soil - mostly in Mississippi and Louisiana - in responsibly managed forests. This means that loggers prevent damage to ecosystems, watersheds, wildlife and the trees themselves to ensure the long term growth of the forest and their business.
Burrow's wood suppliers are also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is known as the most respected sustainable wood certification program in the world. As if that wasn’t enough, Burrow's wood suppliers are also certified by the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which ensure responsible land management and long term planning.
Burrow is going beyond the industry standards for synthetic stuffing by squashing harmful chemicals from our cushions. Their foam manufacturer is certified by CertiPUR-US and makes Burrow’s supportive base and back cushions with minimal VOC content less than 0.5 PPM and completely void of ozone depleters, PBDEs, TDCPP, TCEP flame retardants, lead, and other heavy metals, formaldehyde and phthalates.
Many other top performance brands treat their fabrics with Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) to make ensure stain resistance. Burrow’s fabrics are made from a material called olefin, which is comprised from upcycled polymers and are naturally stain-resistant.
Score! Your sofa doesn’t need to be sprayed with toxic chemicals and it still won't get stained when your favorite thai curry spills on it.
In fact, Burrow fabrics contain no formaldehyde, heavy metals, phenols, phthalates, or flame-retardant chemicals. According to the Higg Index, Burrow fabrics are the greenest upholstery fabrics available because they have the least negative impact on the planet.
The thing about packaging is that most of the time we just use it once and throw it away. Not all packaging is created equally, nor does it have the same environmental impact. Reusable, recyclable and biodegradable packaging causes significantly less harm to the environment compared to single use plastics.
According to EcoWatch, 50 percent of the plastics used globally are thrown away after being used just one time and the amount of plastic tossed annually could be wrapped around the world 4 times.
Burrow practices responsible packaging by shipping sofas in 100 percent recycled cardboard boxes instead of excessive plastic wraps typically used by other couch companies.
Burrow sofas are made in the USA, which reduces the distance between the factory and your home, ultimately reducing the shipping-related carbon footprint.
While materials, packaging and shipping are crucial to the environmental footprint of a sofa, perhaps the most influential factor is how long you keep it.
Most couches are big and heavy and hard to carry when moving. What’s more, buying a new sofa every time you pick up your bags and move adds to earth's overtapped natural resource pool. Plus, if you're moving around a lot, schlepping or buying can get expensive fast.
The Burrow couch is built to last. Not only have they custom selected environmentally friendly materials and run extensive durability tests on their products, Burrow’s modular design makes it easy to take your favorite sofa with you no matter how often you move.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into selecting, let alone building, an eco friendly couch. The good news is that the countless hours researching the right materials and design paid off. Burrow is proud to offer eco conscious couch potatoes like you the sustainable, comfortable and affordable sofa you've been looking for.