Too often the words "office furniture" conjure up images of beige cubicles and faux leather chairs. Fortunately for us, the sustainable movement has emphasized intelligent design and thoughtful furniture. The October issue of Metropolis had a great feature on vendors like Haworth, Herman Miller, and Steelcase who have significantly increased the amount of recyclable materials in their chairs. Not only are these really sexy chairs, but indispensable furniture that is eco-friendly. While the most "green chairs" are re-used chairs, the ones featured are a great alternative when refurbished chairs aren't practical.
These chairs are free of much of the carcinogenic chemicals that escape landfills and pollute our soil. All three chairs are gold certified by the McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry Cradle to Cradle system which ensures environmentally friendly composition.
While the chemical make-up of each chair is an important element, they are also designed for easy disassembly. The ability to simply assemble/disassemble chairs allows for easier, more efficient shipping.....which in turn minimizes the carbon footprint of the chair. All 3 manufacturers in the article use blankets instead of cardboard for packaging on large domestic deliveries.
An unquantifiable quality the article didn't touch on was the user interaction benefit. Typically, in a LEED Certified Building, the users don't have an opportunity to interact with the building. Using chairs made with the environment in mind, that are comfortable and aesthetically pleasing is a great way for employees to see and feel green.
While the chairs will have many, many years of use, the manufacturer's provide information for customers looking to off-load their old furniture, either to third-party used-office furniture re-furbishers or for scrap. Remember, if your office decides to trade in your old chairs for some sexy new models there is probably a great home for them.
Peter Hall who penned the article for Metropolis wrote, "Ultimately, it is encouraging that while other industries rail against standards set by the EPA, office-furniture manufacturers have set themselves goals that are far higher than any federal standards."
From top to bottom:
The Mirra (Herman Miller) is 96% recyclable.
The Think (by Steelcase) is 99% recyclable.
The Zody (by Haworth) is 98% recyclable.