Can the sustainable furniture trend be sustained?

Wooden tables and benches

Sustainable living is becoming increasingly popular, especially as going green and taking care of the planet have been on people’s minds a lot in recent years.

One of the main issues with living sustainably is that we buy too much and don’t necessarily opt for items that are going to last for many years. Trends change so often that the things we buy go out of fashion quickly, at this includes everything from clothing to furniture.

Why isn’t sustainable furniture more popular?

Let’s Recycle found that around 800,000 pieces of furniture are thrown away each year in London alone, showing that people aren’t holding onto pieces for very long at all.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, flatpack furniture is super popular thanks to how easy it is to have it delivered, especially for those who live in blocks of flats. It turns up in compact boxes which are easy to manoeuvre, and items are typically pretty easy to put together.

However, when it comes to moving house, these items never seem to come apart very well and it’s far more difficult to transport all of the pieces when you haven’t got the right boxes – so throwing them away and getting something new is the easiest option.

Changes in trends also play a part in this mass throwing out of furniture, as pieces can be picked up at cheap prices which makes them very disposable when they’re no longer in fashion.

Rather than choosing timeless, classic pieces that cost a little more but will last for years, people are opting for items that are cool at the time but will quickly lose their appeal and aren’t built to last.

Ikea’s furniture buy-back scheme

Ikea is one store trying to reduce the amount of furniture being thrown away by introducing a buy-back scheme. This enables people to sell their Ikea furniture back to them at an agreed price, so it can find a new home rather than ending up at the tip.

The scheme involves completing a form and sending this to Ikea along with photos of the item. They will then send you a quote and if you agree to sell at that price you can go and drop the item off at your nearest store. Once it’s been checked you’ll receive the funds and the item will be sold at the price you were paid for it.

Although this sounds like a great way to keep perfectly good furniture out of landfills, there are a few issues. You won’t be paid in cash for your furniture but will receive Ikea vouchers instead.

While this is handy if you’re looking to replace your pieces with other Ikea furniture, it doesn’t help people to buy sustainable items or to simply reduce the amount of furniture they have in their home.

Billy Bookcase
The popular Billy Bookcase, in very good condition, for example will get you £16 which is 36% of the £45 price bought new.

There are quite a few exceptions, and the only items that can be sold as part of this scheme are: drawer units, chairs, tables, cabinets, desks, shelving, and cupboards, which rules out nursery furniture, outdoor furniture, sofas, and armchairs. They won’t take kitchen cabinets or any items featuring glass either.

What else can I do with my unwanted furniture?

If your furniture isn’t from Ikea, or their buy-back scheme doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other options for discarding of your furniture in a sustainable way.

Of course, if it’s in good condition you can try to sell it on eBay of Gumtree. Just remember to state that people need to come and collect it if you don’t want to be trying to move it yourself.

British Heart Foundation
British Heart Foundation
ReUse Network
Fat Llama
Fat Llama

There are also some charities, like the British Heart Foundation, who sell second-hand furniture and will often come and collect it from you which is super convenient.

Another option for discarding of unwanted furniture is to contact the Reuse Network. This nationwide initiative will take a whole range of items off your hands and will distribute them to people in need. From furniture and electrical appliances to bicycles and books, they’ll recycle or find homes for all of your unwanted goods.

In the USA, the sustainable furniture trend is being helped with the option to rent furniture. Mostly aimed at people who have to move across the country for work or to study, this idea means that people don’t have to pay for furniture to fill accommodation that they’re just going to end up moving out of a year or so later.

Frequently moving long distance isn’t something that happens too often in the UK, so it’s unlikely that this will catch on. However, John Lewis have partnered with Fat Llama to offer some pieces for rent which may be something that we see more of in the future.

What’s the best way to embrace sustainable furniture?

The number one thing that you can do to ensure that your furniture is sustainable is to invest in pieces that are built to last. This means that you won’t be throwing items away every year and the furniture you have will be able to move with you wherever you go.

Opt for strong, durable materials and choose pieces that require very little assembly so you know that they’re solid. Although you might not want to spend more on your furniture, it will work out cheaper in the long run as you won’t need to keep replacing it, plus you’re less likely to see it as disposable if it cost a bit more.

Plus, great quality second-hand furniture is always in demand, so you’ll easily find a new home for it should you need to.

The sustainability trend is one that’s going to stick around, so we may see more schemes being introduced to help people to recycle or rehome their furniture and these could become a mainstream option in the future.

In the meantime, shopping smart and buying pieces that are built to last is definitely the way forward.

See Also
Pile of dumped chairs
5 easy ways to dump your furniture
Carboard ready for recycling
Recycling Made Simple