Sustainability in Action- How to recycle furniture
Reupholstery is probably one of the oldest forms of recycling. Older frames for chairs and sofas are usually very well built, as the standards were higher 20+ years ago. If you opt to buy new, be aware that there are many qualities of new furniture available today- yesterday’s standard is today’s upgrade/higher end furniture.
Used furniture in classic and mid-century styles can be found inexpensively at thrift stores and estate sales. What you are looking for is the right silhouette. When considering to purchase a vintage upholstered piece, see if it's heavy: hardwoods are heavier than softwoods. Test to see if the joints are firm. Most frame and spring instabilities are repairable by KJ.
Frame Padding- Cotton batting is the green material of choice. It has a much longer lifespan than foam, which is common in newer mass-produced furniture.
Earth-friendly materials used for seat cushions (and also medium to firm back cushions) are latex foam, cotton batting, down, and/or spring unit combinations. The best choice for your project will depend on the deck surface, cushion style & length, and also the support and buoyancy that you prefer. Note: soy based foams are only 5–35% soy based and the rest is oil based derivatives. This is a newer material which shows promise but isn't there yet. KJ currently does not use these foams.
Your premium choice 100% Latex, is manufactured using sap from the rubber tree, which is a renewable natural resource. It has exceptional contouring properties, is naturally resistant to bacteria, mildew, and mold. Consider these products an investment, which often carry a warranty for 20- 30 years when properly encased. Latex is biodegradable, when exposed to the elements it will actually completely turn to dust. Dunlop foam has better longevity and durability than Talalay latex.
Cotton filled mattresses have been used for thousands of years, back to the ancient Babylonians, Mesopotamian, and Egyptians. It breathes, which helps control temperature. Pure cotton will not offgas any chemicals or gases. Cotton is perfect for people with chemical sensitivities or allergies. The natural botanical cotton odor will dissipate with time. Most people don’t notice it or don’t mind it, but some people can be sensitive to the natural botanical smell.
Used alone as a cushion filling, 100% cotton provides the firmest support natural padding. It is best suited for a flat uniform surface. Cotton futon style cushions typically are 3”-7” thick and are quite heavy. It will compact, flatten and become firmer with use over time, but it can be renewed by adding another layer. Thicker cushions are hand tufted to stabilize and prevent shifting, then encased in a ticking cover. Because of cotton’s absorbency, care should be taken not to allow spills to penetrate the upholstery cover. If this is an issue, protection can be added with either a water resistant wool wrap, or a breathable waterproof barrier cloth. This natural alternative typically lasts 10-15 years.
Cotton wrapped spring units: Another alternative is a spring unit wrapped in cotton batting, which was very commonly used in furniture 20 plus years ago before synthetic foam came on the market. Compared to spring/latex these spring/cotton units will flatten out a bit over time, but can be renewed with another layer or two of cotton. Spring core cushions offer a lifetime of comfort.
Down can be considered a natural renewable resource, which requires minimal processing for use. It can be used by itself in backrests and pillows, or in combination with other natural products to achieve the feel you are looking for. Down/feather is the ultimate plush and lofty look, with a luxurious "sink in" feeling. There are a variety of feather/down/cluster fiber combinations to choose from, each creating a different loft and resistance. It has a much longer life expectancy than synthetic dacron wraps. To maintain the loft, these cushions require occasional hand fluffing.
Baffled down cushion without foam- most commonly used primarily for pillows and back cushions, as it does not provide enough support for seating unless used on top of another cushioned surface.
Featherbed style cushion- a baffled construction that is densely filled with 95%feathers/5%down combination.
Latex foam with down envelope– 3”-4 ” foam provides deep firm support, while the down provides resilient crown.
Ultra down envelope with latex foam core– A thicker down envelope gives a deep fluffy cushion top, while the thinner foam core (2"-3") provides some shape retention and support.
Spring-Down cushions consist of innerspring coils surrounded by foam, then inserted into a down envelope. The springs give the upholstered furniture support, while the down gives a luxurious surface feel.
This vegetable fiber was used for many years and is usually found in antique furniture. It is currently relatively hard to find, so down is a better option as an alternative.
Most of us, unless we have severe allergies or sensitivities to chemicals, may not be aware of all the chemicals that surround us in our homes. These undesirable substances are everywhere, from the polyurethane we use to finish our floors, to the paint on our walls, the glue used for wallpaper, our upholstery fabrics, rugs and even mattresses. Toxins can also be found in the products we clean our homes with, and in the mold that may have begun growing in the basement and that can spread its tiny spores, unseen, throughout our living space.
Families have to balance risk reduction with lifestyle issues, assessing their health -- whether or not they have an immediate medical need, such as a severely asthmatic child, the age of children, and other factors, such as financial resources.
Some will choose not to "green" their entire life at once, others will choose to take a step-by-step approach, changing one area at a time, while others may make significant changes on a variety of fronts. While it's difficult to completely eliminate all chemicals in our home environment, we can take actions to reduce our exposure:
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