In the early days of my design career I worked in an architecture firm that specialized in "green" design, and what I learned there formed the basis for a lot of what I do in my work to this day.  When handling remodels and new construction I try to take the more ecologically sound route whenever possible, and of course there is a LOT of application for this approach in the furniture design business as well.

So here's a little primer on what makes Clad Home furniture one of the safest and greenest choice you can bring into your home.

There are basically two categories of impact to consider when we're talking about this stuff:  the eco-personal and the eco-global.

How safe, non-toxic, and free from harmful off-gassing chemicals is the product I'm working with?  In other words, is it bad for my health and my personal surroundings?

What's the environmental impact of the production, transport, use, and eventual disposal of the product I'm working with?  In other words, is it bad for the environment at large?

In the upholstery business the main eco-culprits are the carbon footprint of an item (i.e. was it made locally or did it ship from China) and the chemicals used to treat the foam and fabric, namely nasty flame-retardant chemicals known to pose a myriad of health risks such as cancer, and the disruption of hormones and brain development.  Yikes!

We're happy to share that Clad Home sofas and upholstery come up winners on both the eco-personal AND the eco-global counts.  Our furniture is all made in LA under ethical work and environmental conditions.  And it contains no flame-retardant chemicals or other chemical additives.  Our foam is sourced locally in southern California from a manufacturer that does not use flame-retardants.  Ever.

Without sending you back to high school organic chemistry class, it’s also worth mentioning that our foam manufacturing process reuses the CO2 (a chemically inert gas that is a byproduct created at other points during production) as the "blowing agent” required for making foam, instead of using other ozone-depleting, cancer causing chemicals that have long been the industry standard.

Likewise for the fabrics we offer.  They're milled locally and are never treated with toxic flame-retardant chemicals.  Some of our fabrics such as the Key Largo line even come from an Okeo-Tex certified mill that refrains from using harmful chemicals at any point in the dying and manufacturing process of their fabrics.
I'm often asked by clients if we can treat their sofa with a ScotchGard anti-stain treatment before it leaves our factory.  But we don't, because once again we run up against some big big eco-issues.  ScotchGard has been so pervasively used for the past 40 years that it's become a common household verb.  Unfortunately it contains an artificially made group of chemicals and compounds (perfluourochemicals) that simply don't degrade in nature, they just build up, and as a result they've now been found to contaminate pretty much all human tissue (yes that means you and I) and are even found in eagle, mink, and polar bear populations as far away as Antarctica.  Double yikes.

100% GREEN
Lastly, while it's nice to know that at Clad Home we're not dousing our foam or fabrics with lots of extra toxic chemicals, it bears mentioning that standard polyurethane foam is a petroleum-based product, which brings us back full circle in the eco-equation .  Poly foam (and plywood, paints, stains, particle board, and just about everything used in the mainstream building industry) will off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to varying degrees.  So if you're searching for the very "greenest" alternative to standard polyurethane foam, it will always be natural latex foam that is derived from the sap of the rubber tree.  Not synthetic man-made latex mind you...both exist and you should know that the  "memory" latex foams out there are petroleum based and just as toxic and off gassing (if not more so) than standard polyurethane foam.  But NATURAL latex foam is completely "green" and non-toxic and is by far the safest option available.  It's also a bit pricey, roughly doubling the cost of a sofa, but we can and do build furniture with natural latex foam on request.  Lastly, don't be fooled by some of the "greenwashing" marketing claims out there about soy-based foam.  In the final analysis none of these foams contain more than 10% soy and could be much more accurately called "polyurethane foam with a touch of soy for marketing purposes only."

Hit us up to find out more (and don't even get us started on your bedroom mattress ... we can help you sort that one out too!)

Hope this helps de-mystify some of the ins and outs of non-toxic furniture building.  

Thanks for reading ... I'm sure it was my most gripping design post ever :)


Katie P. said...

It is SO good to hear you covering these issues! And thanks for offering sound alternatives within your manufacturing stream!!

Gaidigt said...

Thanks for posting this! It's very interesting and informative. One question: does natural latex foam have the same kind of flammability issues as synthetic foam? It's great to avoid flame retardants, and I don't think flammability is such an issue now that smoking is not so prevalent, but it's still kind of scary. I know that wool is naturally flame resistant. Do you use it or similar items at all?

Rosa said...

Hi Molly,
Natural latex foam is actually naturally flame retardant and does not need to be treated with anything in order to pass mandated flame resistance standards.

Thanks for reading!

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