Culture

Published on July 29th, 2008 | by simran_sethi

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Life After Desk: Don’t Toss that Tropical Hardwood

student desks in a classroomSimran Sethi and Sarah Smarsh are writing a series on the surprising journeys of everyday things. They will be posting previews on Green Options before launching the posts on Huffington Post. Here’s a sneak peek at the desk you threw away.

How can a mahogany desk, made of slow-growing hard wood plundered from the Amazon, be eco-friendly?

When it’s re-used.

Often, the greenest consumer route is not buying new products made with Earth-friendly methods but rather scoring used products made with traditional, possibly heinous methods. Reduce, reuse, then recycle.

This rule of thumb certainly applies to office furniture. Unlike energy-consuming products such as appliances, furniture is somewhat innocuous to the environment during that period between factory and landfill known as “in use.” The impacts on indoor air quality, however, are like Britney: Not that innocent. Your cubicle accoutrements off-gas volatile organic compounds from glues, varnishes and sealants. That new furniture smell is a source of ear, nose and throat irritation, nausea and dizziness. But once your desks and chairs have been brought into the world, they should be encouraged to live long lives.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

Thanks to the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Lacey Johnston for research assistance.



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  • Kendra

    Mahogany is the stuff of long lives! I heart wood…

  • http://www.elephantjournal.com Heather

    The magazine where I work 9-5 recently found a group of local designers (livinggreen-designs.com) who refurbished old furniture to outfit our offices. Using reclaimed wood, non-toxic stains and paint, and found pieces from old desks and tables (including a sweet retro teacher’s desk) they put together some beautiful stuff. As an eco magazine, we loved that it was all re-used, but the coolest part was that is was all one-of-a-kind. We were sitting, typing, drinking our coffee on top of unique works of art. Something to make life a little more fun and interesting.

  • http://www.redgreenandblue.org heidi

    “Often, the greenest consumer route is not buying new products made with Earth-friendly methods but rather scoring used products made with traditional, possibly heinous methods. Reduce, reuse, then recycle.”

    Great advice!

  • http://www.simransethi.com Simran

    My absolute favorite piece of furniture is my dining table. It’s made from an old Indian door and still has the rivets in it. I agree with Heather, the one-of-a-kind aspect is what makes it so special to me.
    Thanks, Heidi, for the props. I actually think we should expand the three Rs to five: reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink, relate. What do you think?

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