Friday, April 22, 2011

How Green was My Valley? I'm not Sure...

A little while back, my friend Karen (you'd love her, she's adorable) asked me if I knew where she could get a Green sofa; Green as in the lifestyle, not the color.  As much as I love being asked questions (ego stroking) and as much as I love helping people (self induced ego stroking), I was actually at a loss.  I had no idea where to get Green furniture.

A green sofa from  I love that they're
doing the sustainable thing, but it looks like a park bench
with padding.  What if you happen to like arms on a
 If you hadn't figured it out, I'm not especially enamored with the Green lifestyle that has come into fashion.  I am proud to say that I recycle absolutely everything, my light bulbs are CFL's, and I walk, rather than drive, as much as possible.  I do not, however, want to live in a rehabilitated shipping crate with a windmill in my front yard and corn growing on my roof.  I feel I'm a normal person with environmental concerns, but I'm realistic in my capacities.  I am in no way a Green Living super hero.  So while Karen's inquiry made me feel highly capable, I wondered where on earth she got the idea that I'd know anything at all.

The 'Swamp Thing' dining set from DB Furniture. 
Made of reclaimed wood and metal.
For times when you don't want company to stay
very long, or enjoy themselves.
Not wanting to look like an idiot, I began a mad hunt for Green furniture.  It wasn't pretty.  It was plywood.  It was post consumer product.  It was hideous.  If people really want Green to consume the masses, it needs to be attractive so they'll want it.  It does not need to look like Sanford and Son.  I assumed Karen wanted something attractive, and I just wasn't finding it.

In a fit of frustration, I found the solution, which was glaringly obvious.  I told Karen to go to a Thrift Shop, a Vintage shop, or a Garage Sale and get her Green fix there.  While I'm sure this shocked her, the logic made perfect sense.  Instead of buying something Green and new, be Green and buy something old that would eventually end up in a landfill.  You can not get much Greener than by reusing something old, and you will end up spending less, as anything tagged 'Green' is usually three times the price of what it's actually worth. 
Tuxedo sofas like this one are classics and work in any
interior.  Look past the blue Velour and think of a
bold graphic or a sublte Suede.
I instructed her to look for a size and profile that she liked and ignore what fabric was on it or if the springs were shot (most people can't get beyond orange velour or Naugahyde, but I told her to try).  When she finds a frame she likes, she can have it reupholstered in a Green fabric and have the best of both worlds.  Thankfully, companies like Schumacher, Robert Allen and Kravet are all making Green fabrics with Earth friendly dyes and sustainably harvested natural fibers (synthetic fibers are muder on the environment).  And as a boon to people with taste, they're actually attractive; cotton velvets, beautiful printed linens, and matelasses abound. 

So, next time you're faced with the overwhelming urge to be extra special Green, don't get caught up in the trend and look past the obvious.  The easiest solution is sometimes the best, for you and the environment.

- Ian 

Vintage sofas like this can be found at almost any Salvation Army.
While it's covered in a very awful floral Brocade, it would be a gem
if recovered in Mohair, Tweed, or Leather.

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