Sustainability in the 21st Century’s Throw-Away Culture

Today I read an article about how you can get top quality furniture at a cost less than IKEA, Wal-Mart and other Furniture Companies such as Rooms-To-Go having the furniture that today’s young men and women want. 

But I want to preface this in that those who don’t understand the culture – misunderstand who they are attempting to market – and how they market – their wares to.

Let’s take an example of this.   Many of your millennial (don’t call an 18-24 year old a millennial – they aren’t) are going to Rooms-to-Go and picking up what they think is quality fine furniture thinking that it is highly sustainable.  It is made out of pressed sawdust and cardboard, and commonly are highly flammable, low durability and less life span than other products.  It’s popular because it’s cheap.   For those of you who don’t know what press board is – as the name implies, pressboard furniture is created from various slates of wood pressed and heated together to create a fabricated piece of wood.

It has been marketed as a sustainable product, and it really is not.  Almost like the Toyota Prius’ is marketed as environmentally friendly, when the building of the batteries, the operation of the car, and the deconstruction of the car leaves places where the work is done an environmental disaster area.  But it saves money getting back and forth to work, and that to the average American consumer saving gas is sustainable.

You might say – that’s great – but how are we supposed to get rid of this second hand furniture?  Like with anything, a Boy Scout Troop, a New Product, an Old Product Renewed, or my favorite – the spray on hair care product to cover up your bald spot in order to look younger – your marketing has to make logical sense – and you have to market it.  Period.

Let’s look deeper into Particle Board furniture.   Do you remember how much trouble the Federal Emergency Management Agency got into trouble about having formaldehyde in their emergency trailers?   Some particle boards are not eco-friendly, as they are manufactured using urea formaldehyde resin which is the source of formaldehyde gas.  So what happens when you have all of that gas and nowhere for it to go?  It becomes a health hazard.  Not only is it not eco-friendly – but it’s not sustainable – as it has to be burned.

You have to admit, the idea of press board and particle board furniture is great – on the surface. All you have to do is get the box it came in into your car, and then head home – the excitement of a new challenge awaits!  You would get to your domicile, spread out the pieces and assemble them one at a time. No more would you be chained to finding a person help you move or drag that big heavy sturdy solid wood thing up the steps.  You now have a peace of mind you would not strain your back, right?

Despite the warnings of how inferior the products are, many purchase the products, hike them up the stairs one piece at a time and try to decipher the directions. After about four hours on the floor, you go seek out someone who can tell you how to assemble the product as they can decipher the cryptic language of the pictorial instructions.   One of the most distinct disadvantages of press board furniture.  The other?  Try to move it.

That same person if they are around will help you and your allen wrench take it apart, attempt to put it into the truck and go to the next home.   You could move it but you are now having a flashback to the guy telling you that if it dries out it will break – or if it gets wet it will swell up and break.  The second disadvantage of pressboard furniture.

When it is all said and done, when you find your home you will live in for a longer period of time, the furniture chips, cracks, breaks.   So your pressboard furniture will last less than 3 years if you are a mover (You move to the next fashionable apartment).  And it will look like you got it from a rummage sale when you get to that last move.

Furniture is never really a big deal to anyone.  As long as it is functional, looks reasonably nice and has it’s purpose it is never be a problem.  Until you move.

A recent story by the staff of the Professor’s House said “I finally….just replaced the pressboard jobs I had purchased only three years before, I bought high quality solid wood furniture. It’s beautiful. It didn’t take an assembly team or tools to make them functional, and the delivery people were wonderfully careful not to gouge up my house when they delivered the new pieces.”

And with that – comes a new sense of sustainability.   I am not talking about Victorian Dark Wood Furniture – only one person out of 300 Million still is looking for it.  I am talking about a new awareness from those who are 40 and younger who are looking to reject fast fashions, getting rid of the press board mentality, and looking at purchasing solid wood furnishings.  Why?  They are sustainable.  They can be re-upholstered, they can be re-used.

According to Barnebys, sales of furniture and furnishings in 2018 increased 32% compared to previous years.  The interest came from millennials.  And they are after mid-century modern designs, and colonial antiques that look contemporary and some classic furnishings.

I will let the rest of the article from Barneby’s speak for itself.   You can read it at: https://www.barnebys.com/blog/forget-ikea.the-new-trend-is-to-buy-antique-furniture?uid=forget-ikea.the-new-trend-is-to-buy-antique-furniture

“Today it is possible to buy a high-quality object made by hand in the 1800s for less than the cost of a piece of IKEA furniture,” continues Silfverstolpe.

In the last few years the secondhand market has become more accessible. Fewer and fewer people throw away items, instead favoring exchange or sale through dedicated channels like auction. To avoid the practice of quantity over quality that fast fashion has taught us, new generations choose instead to buy used items with particular attention to craftsmanship and durability.

“Quality pays,” insists Silfverstolpe. “Not only for the wallet but also for the environmental impact. This explains the growing interest in a unique and personalized furniture, where quality is an essential prerequisite for objects to last.”

The eco-friendly and sustainable argument always returns back to trees and the furniture that is crafted from them.   It is durable, it is sustainable, it is eco-friendly.  Buy solid wood furniture first.

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