Do you yearn to lead a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle? Are you keen to do your bit to reduce carbon emissions? Eating less meat, reducing food waste, recycling, walking, cycling and reducing energy consumption are just a few of the ways we can, as individuals, help to combat climate change. But in the age of consumerism, with fast and cheap mass-produced furniture, clothes and white goods being imported from all around the world, have you given much thought about how your furniture and fabric choices can impact on the environment? 

What do we mean by sustainability?

Sustainability, in relation to goods and services, is essentially a means of production that reduces the negative impact on future generations. The United Nations define sustainability as that that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability leads to a healthier environment as harmful practices are reduced.  

Why is sustainability important? 

In Britain alone we throw away millions of tons of furniture and large waste items every year, impacting greatly on our means of waste disposal – most of the items are burned or taken to landfill sites. Landfill causes problems with metals and chemicals infiltrating the ground, whilst incineration leads to higher emissions of greenhouse gases. 

Over 6 billion pounds worth of furniture was imported into the UK in 2020, the majority coming from the EU and Asia. High imports of furniture can lead to unsustainable patterns of production as Countries lower their standards due to the competition. Production of cheaper made, mass produced furniture can lead to deforestation, along with pollution issues caused by importing products from thousands of miles away. Not to mention poor working practices for employees working in the mass-produced furniture industry.

Reupholstery as a sustainable option. 

The benefits of reupholstery are fairly obvious in terms of recycling. Bringing back to life a beautiful and treasured item with brand-new fabrics is an ideal way to do your bit. Extending the life of a sofa, by reupholstering, means you are extending the life of the product. In short, reupholstering your furniture is an ethical and sustainable practice. It creates local jobs and keeps money in local communities, it reduces the need for incinerators and landfill site use and it supports the reduction of deforestation across the world. 

Chair ready for reupholstery

More than that though, reupholstering your furniture means you are creating an individual piece, not replicated elsewhere. You’ll take the time to be creative and design something truly one off. By choosing good quality furniture and recovering it in the fabric of your choice means you’ll less likely want to throw it away in the future.

The rise of fast cheap mass-produced items of furniture is responsible for huge amounts of pollution, waste and carbon emissions and not all furniture is suitable for reupholstery. If you are new to forging a more ethical and sustainable relationship with your furniture, an excellent option is to search pre-loved and second-hand websites and antique places. Duresta, Ercol and John Sankey are just a few of the manufacturers to keep an eye out for. Find something you truly love, of exceptional high quality and craftmanship, and bring it back to life with new and beautiful fabrics. It is an excellent way of acquiring high end quality furniture that will last a lifetime. Indeed, this might be the only way of owning a classic piece of furniture such as the 1950’s Ercol day bed – here you can replace the webbing, foams and re-upholster the cushion seats and voila! – you’ll have your very own brand new (sort of) piece of timeless furniture.

The craft of upholstery and reupholstery is an old school technique, taking years of dedication to perfect. It is a serious skill and finding an excellent Upholsterer, who truly understands your piece, is not something to be taken lightly. Take the time to get to know your Upholsterer, ask for some examples of previous work and determine what it is they specialize in. Build a relationship with them, make sure they fully understand what you are aiming to achieve with your end result. And once you’ve found that perfect Upholsterer, treasure them and hang on to them forever! 

Fabric choices

So you’ve made the decision to reupholster and bring back to life a beautiful piece of furniture, what next? There are a number of fabrics that lend themselves to ethical and sustainable fabric choices. Naturally occurring fibres such as wools, linens and cottons are renewable, biodegradable and are known to last a long time. There are also a new generation of beautiful fully recycled fabrics coming into the market.  Click here to view our entire range of sustainable fabrics.

Recycled Fabrics

Recycled fabrics are essentially fabrics made from waste, one of the more common items used in recycled fabric production are plastic bottles. The bottles are broken down into tiny thin pieces and processed into new fibres to make up the new fabric. 

Chair and scatter cushions in our recycled Endure collection

Our Endure collection is made from fully recycled ocean plastic, which helps to reduce our harmful impact on the environment. Each metre of Endure prevents between 75 and 90 half litre plastic bottles from polluting our oceans. Not only is Endure a gorgeous, soft textured velvet in a spectacular range of colours, it is a perfect choice to produce a wonderfully sustainable piece of furniture if you are reupholstering a treasured item of furniture. And as an added bonus, not only is it recycled, it also fully recyclable.   

Linen

Linen is a cloth made from the fibres of the flax plant, more commonly known as linseed. A flowering plant, textiles deriving from the flax are commonly used for upholstery, loose covers and scatters. It’s a wonderfully sustainable source of textiles, it requires much less processing and requires fewer fertilizers than other natural fabrics. It’s also known to last longer than other fabrics. Our Sophie collection is a 100% vintage look linen, click here to see the full collection.

 Wools

Tam our beautiful striped wool

Wools, weaved from animal hair, are a brilliantly sustainable source of textiles. They are rapidly renewable, recyclable, and can be produced organically. When a woollen item has had its day, it is biodegradable and once broken down can even be composted. We stock a number of wools including our beautiful striped Tam and our oh so cosy Coorie range.

Cotton

As a plant, cotton has the advantage of being fully biodegradable. Its renewable, making an excellent choice for a sustainable fabric. It’s simply produced, owing to the way the fibres are spun to construct the fabric. It’s also hard wearing as well as being soft and strong. Coast is our beautiful range of cottons, offered in a perfect colour palette making it ideal for a wide range of uses.  

So keep an eye out for our sustainable fabrics, use our fabric finder to search our collections. Recycled fabrics, cottons, linens and wools all make ideal fabric choices for your sustainable and ethical lifestyle. Together with reupholstering locally sourced good quality furniture or using the cloths for curtains and blinds, makes them an ideal choice when furnishing your home with beautiful sustainable fabrics.