In 2018, Americans threw out 12.1 million tons of furniture. In 1960, we threw out 2.2 million. What changed? Two things: the population, and our habits. Instead of using hand-me-down or yard sale furniture, more and more people turned instead to fast-furniture companies. We bought dressers on the cheap online, had them delivered, and ditched them shortly after when they broke or no longer suited our lifestyle. We didn’t discard them responsibly either: 80 percent of furniture waste went to landfills.
Purchases are a part of life. Living situations are ever evolving, and our needs along with them. A child becomes too big for his crib. A couch won’t fit through the hallway of a new apartment. A thirty-something’s taste no longer matches up with what she liked as a twenty-something. All of us have outgrown furniture, all of us have desired new furniture, all of us have bought—and will buy—new furniture.
But how can we change our behavior to be more conscious, and less consumerist? By shopping smarter. Below, Vogue’s recommendations for our favorite eco-friendly furniture shops. Some of them center around eco-first makers, or are eco-first makers themselves. Some of them focus on secondhand goods. And others have a business model that’s just different—if you’re at a transient point of your life, why not rent that West Elm desk instead of buying it?
ZZ Driggs’s motto? “Surround yourself with meaningful design.” This applies, first and foremost, to their curated collection. A mix of vintage and artisanal pieces, there’s everything from a 1750s chaise lounge to a 21st century puffy pink chair. It also applies to their sustainability standards: ZZ Driggs is a zero emissions company and requires all their vendors to meet their own green guidelines. (Some items on their checklist? Workers must be paid fair wages, and their pieces must have an average useful life of 50 years and prioritize recycled or biodegradable materials.) Added bonus: if you buy or rent one of their offerings, they match a 1 dollar gift to Carbonfund.org and 1% for the Planet.
In honor of Earth Day, ZZ Driggs is announcing a new Rent with Purchase Option. For those who’ve rented and decided they want to keep their piece, all the money they originally spent can go towards the total price.
For the Gen Z or millennial on the move, there’s no better service than Feather, a subscription furniture site that allows you to rent whatever piece you might need while avoiding waste. (Including a whole room: for $46 a month, for example, you can get all everything for a home office.) Lease terms are anywhere from three to 12 months.
Goodee World is the perfect stop for shoppers with a conscience. Not only do they have search categories for the obvious terms—color, item, price—but also for the ethical ones: there are classifications for “recycled materials,” “carbon reduction” (items whose production process emits low to no CO2 levels, to “wildlife conservancy” (items where a portion of proceeds are donated to environmental causes), just to name a few. In fact, they even have the “Goodee100,” a collection of goods under 100 dollars that are all 100% transparently sourced, ethically made, and long-lasting.
Sure, the “circular economy” can come across as a buzzword. Let us simplify it: just buy secondhand. The easiest way to do that online is with Chairish. 85% of the e-commerce site’s offerings are vintage. To date, over 480,000 items have been re-homed. (Don’t mind us, we’ll just be swooning over this Ekstrom Chair.)
As previously stated: antiquing is inherently sustainable, giving items a new home when they might otherwise go to the landfill. For the serious collector, there’s no better place to online shop then 1stDibs. Pick your design movement—Mid-century modern! Art nouveau! Rococo!—and browse treasures throughout the centuries.
There’s some items you still want to buy, well, brand new. Chief among them? Bedding. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon an eco-first mindset. Browse Avocado, a buzzy, L.A.-based company. They’re certified B Corp, grow and produce their natural own latex, and are carbon negative. Even PETA approves of their vegan mattress.