Is It Really
Worth the Hype?
When comparing the cost of organic furniture to that of conventional furniture, shoppers often walk away with a sense of sticker shock. Is organic furniture’s higher price tag just hype, or something more? Laura Sullivan, owner of Atelier Maison and Asheville design firm ID.ology, has the answer.
How It’s Made
“Organic furniture does cost more, and justifiably so,” says Laura. “The most significant factor has to do with manufacturing. Organic furniture simply takes more time and effort to make. It’s very much like the organic produce you see in the supermarket. It has a higher price tag because the farmers had to work harder to grow and nurture the plants without the use of chemicals.
“Before the advent of mass-production, crafting furniture was a slower and much greener process. Once mass-production began, the priority for many manufacturers became making the highest amount of furniture for the lowest possible cost. Cost-effective production requires more machinery, more shipping, and more hazardous chemicals.”
What It’s Made of
Standard mass-produced furniture is often made with lower-cost materials that are easy, abundant, and fast to work with. “Unfortunately, the tradeoff for faster, cheaper production is materials that are higher in toxicity,” Laura notes. “To make lower-quality materials more durable for shipping and everyday use, manufacturers treat them with chemicals and use highly toxic glues.”
Solid hardwood is the ideal, especially if it has been treated with non-toxic stains. But it is a more expensive alternative. “Solid wood takes longer to produce, is less abundant, and requires more labor to work with,” says Laura. “Of course, you get an heirloom piece that’s built to last, and a product that’s more eco-friendly and better for your health.”
It’s all About Location
Surprisingly, where a furniture piece is made affects its price, its toxicity, and its environmental impact. “Manufacturing in other countries saves on labor and material costs,” Laura observes. “But the materials and manufacturing techniques can be more toxic. Also, cargo containers and their contents are fumigated after every shipment, and this can leave toxins embedded in furniture. Ideally, you want to buy something that comes from the U.S. In addition to higher safety standards, there’s no carbon footprint.”
Quality or Quantity
The bottom line is, organic furniture is pricier for a variety of very good reasons. “There’s more time involved, more labor involved, and more care taken,” says Laura. “Materials cost more and are less abundant. There are fewer manufacturers, and more stringent requirements. But the higher quality, health benefits, and lower environmental impact can absolutely be worth the added cost.”