Fast Furniture: Talking Sustainability in the Interiors Industry
You will struggle to scroll through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook at the moment without hearing the term ‘fast fashion’. Brought to mainstream attention by ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ – a BBC Three documentary presented by Stacey Dooley – every big blogger, journalist and fashion influencer has something to say about it.
Gone are the days of seasonal wardrobes. Instead, fast fashion retailers like Primark and ASOS are introducing new items multiple times a week to remain on-trend and tempt people into spending their money. The documentary explored the damage this is doing to our environment covering everything from fossil fuels to unprecedented amounts of waste.
Fashion is currently in the spotlight and as of yet, the conversation has largely remained unspoken when it comes to the interiors industry. Yet, we are faced with the same problem. When it comes to ethical shopping, things do not start and end on the high street.
What do we mean by fast furniture?
Much like with fashion, fast furniture refers to inexpensive, trendy furniture that travels rapidly from the pages of glossy magazines to online shops and bigger homeware high street brands.
What is the impact of fast furniture?
The environmental impact of buying fast furniture is huge. Firstly, the constant fight to keep up with trends and cut costs means that non-recyclable materials are often used, and cheap, harmful chemicals and dyes are applied which pollute clean water.
When it comes to fabrics the story is much the same. Polyester, for example, originates from fossil fuels and when washed sheds microfibres that add to rising levels of plastic in the ocean. Cotton is also often produced in a way that involves pesticides, toxic dyes and a large amount of natural resources.
The speed of demand needed to achieve cheap prices and on-trend furniture also comes with problems. Namely that products are manufactured overseas and shipped back to the UK. Moving furniture across hundreds of miles, from country to country, makes the globe’s carbon footprint bigger leading to higher CO2 pollution.
Fast furniture is typically manufactured off-shore where labour is cheapest, often meaning workers are paid a low wage without adequate rights or safety, with complex supply chains that have a risk of supporting human trafficking.
Lastly, the mindset that comes with inexpensive furniture means that it becomes disposable in the home. Cheaper materials are also used which impacts on quality and damages quicker. Both of these things combined lead to increased waste and contribute to overflowing landfill sites in the UK.
As a sustainable furniture brand, all The English Cabinet Co’s furniture is crafted in our Yorkshire factory in the heart of the UK. This means our workers are treated in accordance with current UK and EU legislation and factory conditions meet a strict set of standards with employee comfort at its heart. Buying from a company like us gives you the assurance that no hardships have been endured by the workers who craft your furniture.
How to spot a fast furniture brand
Spotting a fast furniture brand is easy. These are some of the tell-tale signs:
Product listings and online stores encompass tonnes of different styles, colours and designs that all touch on the latest trends.
Watch out for unclear delivery details and a lack of commitment to timescales. Lead-times for fast furniture are often long as the product is shipped from overseas and very little stock is held. You can expect to wait anything from six to 14 weeks for delivery and it is not usually made clear until after the check-out process, by which time your order is completed, and payment has been made.
The furniture is low quality – you will be able feel the quality from the weight of the materials used, fast furniture can be sometimes lightweight and flimsy.
The brand very rarely talks about the production process and the focus is always on the visual impact rather than the quality of the materials – it is all about quick trends in home interior styles.
The brand cannot guarantee that its supply chains are not supporting human trafficking and safe working conditions.
There is no mention of where the product is made – this suggests it has been manufactured off-shore where labour is cheapest.
What you can do to make a difference?
Firstly, you can prioritise quality over price. Solid wood furniture like our stylish dressing table is typically farmed sustainably from well-managed forests. So not only is it durable and long-lasting, but it is good for the planet too.
Instead of buying furniture that is considered on-trend at the moment, go for classic pieces that can be dressed to suit any style or movement.
With furniture it is always best to do your research. A reduced carbon footprint is not the only benefit to buying British furniture and purchasing direct from the maker means you have full visibility of the journey your piece takes before it reaches your home.
You also need to look after the furniture you have got. Wash it down regularly, avoid putting hot items such as cups of tea on it or invest in a glass protector to save it from stains and marks.
How to spot ethical furniture brands
Spotting ethical furniture brands shouldn’t be too difficult, but we have some pointers that will help you figure it out:
Furniture is made from high-quality materials such as solid wood that are recyclable and have low to no environmental impact.
Only a small carbon footprint is used to make the product as it doesn’t travel overseas to get to your front door.
There is a clear and visible supply chain that considers workers’ rights and has no risk of human trafficking.
It is not finished with toxic materials that give off harmful fumes.
It has a shorter lead time and is typically made to order to reduce wastage.
The maker lists fewer products that are timeless in design and transcend any season or style.
Here at The English Cabinet Co. we are proud of our heritage as a manufacturer of British-made goods, and our positive attitude towards sustainability from the start. Each of our pieces is crafted and hand-finished in Yorkshire and is made from wood which has been farmed from sustainable forests.
We believe furniture should be made to last. Although trends come and go, classic sustainable furniture like The English Cabinet Co’s Old manor Collection stands the test of time.