Buying greener furniture, fittings and flooring
A surprising amount of energy and water is used to manufacture furniture and flooring. You can make a difference by choosing sustainably produced wood and furniture, and fitting energy and water efficient fixtures in your home.
Choose low-energy lighting options
Low-energy light bulbs (also called compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)) can use five times less electricity than old-style conventional light bulbs, meaning fewer carbon emissions. They work in standard fittings and lamps.
- low-energy bulbs are now widely available at low prices (including in supermarkets)
- a 20 watt, 12,000 hour CFL will save around £60 over its lifetime compared with an equivalent 100 watt tungsten filament bulb
- you can buy low-energy bulbs that look similar to old-style bulbs and give out the same coloured light
- most low-energy bulbs have information about their brightness compared with conventional bulbs on the packet
- many low energy bulbs on sale can't be used with dimmer switches, but these are becoming more widely available
- don't forget to keep low-energy lights switched off when not in use
Choose wood products from sustainable sources
You can find wooden furniture or flooring products made from sustainable timber in the shops or on the internet.
Look for labels from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) or other forest certification schemes. You can ask your retailer about certification schemes.
Re-use and renovate furniture and flooring
Consider options besides buying new products:
- buying second-hand or vintage furniture - or exchanging items for free - is good for the environment as it saves on new materials (but old foam-filled furniture may be a fire risk and should be disposed of)
- renovating old wooden floors can look great and add value to your home
- using reclaimed floorboards instead of buying new saves valuable resources
- Reducing waste, re-using and repairing
- Freecycle - find exchange projects in your area
- Disposal of bulky items (property and housing section)
Be aware of treatments and finishes
Many paints, adhesives and varnishes give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can damage the environment by reacting with other chemicals to produce what's known as surface level ozone.
When you are choosing a treatment, adhesive or varnish, look at the product labels to check the VOC content before you buy. Try to find the one with the lowest VOC content possible.
Recycle wherever possible
Find out how to recycle your old, unwanted items:
- use old floorboards to make a compost bin or to create raised beds in your garden or allotment
- reuse old carpet in the garden for controlling weeds or keeping your compost bin warm
- instead of throwing away your old furniture, try donating it to a charity shop, selling it on an online auction website or recycling it
You can only buy, sell or give away second-hand upholstered (padded) furniture, like sofas, if it has the original permanent fire safety label attached. Otherwise, it might not meet fire safety standards. For more information, see the below guide to furniture and furnishings fire safety regulations from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) website.
- A Guide to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations (PDF 359 KB)
- RecycleNow - Tips on how to dispose of old carpet
- Help with PDF files
Install fittings that save water
When installing new fittings there are a number of things you can do to save water:
- fit water-saving shower heads
- fit aerator or spray fittings to taps in hand basins (though not on baths or sinks, as the water flow will be too slow to fill them)
- fit a low flush or dual-flush cistern on your toilets
- Saving water in your home
The wider issue
The choices you make for furnishing your home can have an impact on the environment. For example, wood or furniture made from illegally logged trees can lead to habitat loss.
It is estimated that over a quarter of timber arriving into the UK has been produced illegally.
Choosing more efficient water fittings can help to ease water shortages and reduce the energy needed to pump and treat our water.
You can reduce your impact on the environment by choosing carefully when you buy furniture and fittings for your home.