An ecological sofa? To do what ? We don’t necessarily think about it, but furniture contributes to the air pollution in our homes. Your favorite sofa too, most certainly. Composed of materials, glues and chemical resins, it releases toxic substances sometimes long after purchase. And unlike decoration and construction products subject to the environmental label, which tells us about volatile polluting emissions, the sofa is silent on the subject. Here are some essential tips for choosing a right, corner, convertible sofa, etc.
THE SOFA, A PIECE OF FURNITURE THAT HAS BECOME DISPOSABLE
Gone are the days when furniture was passed down from generation to generation: modern furnishings have changed traditions and production conditions. In order to be renewed often, furniture must sell for a low price. To guarantee a minimum price, we necessarily sacrifice a lot. Quality of course, but also respect for the environment, health and social issues. It’s true, it’s very difficult to resist the frenzied temptation to change your decor, and remove the sofa that seems old-fashioned to us. Especially since every day, the furniture and decoration hypermarkets tempt us with incredible promotions! But let’s sit down for two minutes. On the sofa, then. And let’s take the time to examine it from every angle, just to discover what it is hiding from us …
NOT VERY ECOLOGICAL MATERIALS IN OUR SOFAS
First, the details of the composition of our synthetic sofa:
The structure of the sofa
It is most often made of chipboard . This is fragmented wood waste, sorted, then mixed with glue before being hot pressed and sanded. They have a high concentration of formaldehyde , in particular in the glues and resins used to bind wood waste from furniture at low cost (inexpensive binder). These chipboards or MDF (medium density fibreboard), are used in the manufacture of many of our daily furniture: wardrobes, dressers, tables and other daily furniture. Hard to escape
panels without urea-formaldehyde and formaldehyde (manufacturers indicate this when this is the case, but it is still too rare, especially in furniture). For information: particle boards classified E1 contain less formaldehyde. A lower threshold, called E0.5 -the E0 is being studied by manufacturers. We look forward to it! –
natural materials: rattan which is experiencing a strong comeback, water hyacinth, bamboo, etc.
Solid wood is better, we agree. But beware, it often undergoes many preventive and curative treatments : solvents (white spirit, xylenes), insecticides (synthetic pyrethroids), fungicides (carbamates, azoles, quaternary ammonium), etc., according to the National Research Institute and security (INRS).
The seat and cushions of the sofa
They are usually polyester or polyurethane foams, VOC traps, and dust mites’ dream haunts.
To be preferred : foams guaranteed without CFC (expanding agent), especially in sofa beds. Some foams incorporate new polyols of plant origin (soy) in their formula to replace polyols from petrochemicals. The Certipur label (see labels) is an additional guarantee.
They are treated with chemical compounds to make them waterproof, fireproof, stain resistant … It is very practical but potentially harmful. Not to mention the fungicides generously soaked to prevent mold when transporting sofas made on the other side of the world.
To be preferred : fabrics in natural materials (cotton, linen), preferably organic or untreated.
If the leather sofa imposes it in the middle of the living room, its underwear is really not chic! Leather is generally treated by particularly polluting chemical processes to make it stable and supple (tanning with chromium salts). Production conditions, especially in Asia and North Africa, generate ecological disasters and massive pollution of rivers and groundwater, poisoning workers and entire populations.
To be preferred : leather obtained from vegetable tanning, using plant extracts, without treatment. The choice is more limited, but the air will be healthier …
Glues, resins, varnishes present in the sofas
They are used for assembly and finishes release many solvents which contribute to polluting the air in your interior.
To be preferred : water-based glue, varnish without solvents.
TIPS FOR RELAXING IN YOUR ECOLOGICAL SOFA
1. Feel If the piece of furniture you want emits a strong “chemical” smell , ask yourself… It may have undergone too much treatment or a problem during its manufacture (several large brands have had to recall “toxic” furniture). And take the opportunity to warn the seller.
2. Auscultate the chipboard panels They are classified according to their degree of formaldehyde emissions. If you have access to this information, choose the A +.
3. Choose solid wood, local or certified, untreated
4. Think outside the box It’s not just the international giants (Swedish or otherwise) in the sofa market, many companies offer furniture made locally or from fair trade . They work with designers to develop contemporary, eco-designed ranges, combining aesthetics and quality. The price will certainly be higher, but also the durability.