In addition to the packaging and transportation costs all businesses have to consider if they want to be more green, furniture manufacturing presents its particular environmental challenges.
The furniture manufacturing process itself consumes resources like raw materials, water and power. Areas which can be tackled with significant benefits to the environment include product design, purchasing, storage, the practical process itself, and the handling of waste products.
Companies most effective in this area apply a holistic approach, reviewing their entire system to ensure resources are conserved and damaging impact minimised throughout the business. An environmental management system can be applied in the same way that you would implement Health and Safety policies, for example, and integrated with similar standard-setting policies. A good policy contains measures to ensure not only that legal requirements are met, but that a constantly improving environmental performance can be measured and monitored, and will include strategies for managing the new approach.
Product design is perhaps the area in which the most appreciable results can be achieved. Sustainable design implies quality and durability, since good pieces do not to be frequently replaced, and also considers the potential for recycling the item when it is no longer serviceable. Thoughtful furniture design can also have a positive impact on everything from raw-material consumption to waste management. An ecological approach considers not only the beauty and comfort of the piece but also the environmental impact of material choices, the size and shape of components, and how product lines can work together to make the most of your materials, plant and equipment.
The sourcing of manufacturing materials is another hugely important area from this point of view. It’s not just about using all recycled materials, which may not be the best sustainability strategy overall. A piece which is heavy to transport, requires extra packaging and breaks immediately is not ecologically friendly. Better quality raw materials can be greener because they need less processing.
Designs featuring fewer raw materials can be lighter and easier to transport and store. Buying part-processed components might cut down your on-site energy consumption. On the other hand, there may be components which could be made from recycled or more sustainable material. Consider also who you are purchasing from. Their environmental and social impact is part of your sustainability profile.
The sales process is an area where improvements can be both substantial and visible to the customer. Forward-thinking manufacturers, for example, have invested in a dedicated recycling plant, and are offering collection of recycling of old furniture alongside removal and recycling of packaging as part of their delivery service. Perhaps that’s why their employees are so proud to be part of what they do.