The furniture industry is among those with the biggest environmental impact. According to data published in Science Direct in 2017, office furniture manufacturers are responsible for around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and non-renewable energy consumption and 15% of primary energy consumption.
Despite this, the office can be sustainable and ecological. Today there are certified furnishings for the entire life cycle of the product, providing for easy disassembly and replacement of damaged parts; in any case, good quality products have a longer life and a consequent lower impact.
But there is another way: that of Kings Office Furniture, which has been offering second-hand office furniture for 20 years to create a more ethical workplace.
Choosing furniture for your new office or renewing and refurnishing your workplace is complex. There are many factors to consider, from the available floor space and budget to the comfort and aesthetics of the future office setup. Sustainability and eco-friendly choices have become another mainstay of modern business operations, including workplace planning.
This article deepens the environmental impact of office furniture and suggests alternative solutions more attentive to sustainability.
“Fast fashion” approach in office furnishing.
Since the fashion industry has mastered technologies that allow producing more clothes and accessories at lower prices, overproduction and overconsumption have made the sector incredibly wasteful and led to tremendous pollution and growth of landfills worldwide.
Not to mention the socio-economic impacts of such unethical mass manufacture: unfair wages and work policies, exploitation of child labour, etc.
However, the same “standards” are applicable to almost every modern industry, including office furniture manufacturing.
Chasing lower costs, the “fast furniture” brands are using cheaper synthetic materials and importing commodities and parts from abroad, which results in a massive carbon footprint from every item.
According to the research published by the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), the manufacture of just one standard office task chair results in an average of 72 kg CO2e in Carbon footprint. A common visitor`s chair causes 36 kg CO2e and a standard office desk produces 45 kg CO2e.
Another big problem with such furniture is that manufacturers often create their items in a way that you simply cannot fix or replace the parts that break or wear off due to the low quality of materials. You simply have to get rid of the old item (i.e., throw it away) and get a new one.
But this approach creates 2 severe issues:
- Broken office furniture pieces become the lion`s share of constantly growing landfills. Made primarily out of petroleum-derived synthetic materials, they turn into the biggest waste and environmental pollution factors on the planet;
- The “fast furniture” concept creates a sense of false economies. You may feel like you are saving money buying cheaper office furniture, but the overall spending may go way over the budget roof if you look at the big picture.
Does it mean that manufacture of high-end office furniture has a lower impact on the environment? And if so, does it mean that an office that cannot offer expensive office chairs and executive desks has no chance of being sustainable and eco-friendly?
The market also offers other chances.
Ethical choices for your office furnishing.
The manufacture of a standard office chair by a global fast furniture company and a similar one from a high-end brand would require nearly the same amount of resources. And those materials will come from mainly limited and finite sources, which makes the overall furniture industry unsustainable by definition.
However, there will be a great difference between the design details, quality of structure and finishing, which will affect the lifespan of each item. Therefore, if a cheap chair with its 72 kg CO2e in Carbon footprint would have to be replaced a few times during a 10-year period, a high-quality item with the same inputs will easily outlive this period, saving a great deal of carbon emissions as well as your time and money.
By buying second-hand office furniture, you don`t only get a chance to equip your workplace with quality items at affordable prices but also make ethical choices for your office furnishing.
Millions of tons of office furniture end up in landfills worldwide. Those numbers have grown dramatically in the past couple of years due to economic recession and changes made in business operations due to the recent Pandemic of covid-19.
Kings Office Furniture has over 2 decades of experience in the second-hand office furniture trade in the UK. Throughout this period, the company has established credible supply chains, developed a vast inventory, and gained a reputation as a reliable seller that helps businesses all over the country make ethical choices in their workplace furnishing.
By choosing refurbished office furniture, your business makes an impact in preventing pollution and gets the chance to enjoy the quality, comfort and aesthetics of a luxury office setup while staying within the budget.
Text by George Wicher, Kings Office Furniture