The Problem with Fast Furniture and Why We Must Avoid It

Posted April 5, 2022 by in Decor
boho chic living room with natural light

We have become a society obsessed with convenience, and one where we can quickly get whatever we want whenever we want. Every time we go and buy a new chair, or a new desk for our home office, chances are, we’re disposing of the old without a second thought. Mass production of furniture not only breeds an insidious habit of endless consumerism but also increases environmental pollution. 

The Environmental Issues with Fast Furniture

Lack of Durability

Mass-produced furnishings are never designed with durability in mind. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that low costs are due to low-quality materials. As a result, we tend to buy them repeatedly.

Unrecyclable Components

According to the US EPA, furniture accounted for about 12 million tons of garbage in 2018. More than 80% of that is disposed of in landfills rather than being recycled or repurposed.

The lack of recycling cannot be blamed too much on end-users, either. Fast furniture is challenging to repair because manufacturers don’t really expect you to. A solid wood wardrobe is relatively straightforward to sand and repaint when it gets old, but a particleboard computer desk? Not really.

Overseas Manufacturing

Another reason mass-produced furniture items are cheap is that they’re manufactured overseas, where labor and overhead costs are lower. This growing delivery distance between end-users and manufacturers leaves a colossal carbon footprint.

Cozy living room corner with an eclectic vibe

How Can End-Users Help?

While we might argue that manufacturers are to blame for most of the difficulties with fast furniture, there is always something we can do to tip the scales for the environment.

1. Shop Locally

When you shop locally, you’re more likely to get something manufactured with a more transparent and careful manufacturing method than if you buy anything sent from overseas. Furthermore, you will feel good about contributing to the local economy.

2. Look into Eco-Labels

Eco-labels are voluntary performance certificates that tell consumers about a product’s or service’s environmental effect and sustainability criteria. Producers are encouraged to enhance their performance in all of these areas. Government authorities, non-profit environmental advocacy organizations, industry organizations, and commercial enterprises can all hold or control eco-labels.

Learning about eco-labels and certifications will aid you in deciding which furniture to purchase. Thara Kesavapillai, an environmental strategist, goes in-depth about this in a post about furniture sustainability guidelines in the United States.

3. Explore the Used Market

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have lovely furnishings. Secondhand stores can have fabulous buys because furniture constructed decades ago was designed to be passed down to future generations. Minor repairs, refurbishment, or upcycling may go a long way toward giving an item a new breath of life.

4. Keep Up with Routine Maintenance

Even if you buy a piece that should last a long time, it’s critical to maintain it regularly to ensure that it lasts. You can tighten the bolts, clean the fabrics, or repaint them whenever possible.

5. Consider Renting Furniture

Because it is simple and adaptable, furniture rental is discussed as the “next big thing.” This is a clever solution for people who tend to move all the time or those who quickly grow bored of their interior furnishings.

styled mid-century modern credenza

Fast furniture. They’re cheap, shoddily built, and environmentally damaging. The issue is that for each person who buys a piece of mass-produced furniture, 20 more are manufactured — creating a chain reaction of waste. That being said, end-users are not totally powerless. The steps above can help people lead greener lives by avoiding this fast furniture culture.