The term sustainability can be difficult to define for the contemporary furniture designer/manufacturer. Sustainability can mean social responsibility, use of non-polluting technologies and certified materials, employment fairness and more. Though these "manufacturing with a conscience" ideals cannot be argued with, often they are difficult to implement on a regular basis. To encompass these practices we need to be responsible for the production cycle from raw material acquisition through to manufacture, end use and final disposal.
Take-Back Laws: More than 28 countries, primarily in Europe, have already passed product “take-back” laws that assign the responsibility for the disposal of end-of-life products and packaging to the manufacturer. (source)
In the 1970s, E.F. Schumacher and George McRobie originated the concept of designers using "appropriate" technology to develop products to meet the needs of local communities and economies. Despite their pioneering work, forty years later our use of technology remains largely "inappropriate" as consumerism, not environmental concerns, continues to be the primary motivation for product development.
What drives designers to create more products? Does the world need another chair design? The design community needs to discuss these issues within the larger context of the environmental health of the planet.
Design-based smaller-scale furniture manufacturers are well suited to reduce waste, emissions, energy, toxicity and dangerous work practices at the drawing board. VCR page green options provides a guide to environmentally friendly materials in furniture production.
A European consortium, (eLCA), has developed the EcoSMEs website to provide eco-information to smaller-scale manufacturers. These links have the most relevance to furniture production:
· Wood products > Training (click "continue" for more pages)
· Wood products > Office desks > Info
The Industrial Designers Society of America makes available Business-Ecodesign Tools an eight page booklet with an overview of ecodesign best practices.
In addition IDSA provides extensive links to websites with application to green product design.
The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) promotes its Level™ furniture certification standard which is implemented by third-party organizations such as Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) and NSF.