Could your office benefit from sustainable furniture?

Could your office benefit from sustainable furniture?

Could your office benefit from sustainable furniture?

If your business is engaged in efforts to improve energy efficiency, the chances are you will have already examined your performance in certain key areas.

How efficiently you use electrical appliances is one obvious starting point where you could make some big improvements, along with office practices relating to lighting and the disposal of waste.

It's also advisable to make sure that any outside companies you work with, such as cleaning firms, have strong green credentials.

One area you might not have considered in your thinking around energy efficiency is your office furniture. In a recent white paper, workplace design specialists Rype Office offered an insight into why work furniture can be unsustainable and how businesses can get around this problem.

Some of the biggest disadvantages are linked to new furniture, which brings a number of "environmental, social and economic costs", according to the report.

It pointed out that extraction, refinement, shaping and transportation of the raw materials required to manufacture new office furniture all have an impact on the environment, consuming energy, water and other resources while creating greenhouse gas emissions.

There is also the issue of waste. According to figures from 2012 compiled by the Waste and Resources Action Programme, 300 tonnes of office furniture goes to landfill every working day in the UK.

Many furniture manufacturers stress that their products can be recycled, but this is left to the customer to arrange and, for many organisations, it's not necessarily a priority when they are replacing odd items here and there or moving office.

Cost is another big consideration for many businesses, with Rype Office pointing out that high-end office chairs can cost upwards of £1,000 if bought brand new.

Fortunately, the concept of the 'circular economy' - which places an emphasis on restoration, regeneration and keeping resources in use for as long as possible - is providing more sustainable furniture options for buyers.

Rype Office noted that used and second-hand furniture can be found in most cities. 

"While it has a low environmental footprint because nothing is done to the furniture, buyers should be aware of wear and damage - as well as quite high prices and low volumes through some popular marketplaces such as eBay," the company said in its report.

"Environmentally, the footprint of used furniture is limited to the transportation of the items, which is usually only a couple of percent of the environmental impact created when it is first made from virgin materials."

Another option is buying repaired or refurbished furniture, such as office chairs that have been reupholstered or have had broken parts fixed. The environmental footprint of these items can be up to 90 percent lower than that of brand new products.

If your business does decide to buy new office furniture, make sure that old items are made available for reuse or recycling. You can do this by offering your unwanted pieces of furniture to a remanufacturer.

Efforts such as these can have a big impact on your organisation's environmental performance and also show employees that the business is taking a conscientious, responsible approach to green issues.


Posted by William Rodriguez

Image courtesy of iStock/Petinovs