If you’re into fashion and style as much as the Tandem Arbor team, you’ve likely heard the term “fast fashion” as something sustainability experts and eco-conscious consumers suggest avoiding. But, did you know the furniture industry faces a similar, yet lesser-known issue with fast furniture, A.K.A. pieces of furniture that quickly get tossed to the curb? It’s true and the data is staggering.
The EPA estimates that 12 million tons of furniture are tossed out every single year, making up roughly 5% of everything brought to landfills. It wasn’t always this way - in 1960, Americans threw out only about 2 million tons of furniture. Not only is this growing issue wasteful and negatively impacting the environment, it also indicates that the majority of furniture purchases by American consumers may not be of made of good quality and sustainable materials to begin with.
Ashlee Piper, sustainability expert and author of Give a Sh*t: Do Good, Live Better, Save the Planet, claims that most of the furniture cluttering our dumps was made in the last 10 to 15 years. Why is this the case? When people need furniture, they often turn to stores that have outsourced their mass production because they are convenient, accessible and seem affordable on the surface. However, the pieces these stores produce are not always meant to last - in fact, they were intended to have a short lifespan… Hello, repeat customers!
When a piece of fast furniture breaks, it is more challenging to repair due to what it’s made of. Cheap materials are inherently harder to work on and repair. For example, surface damage on a particleboard side table with a laminate finish is almost impossible to fix. Take into account the fact that the laminate side table didn’t cost that much and next thing you know, you’re throwing it in the trash. Here’s the catch: by the time you’ve replaced your piece of fast furniture once, or maybe even a few items, it’s highly likely you’ve spent the same as what an investment, high-quality piece made out of built-to-last materials would have cost.
Another lesser-known issue related to fast furniture is the idea of recycling the piece when it breaks or you no longer need it. The thought is great in theory, but the mix of materials and chemicals that comprise each item of cheaply made furniture makes it nearly impossible to properly recycle. For example, particleboard isn’t recyclable or even biodegradable because of its chemical resin and plastic laminate. Ultimately, 80% of furniture waste goes straight to the dump, making furniture the least recycled household item.
So, what’s the solution to combatting the environmental impact of fast furniture? The first step is to recognize when you are taking part in contributing to the fast furniture problem, which occurs when buying from stores that mass produce and import in volume. Outsourced mass production has changed the face of the industry - to the detriment of both the customer and local manufacturers. To be part of the solution, there are several great alternatives for finding stylish furniture.
Our number one suggestion would be to start thinking of your furniture as an investment into a good quality product. If you need a sofa and know the style and upholstery you desire will work as you transition through different stages of your life, then invest in a sofa that will last. Not only does this investment often refer to the cost - fast furniture is cheaper for a reason - but also to the time and research needed to find a furniture company that feels right to you. As part of this vetting process, look into their manufacturing practices, where their products are made, and what their products are made out of. Uncovering this information will help you make an informative decision on who you want to purchase from, the level of quality that company produces, and how long you can expect your furniture to last. If we were in your shoes searching for furniture, we would want to purchase from a company that provides peace of mind through handcrafted, bench-made, sustainable processes that ensure a quality, long-lasting piece.
If you have a smaller budget, but would still like to avoid any fast furniture, there are so many good finds of high-quality furniture at secondhand thrift stores or Facebook Marketplace. Sometimes the furniture found via these means could use some love, but if you’re willing to put in the time, minor repairs and refurbishing can go a long way toward making a piece feel fresh and elongating its lifespan. Another tip is to look for items with versatility, as opposed to niche furniture. This could be a table that can be used for dining or as a desk, maybe even a dresser that could also serve as a buffet table.
Regardless of how you find your furniture, regular maintenance can really go the distance in maintaining its longevity. Caring for your items, such as tightening up bolts or cleaning upholstery, are just two ways to increase the lifespan of your beloved new furniture.
Sustainable Sourcing & Manufacturing: From the sourcing of our furniture’s materials through handcrafted production, we are happy to uphold a process that is sustainable and environmentally-conscious:
Craftsmanship: Our pieces are produced by the top custom upholstery and wood artisans in the North Carolina region. This particular area is known to be the world's premier source for high-quality furniture, thanks to strong traditions of craftsmanship that have been passed down through generations. In fact, North Carolina was dubbed the Furniture Capital of the World over 100 years ago. Every one of our partners brings decades of unmatched expertise to the furniture making process ensuring a beautifully handcrafted, high-quality, built-to-last product.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, our partners are equally as committed to eco-friendly processes as we are - hence why we work with them.
Giving Back: With each Tandem Arbor purchase, we are proud to give back to the environment. We have a strong partnership with One Tree Planted in which we plant 25 trees for every product sold.
In conclusion, Tandem Arbor isn’t fast furniture - what we offer is the exact opposite. With our quality, built-to-last products and sustainable materials and methods, let’s combat the environmental impact of fast furniture together! Chat with a Tandem Arbor Furniture Stylist to get started on customizing your new piece!