Time to invest in new office furniture? Comfort, aesthetics, and budget are important to consider when shopping for the right furnishings for your workspace, but so is sustainability. With more companies embedding environmental, social, and corporate governance practices (ESG) into their business, establishing an eco-friendly profile is becoming essential to creating a competitive workplace, especially for Millennial workers, who report that they prefer to work for employers who take sustainability seriously.
But aside from attracting top talent, there are plenty of other reasons why purchasing eco-friendly office furniture can pay off for your business. Items made from sustainable materials are not only better for the planet, but they also have a longer life cycle. While they may be slightly pricier up front, you won’t have to replace them every few years—lowering your carbon footprint and saving you money in the end (win-win). Investing in green products can also boost your brand image and improve employee health and productivity. Avoiding items that release harmful gasses into the air, such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), reduces fatigue, nausea, and headaches for workers. Plus, better air quality leads to better mental performance.
Top Brands for Zero-Waste Furniture
Whether you’re looking for desks, chairs, storage solutions, or other office accessories, there are no shortage of options when it comes to sustainable office furniture. Shopping for the right brands can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Start by looking at the material composition of products. Are they made from natural renewable materials like wood, wool or bamboo? Do they contain recyclable materials such as aluminum? Do they come with a lifetime warranty? Here’s a look at seven of our favorite manufacturers in the eco-friendly office furniture space and what we love about their products:
A leading manufacturer of ergonomic products designed to improve the health and comfort of work life, Humanscale is committed to reversing not only its carbon footprint but also the environmental impacts of others. Its products, which range from sit/stand workstations to lighting to tools that manage technology and clutter, focus on function, simplicity, and longevity. Its Smart Ocean chair is made from discarded fishing nets that have been cast into the ocean and are notorious for damaging ecosystems and killing marine life. Along with doing its part to eliminate ocean plastic, Humanscale also partners with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to restore biodiversity to Cambodia’s Eastern plains and protect the endangered wildlife there.
Since 1944, Emeco has been salvaging aluminum to make chairs—originally for the U.S. Navy, but now for commercial and residential customers. The Pennsylvania-based manufacturer, which makes all its furniture in America, lives by the motto: “Begin with what’s left over. Turn it into what will last.” Up to 90% of its products, which also include stools, benches, tables, and outdoor furniture, are made from recycled materials such as scrap aluminum, recycled plastic, and other reclaimed materials. Plus, all its products have a lifetime warranty! The company constantly works to minimize its environmental impact. It recently reduced the amount of glass fiber used in its 111 Navy Chair, which is made of recycled plastic bottles, boosting its recyclability. Emeco has also reduced its scrap rate by 50% and moved its supply chain closer to its factory to cut down on CO2 transport emissions.
Named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for ten years running, Keilhauer describes itself as a “design activist” focused on making office furniture more comfortable and sustainable. With multiple certifications from accredited organizations for its leadership in environmental stewardship, product material chemistry, and sustainability, the company prioritizes eco-friendly practices across its operation, from selecting and procuring recyclable materials to reducing embedded CO2 emissions in its products. Its table, seating, and storage solutions for offices, conference rooms, lounges, and more are stylish, versatile, and built to the highest environmental standards. It also offers an array of sustainably produced collections, such as its new recyclable workstation, Epix—a zero waste-to-landfill product that is toxin-free.
Watson designs and builds distinctive office furniture in the Pacific Northwest that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also environmentally sound. For its desks and workstations, conference and meeting tables, and office storage and accessories, the company uses materials that are either recycled or recyclable and don’t have off-gas toxins, including wood with no added formaldehyde reclaimed from Northwest milling operations, laminates comprised of phenolic resin and kraft paper, linoleum with a biodegradable surface finish, and edge banding made from PVC-free polypropylene. Its privacy screens are upholstered with recycled polyester fabric fashioned from reclaimed plastic bottles. Watson also employs environmentally minded production processes to reduce its energy usage and minimize and recycle waste—down to its sawdust, which is repurposed as biomass fuel.
A subsidiary of the Australia-based Baresque Group, a leading provider of wallcoverings, fabrics, acoustics, and commercial furniture, func. specializes in acoustically excellent screens and mobile walls that are creatively designed and sustainably produced. The PET used in its walls and screens is made from 100% recyclable materials and is formaldehyde free with low levels of VOCs. The company recently expanded its design and manufacturing operations to the United States to minimize transport emissions and reduce its carbon footprint. Best of all, its products are durable and can be sent back to the company to be recycled when no longer needed!
A longtime supplier of visual communication tools for workspaces, Ghent is the only Level certified glassboard company in the market. It makes 95% of its products in the U.S., enabling the company to control the entire manufacturing process, from sourcing to assembling. Ghent works to reduce waste and ensure that any scrap produced is recycled. In addition to their sustainability certification, Ghent’s sleek glassboards include mobile and wall-mounted options, can be customized with logos or designs, and come in a variety of colors.
A producer of solid wood furniture for residential and commercial markets, Created Hardwood transforms responsibly sourced trees and wood slabs into durable, stunning pieces suited for every nook of the office, from the conference room to communal work cafes. It also gives back to nature through its partnership with One Tree Planted, a nonprofit reforestation charity. For every piece of furniture sold, the manufacturer and nonprofit team up to plant a tree in the Appalachian Mountains.