Would you like to know where to find recycled furniture? Most people these days get their furniture from stores like IKEA (which apart from the leather sofas) is one of the most sustainable brands of the superstore warehouses, even if their items are a nightmare to put together. Find someone to do it for you instead at Task Rabbit. But a lot of the (especially more expensive) furniture still comes from rainforests, and cheaper furniture tends to fall apart, so this is wasteful too.
This reclaimed teak rustic stool is suitable for indoor or outdoor use, and crafted from reclaimed wood, with a light wax finish. Perfect as a perch or for garden picnics, this stool has a sturdy structure and chunky appearance. Due to natural colourings and shapes, the pieces vary. As with all outdoor furniture, store inside or undercover during winter or harsh weather. Fully assembled. Over time, this will turn a soft grey colour.
Although people regularly spend up to £1000 on a new sofa (see below for more sustainable options), furniture is designed these days to be cheap. And that often means importing wood from tropical rainforests, so people can buy a wardrobe for £99. In the US, people throw out 12 million tons of furniture and furnishings each year, with only a small amount recycled. Mattresses say with stains, are not even taken by charities, so if you were caring for an ill relative, the mattress would have to go to landfill anyway.
Most furniture is of course made from wood. And wood is from trees, which gets chopped down. There are some wonderful images on this post of beautiful custom furniture from reclaimed wood. All well and good, but most people can’t afford to pay over a thousand pounds for a bed or table. So not to fear, we shall also look at more affordable options, if you are on a budget.
We may care about the rainforests. But did you know that England has lost 97% of its forests? And the government recently almost sold off the remaining ones to private industry (a David Cameron idea). Only a petition at 38 Degrees stopped it.
In 2019, Brazilian ‘forest guardian’ Paulo Paulino Guajajara was killed by armed loggers. He said before his death ‘It makes me so mad to see this forest destruction. These people think they can come here, into our home, and help themselves to our forest? No. We won’t allow it. We don’t break into their houses and rob them, do we? My blood is boiling. I’m so angry’. His life was taken at just 26 years old,
80% of Brazilian hardwood is logged illegally, with almost 200 environmental activists having been killed in 2015 alone, trying to stop this, to protect the Amazon rainforest. A few years back, the Catholic nun Dorothy Stang (who lived in the rainforests trying to protect it and tribes from illegal foresting) was shot (witnesses say she prayed for her killers, as she died).
Sustainable Flatpack Furniture?
Not as much as Rust Collections (reclaimed and handmade)
It’s getting better, but only just. Ethical Consumer says that IKEA is by far the best, but even this store has its issues. It now uses 1% of all the world’s wood yet has hardly any recycled wood items (if others can do it, why can’t they?) IKEA stores are also designed to get you lost, so you buy more than you need.
IKEA also sells leather (not nice nor eco-friendly). It sells millions of meatballs (animal cruelty – they are not from free-range farms) and the company has a history of not using its massive wealth to pay its fair share of taxes. Having said that, it does have the most sustainable wood, and less toxic fire retardants.
B & Q is next, followed by most of the other big chains offering FSC-certified wood. This just means old forests are chopped down to make way for fast-growing plantations covered in chemicals. If wood is not FSC-certified, it’s likely from tropical rainforests. Ethical Consumer’s worst choice is NEXT (they don’t score well for ethics on clothes either), so it’s surprising they are so popular, considering they are not cheap.
Custom-Made Recycled Furniture
- Rust Collections (Buckinghamshire) makes beautiful handmade furniture from reclaimed wood. Choose from beds, stools, benches and tables, all finished with natural wax, to pass down generations.
- Etsy may be more known for selling crafts and blog themes, but it has many artisans who make handmade furniture from reclaimed wood. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s far cheaper than designer furniture from reclaimed wood, and will last as long.
Grow Your Own Chair
Full Grown actually ‘grows chairs’ from the ground. They are birthed (like a full-grown adult from a Flann O’Brien novel) by forming the branches around frames over a few years. It’s then removed from the tree and dried.
Recycled Furniture on a Budget
Most people would love the furniture above, but are on a budget. Here are a few alternative ideas:
- Look up your local wood recycling organisation. This is where people donate old wood or furniture. The broken wood is turned into kindling and the good wood is often remade into custom furniture items for sale. It’s still expensive to a point (because it’s handmade). But it will last, and you are supporting the local community rather than a big company.
- End Furniture Poverty lists charities locally and nationwide that can help. This is where people donate their furniture and furnishings (mattresses and sofas must carry fire tags), and they are sold to the public at good prices. People on benefits get even more discounts, so it’s a great way to get some good furniture at a good price. In present climates, you may have to be on benefits to qualify.
- Emmaus and Reuse Network have outlets nationwide (the former gives homes and jobs to homeless people, who do up the furniture and refurbish PAT-tested white goods like fridges and freezers).
- Family Fund can offer grants to families with disabled children (say if you needed a special bed).
- Try architectural salvage yards or even the local tip. Some even have little pop-up furniture shops and you can help yourself or buy good furniture at a low price.
These pine boards from old railway stations, are made from reclaimed wood, and then handcrafted in a workshop by skilled craftsman. Supplied with copper colour pipe fitting, and given several coats of wax to bring out their beauty. All wax fixings are supplied. 108cm length or extra length for £10 more (152cm).
It’s always good to find items made from reclaimed wood, rather than new. This protects our forests, whether that’s native forests, boreal forests in the Arctic region, or tropical rainforests in South America, Asia or Australia. Preserving forests not only helps native wildlife, but also helps to stop climate change.
About the Maker
Woods Vintage Home Interiors (Yorkshire) makes everything by hand in an old school, in the industrial area of Hull. All items are painted by hand, and made with reclaimed or sustainable materials, sourced locally. Everything designed is unique, you will not find anything like they make anywhere else. The reclaimed items means that each item has its own lumps, bumps, character and grain.