What are the most sustainable office furniture materials?
The Covid-19 pandemic heightened our awareness of many different aspects of working, including the benefits of collaboration and the need to strike a healthy work-life balance. Interestingly, one of the other main outcomes of lockdown was the need always to be kind, not just to everyone around us but also to the environment as a whole. As a result, the appetite for sustainable office furniture has grown in the last three years, so now’s the perfect time to consider how to make your office more eco-friendly.
The choice and quality of sustainable office furniture has never been greater, whether it’s office seating, desking or storage. The main materials which provide the highest levels of sustainability are as follows:
Inevitably, wood has always been one of the go-to materials for desks and social seating, and as an infinitely renewable resource it’s one of the most sustainable – and long-lasting – materials available. As well as being renewable, it also contributes to reducing carbon emissions. The primary endorsements are the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) labels, and these can apply to common wood types such as oak and beech.
Once the preserve of more ‘informal’ offices, bamboo is now used by creatives wishing to incorporate lightweight, sustainable and attractive furniture in their office designs.
Bamboo grows much faster than wood – up to 36 inches in 24 hours in some cases – so can reach full size a lot more quickly and is therefore the ultimate renewable material. It’s also incredibly durable so can be a good investment for furniture in high traffic areas.
Wool, hemp and linen
Materials such as these are highly sustainable and they add a degree of organic, textural interest, allowing you to convey a calm and considerate impression. Older furniture can be re-generated by re-upholstering them, which not only prolongs their life but also saves resources. An additional benefit of wool is that it’s naturally flame retardant and can regulate heat. Hemp, meanwhile, is very versatile and easy to cultivate, while linen is strong, flexible and 100% biodegradable.
Steel and aluminium
Steel can be viewed as sustainable because it’s strong, it can be repurposed – and therefore recycled – an infinite number of times and it’s very cost-effective to produce. For these reasons, steel lends itself very well to chair bases. Aluminium is also completely recyclable, and its re-use saves around 95% of the energy utilised in its original production from raw materials.
Recycled and emerging materials
Increasingly, manufacturers are looking to innovate by producing furniture from recycled materials because they don't rely on non-renewable resources which need to be sourced for each making. And innovation is the name of the game too, with manufacturers looking to land upon the best new sustainable material. Mushroom mycelium, for example, could be the sustainable material of the future because it can grow into any shape, it can vary in its density, it insulates against sound and heat, and it’s also fire resistant. To date it’s been used in stools and tables, but its use looks set to grow.
As Lee Alexander, owner of Alexander Green Office Interiors, observes, businesses need to embrace the importance of sustainability and build it into their office spaces. ‘We’ve been supplying sustainable office furniture from leading manufacturers such as X and Y for many years,’ comments Lee. ‘The quality is second to none and the pricing is competitive, so we believe that it makes perfect sense to specify sustainable furniture where it’s appropriate. As well as creating a great feelgood factor for your staff, it also sends a powerful message that your brand is caring, compassionate and concerned about the future of the planet.’
Alexander Green specialise in office design and office furniture in Cambridge and across the UK, so please call us on 01763 500115, send us an email or complete our enquiry form to request a quotation.
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