Green Design Studio carries organic couches by Ami McKay.
Q: Where can I buy a healthy sofa? I don't want any nasty flame retardants or polyurethane foam.
A: Fine, so you're too old to turn your couch cushions into a mighty fort, but sofas still represent a safe haven from the headaches outside your door.
But where, oh where can a couch surfer loaf these days without lounging on pollutants?
If you've been reading Ecoholic for a while, discerning sofa searcher, you know that the cushiony feel-good surface you sink into can be downright dodgy. Polyurethane foam is manufactured with carcinogenic toxins (like toluene diisocyanate) and offgasses air-polluting vapours (like volatile organic compounds).
And if a vial of your blood could talk, it would tell you that your couch also sheds harmful bioaccumulative flame-retardant dust into the air. (And you thought dust bunnies were harmless little things.)
While the Swedish cookie cutters at Ikea finished phasing out a whole family of toxic flame retardants known as PBDE in 2002, Canada's still done diddly-squat about one flame retardant (decaBDE), which means this bioaccumulative substance could still be in textiles and furniture.
But you don't have to resign yourself to a lifetime of sitting in stiff wooden chairs. There are, indeed, a few padded alternatives. Let's start with your lighter green options. Some companies, like Ikea, make PBDE-free furniture using polyurethane foam. Others mix the foam with up to 20 per cent soy (namely, Preserve, made with American soy, and Canadian-made BioPlush).
Call it a solid move away from conventional petroleum-based stuffing; call it a half-assed greenwashing attempt. Hell, call it both, but it's certainly better than the status quo and more affordable than going totally organic.
You'll find it in all Norwalk Furniture (norwalkfurniture.com), which also uses 100 per cent recycled-steel springs and coils. Natural Lee (naturallee.com) also stuffs its sectionals, pullouts, chaises and ottomans with Preserve and goose down (a no-no for vegans), and uses 80 per cent recycled-steel coils, FSC-certified wood frames and offers organic fabric choices.
The greenest of the green, however, stick to naturally tapped latex from the rubber tree. Warning: while your grandmother's furniture might have been stuffed with this stuff, it doesn't come cheap now. For Ami McKay's ultra-styly Pure line, organic cotton batting is wrapped around FSC frames and finished with organically dyed wool fabrics. Green Design Studio in Liberty Village now carries the Pure Line as well as über-eco upholstered couches (from $3,000.)
Oakville-based Green Rooms offers U.S.-made hemp-encased latex couches with organic cotton batting, with wood frames made from salvaged urban trees felled from city parkways ($5,600, greenrooms.ca).
DeBoer's everGreen line is natural-latex-filled and encased in either wool, organic cotton, hemp, flax, linen, silk, bamboo or recycled textiles. These consciousness couches are on sale from $3,000 these days.
And T-dot indy west-ender 608 Design makes funky modular couches with built-in storage using either natural latex or more affordable soy foam, FSC frames and coverings of recycled polyester, wool and other options, from $2,800.
Given the pocket-straining costs of getting a healthy, happy sweatshop-free organic couch, going the second-hand route is definitely less intimidating. But you have to be cautious with stuffed used furniture, which could kick up toxic PBDE dust.
If that couch was made anywhere between the late 80s and, say, 2006, I'd veto the idea of having those crumbling cushions in my house. (I've got enough crumbly Goodwill cushion dust in me to last a lifetime.) Vintage 1950s or 60s couches, however, are probably stuffed with latex.
Lastly, there's reupholstering old furniture and antique store finds. Tracking down an all-organic upholstery shop might be tricky, but if you find one open to experimenting with earth-friendly materials (ordered from sites like greensage.com and modgreenpod.com), you could very well end up with a peaceful place to park your butt at the end of the day.
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