Eco-Friendly Furniture in the Classroom

More and more homes and offices are trying to be environmentally aware by adopting green policies. These policies give a preference to buying furniture and other household items that are designed to minimize their environmental impact. Furniture that is composed of wood from sustainable forests and recycled materials certainly gets the nod to that which is made in the more traditional manner, without consideration for the environment. Yet green policies go even further than simply the composition of the items. Concepts to be taken into consideration include how a product is shipped, how long the item is built to last, and even the environmental polices of the company from whom you buy.

This trend is a good one, however, there are certain areas that have been overlooked by many. Perhaps none is more important than bringing eco-friendly furniture into the classroom. This is a shame since schools count for a significant share of all the furniture that is sold in the United States every year. Especially since we are talking about furniture like desks and chairs that will be used by children, it is crucial to bring the same awareness of the environment to school purchasing decisions.

A model that other companies should try and emulate is the Healthy Planet Initiative from Hertz Furniture. This initiative promotes purchasing decisions that factor in environmental impact. For example, the Hertz Furniture website highlights products that are manufactured by companies that utilize environmentally sound measures (as certified by national organizations such as GreenGuard and the US Green Building Council.) They also have an ambitious recycling program in which they recycle paper, cardboard, plastic and wood, including all packing material when they perform an installation. These steps are an important step in the right direction, but to really make an impact on our environment more needs to be done. Only a very small fraction of school furniture sold in the United States is produced with eco-friendly policies. While it may mean lower up-front prices (and even that is not clear), the long term impact of ignoring the environment can be disastrous.

Furniture production uses wood, a great deal of wood. Wood can come from a renewable forest where strict limits are placed on tree harvesting and “no-cut” sections of the forest are clearly marked to be used for new trees. When furniture companies use wood from such sources, the environmental impact is negligible since new trees are being grown just as old trees are being cut down.

On the other hand, to save money, some furniture producers simply cut down forests and don’t make any investment in growing new trees. While skipping such investment will save some money, at some point there are no more trees and where there was once a forest with flora and fauna, there is now a wasteland. When explaining to a child how their desk was made, wouldn’t it be better to talk about a real forest that is continually being replanted than to describe the desolation caused by callous harvesting policies?

Recycling is another area where it is easier to ignore the damage done by use-once items than to actually take active steps to re-use and recycle. Yet eventually, we all pay the higher price when sources of cheap paper and cardboard are used up. We may not think twice about throwing away plastic packaging materials, yet our landfills are chocking with plastic. It’s a real shame because much of this could have been recycled.

If you care about the long-term preservation of our planet, it just makes sense to start by pushing eco-friendly policies in the classroom. Let tomorrow’s generation of leaders learn how important we take being “green” so that they will realize that eco-friendly efforts should be the norm when they grow up and make their own buying decisions.

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