Vintage Furniture v Flat Pack - Eco Benefits When Choosing
Sustainability is a widely touted buzzword nowadays, but its importance as a consideration in furniture purchases is not as high as cost and accessibility. The pieces we choose to furnish our homes can severely affect the environment. Many would agree that flat pack furniture is less durable and viewed as more throwaway, so how can it be sustainable? Let's look at vintage furniture sustainability and the advantages or disadvantages it offers over flatpack furniture.
We consider furniture vintage if produced more than 20 years ago for reference. Flatpacks, aka knockdowns, are aptly named for how they are shipped in carton flat-packed package boxes complete with assembly instructions and necessary tools to assemble them together.
What are the 3 disadvantages of flat pack furniture?
Flatpack furniture is perceived to be lower in cost and easily accessible, but it has significant environmental disadvantages.
Flatpack is designed and produced quickly, promoting trends that come and go. So everyone can get the newest furniture trend and promptly change to the next trend, usually with the old trend going to the landfill. Heal’s Furniture commissioned research that found we throw away 300,000 tonnes of re-usable furniture every year in the UK. I'm sure that's not startling news to some, but it makes the case that the longer you keep something than buying a new piece, its carbon footprint is greatly reduced. Which makes it essential to buy quality vs trends to keep it for a long time.
Increased Carbon Emissions
Let's consider the carbon emissions of a dining table. A new, flatpack dining table comes with a considerable carbon cost. It requires 25kg of CO2 to manufacture. The research team at Heal estimates that it takes 10 years to reduce carbon emissions to 3kg. With a lack of durable and quality materials used to construct flat pack furniture, it won't even last 10 years. At 20+ years of age, antiques or upcycled pieces have a minimal carbon footprint and offer sustainable alternatives to flat pack furniture.
Although flatpack furniture is easier to ship, it is often transported in bulk to the end-user, who might be located far away from where it was originally produced. This makes the furniture piece less sustainable than locally, hand-made furniture. The compact nature of flatpacks allows for more units per transportation than solid furniture, but how far are these mass-produced items travelling to the end consumer?
Eco benefits of vintage furniture for your home
People who buy antique and upcycled furniture value the past and the skills and craftsmanship that has gone into something. The pieces have history and a story to tell, and they've been saved from the skip. They also offer eco-benefits for your home.
Vintage pieces are an environmentally responsible choice because they have 100% post-consumer content with reduced carbon emissions.
It's Better Quality & A Smart Investment
Unlike flatpack furniture, vintage pieces offer superior craftsmanship that last years and years; we're talking double-digit number of years. MDF, aka chipboard furniture, is not built to last. Not only does it fall apart when wet, but the formaldehyde-based glue which holds the fibres together may be toxic, poisoning plants and animals. On the other hand, wood is a lovely warm, sympathetic material which is why it has been used for interior furniture since before the Egyptians.
An antique piece may or may not be on-trend according to modern styles. However, it will never look outdated by choosing pieces with clean lines, classic shapes, and solid construction.
Is vintage furniture still popular?
Many of our clients are already part of the antique community and know that antique pieces will never go out of style. Whether designing with all antique pieces or mixing new with the old, you can't go wrong. Why? Quality, sustainability and convenience. It's great to know that buying second-hand furniture is not just a trend but something necessary for conscious change.