If your workdays are spent in front of a computer, you probably sit in an office chair. But for all the time you spend in it, how much do you actually know about your chair? Do you know, for example, that emissions from indoor furnishings can contribute to poor indoor air quality and cause severe health problems? And do you know office chairs are often poorly constructed, require unsustainably-harvested resources, and therefore incur vast amounts of waste?
You don't have to sit in a chair that's negatively affecting the planet and possibly even your health, however. With more and more furniture manufacturers adopting environmentally responsible construction practices, it's now easier than ever to find eco-friendly office chairs. By reading the following facts and tips you'll not only be more informed about green office chairs, but (we hope) you'll also be inspired to purchase one of your own.
CHAIR DISASSEMBLY AND PART REPLACEMENT
Each year US companies purchase 16.5 million chairs, and half of them wind up in landfills in the same amount of time. This has inspired eco-conscious furniture companies to become just as concerned with product disassembly as they are with manufacturing, since furniture with easy-to-disassemble parts is more likely to be recycled. Manufacturers are now also creating furniture with replaceable parts. If, for example, one part of a chair broke, you would only have to replace that individual part instead of launching the whole thing into the dump. Even if you don't replace your current chair with a greener alternative, recycling it at the end of its life will prevent the wood, cotton, or foam waste from going to a landfill, where decomposition will produce greenhouse gases and release toxic chemicals.
OFFICE CHAIRS FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS
Eco-friendly office chairs are made from recycled steel, plastic, and wood, with upholstery made from recycled materials, all of which eliminate the harvesting of virgin resources. Recycled materials not only eliminate the need to harvest trees, they also reduce energy consumption, decrease pollution, release fewer emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases, and prevent new land from being cultivated for textile fibers. Many eco-friendly office chair manufacturers have also started using reclaimed wood or wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Take for example Knoll, a leading office furniture manufacturer, which uses reclaimed red birch logs recovered from Midwestern rivers and lakes. By salvaging reusable lumber, manufacturers like Knoll are offsetting the need to harvest thousands of acres of forest, while manufacturers that use FSC-certified wood discourage irresponsible logging. The use of recycled materials also eliminates the harmful manufacturing processes required to make new office furniture from brand-new materials.
INDOOR (CH)AIR QUALITY
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution is listed as one of the top five public health threats in America. And in a recent Berkeley National Laboratory study, improved indoor air quality was found to increase productivity and reduce the occurrence of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) by 20 to 50 percent. Eco-friendly office chairs certified by Greenguard or other third-party certifiers are guaranteed not to pollute the air around you. In order to be certified, manufacturers must use stains, paints, glues, adhesives, caulking, dyes, and finishes that won't contaminate air quality or the environment with toxic chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Eco-friendly office chairs will neither contribute to smog during their manufacture nor emit toxins that may affect employee health when in use.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NEW CHAIR
You now know that an eco-friendly office chair uses materials wisely, reduces waste, and improves both indoor and outdoor air quality. So when you're ready to upgrade your current office chair, be sure to look for one that's easily disassembled and has replacement options; is third-party certified for indoor air quality; is made from recycled materials or FSC-certified wood; is upholstered with nontoxic dyes; and contains low- or no-VOCs.