a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I admit it, I love to lounge on big, soft furniture – nights in front of a wood stove (ok, it’s fake wood, powered by gas, but you get the picture) with snoozing, furry pets just isn’t the same without it. However, having big soft furniture of any kind usually involves lots of toxic stuff in addition to a few felled trees. We recently moved into a small home in a co-housing community. Our current couch would simply not fit into our space, but the thought of buying anything new gave us eco-shivers (think new car smell) so we decided to go without. We placed our favorite thrift store chairs in front of the stove and settled in. But one year later, I was still dreaming of the big old/new couch

Our answer arrived one day when we found a sinking, but not-too-tattered little couch next to a dumpster. I excitedly called an artist-upholsterer friend, Michael May, and we brought it to his shop. He assessed the status of my find while I wondered and worried about how to make my salvaged treasure eco-friendly. Eventually, I found a provider of organic upholstery fabric I chose the organic hemp in my favorite colors – chocolate brown and olive green. Keeping in line with the reuse theme, Michael refilled the cushions with old yoga mats that were headed to the landfill. I love my new/old couch, but if you don’t have my good dumpster luck, check out the one of the increasing number of eco-friendly furniture companies online.

Currently, it is often much more difficult to determine the toxicity of a home furnishing than it is to determine if its made sustainably, but one helpful resource is the GreenGuard Environmental Institute. GreenGuard administers a certification program for low chemical emissions products, including furniture.

More Resources from GreenGuard:

  • The Green Guide’s Green “Starter” Furniture Finds
  • Treehugger’s How to Green Your Furniture
  •’s Greening the Cube

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One Response to “”

  1. Jerry Says:

    I dig your non-toxic, hemperific couch and your writing style. It’s good to read about someone who lives their beliefs for real and even stuffs their couch with them. Eco on!

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