Is Salvaged Furniture Really a Green Product?

Restoration Hardware has begun offering eco-friendly furniture through the concept of using salvaged wood to construct their products. Salvaged, or reclaimed wood, is considered eco-friendly because the process uses wood that has already been harvested and used, rather than harvesting live trees, which benefit the environment in countless ways.

There are two important things to consider when looking at eco-friendly furniture: tree species, and location of the salvaged wood.

Consider Location of Salvaged Wood before Buying

It is important to consider the original location of the salvaged wood, because transportation of good is a major factor of population. The closer to home a product originates, the less of an impact it’s transportation will make on the environment.

In the case of Restoration Hardware’s collection, the wood is purported to come from “100 year old buildings in Great Britain.” This means that the wood must be transported to the United States, where Restoration Hardware is headquartered, via cargo ships, or through air shipments. Dense products such as wood are generally shipped through marine transportation.

Though the eco-friendliness of this product drops slightly because of the distance it must travel across the Atlantic Ocean, it is still better than vehicle transportation. According to the OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, marine transport creates less pollution than both trucking and rail-car methods. In this case, the environmental impact of transporting furniture is reduced through the use of ships.

Consider the Type of Wood before Buying Salvaged Furniture

The eco-analysis of salvaged furniture gets murkier when one considers that the type of wood being salvaged is pine. Pine is among the finest trees to use with regard to sustainability. Because pine grows quick, straight, and tall, there are many tree farms that practice sustainable use. This means that the trees are grown in a way that new trees are quickly replaced after trees have been harvested for furniture use. This limits the environmental impact substantially.

Hardwoods, such as maple, oak, and cherry trees, are very difficult to harvest sustainably because they take longer to grow. Salvaged hardwood is more eco-friendly because salvaging this type of wood means consumers are avoiding the destruction of a tree species that may not be replaced anytime soon.

Final Considerations

Salvaged furniture is eco-friendly, though the benefits increase significantly if the salvaged wood is a hardwood found salvaged from a building in a local community. If a consumer is concerned about using only eco-friendly furniture, than he or she should careful research the location of the original wood, the species of the original wood, and whether or not a local building is available for such products.