How can I be an environmentally conscious furniture buyer?
May 15, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in buying a bed that's made of "tropical hardwoods" and Mindi wood veneer. Am I likely to be supporting rainforest destruction? More generally, how I can make environmentally conscious buying decisions regarding furniture?

There are other options available from the same store including maple and walnut, which are more expensive. Are these more likely to be sustainably harvested? What about cheap composite stuff like MDF? Should I assume the worst if they're not labeled "plantation grown" or have Forest Stewardship Council certification? What I really wish I had was something like the Pocket Seafood selector for wood products.
posted by serathen to Science & Nature (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One environmentally-conscious buying decision regarding furniture is to not buy it new. Plenty of old, beautiful, well-designed (of all styles) furniture out there. And I don't mean that they used to make particle-board better, just that whatever bed design you like probably isn't a new design (otherwise you probably wouldn't care so much about what went into building this groundbreaking piece). Mindi wood doesn't seem particularly different from a lot of other, but perhaps you have other reasons for wanting it.
posted by rhizome at 11:29 AM on May 15, 2010

I am a woodworker and have worked with both domestic and imported woods, but I don't feel especially expert about the various eco-ethical issues involved. I tend to think that those issues are many and complex, and boiling them all down into any sort of list of binary choices seems... well, inevitably simplistic.

The number one most important thing to do, I think, is to buy well-made furniture that will be useful, to you or to someone else, for a long time. Disposable furniture gets disposed of rather quickly, creating the need for more furniture, and therefore more logging, much sooner than would've been necessary if care had been taken with the materials the first time around.

FWIW, MDF is not inherently cheap or junky. MDF is a nice, stable (if heavy) substrate for a lot of fine veneered furniture.
posted by jon1270 at 11:34 AM on May 15, 2010

Best answer: Amazonian Forest engineer here.

You very likely won't destroy rain forests. In order to export tropical woods, most countries have very strict laws and norms. The wood you buy comes from trees that are cut by authorized wood extractors, unless it's mahogany from Peru, which is definitely illegal.

For the Amazon to work as the "lung" of the world, we routinely have to cut up trees and open new spaces in the forests. Because it is only growing vegetation that captures more CO2 than it produces. it's like keeping your hair healthy. Controlled extraction is actually good.

were does the wood come from? and also, what species is it? I may be able to give you more info.

MDF could be a good choice, but if you care about having solid wood, you won't like it very much.
posted by Tarumba at 7:35 AM on May 17, 2010

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