Best Sustainable Materials for Furniture 

Best Sustainable Materials for Furniture

See some of the most eco-friendly materials used to make contemporary furniture & accessories

Best Sustainable Materials for Furniture 

In 2020, UK households purchased approximately £14.4 billion worth of furniture and furnishing, an increase on the previous year of roughly one and a half billion pounds. 

And with more furniture being imported than manufactured at home, the carbon footprint is also increasing, which means we need to look at ways to incorporate more sustainable furniture into our homes.

Considering things like the materials it’s manufactured from, the chemical’s it contains and emits and the location and logistical journey the furniture takes all helps with sustainability.

But what is the best sustainable material for furniture? 

The best sustainable furniture is made from 100% recycled or renewable material. Some natural furniture materials include Wood, Straw, Bamboo, Rattan, Hemp and Cork.  

Other types of sustainable furniture are also being manufactured from recycled materials, like cardboard, plastic, and reclaimed scaffold boards which are now becoming very popular with consumers. 

Read on to discover more on how these materials are being utilised in furniture manufacturing which will hopefully help when choosing your next piece of sustainable furniture.


  1. What makes furniture sustainable?
  2. Best Sustainable Materials for Furniture 
  3. Wood
  4. Straw – Eco Board
  5. Bamboo
  6. Rattan, Seagrass & Cork
  7. Recycled Materials 
  8. Cardboard
  9. Scaffold Planks and Reclaimed materials
  10. Plastic

What makes furniture sustainable

When looking for furniture made from sustainable materials to furnish your home, there are a few criteria it must meet in order to be eco-friendly.

Wood finishes

Not only do you need to consider what material the piece of furniture is made from but also what wood finishes are on it.

Paints, Stains, Glues, even stain-resistant finishes all give off Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) to some degree and can be harmful to health; aggravating existing respiratory conditions as well as causing nausea, headaches and nose and throat discomfort. Look for furniture that uses water-based stains or is made from practices utilising fewer chemical additives.

Durability – Will it last?

There is a saying that “you get what you pay for” and when it comes to furniture it pays to invest in quality items that will last.

Find out from the manufacturer how long it is built for and consider the ability to recycle at the end of its usable life to try and encourage a circular life span.

Local Manufacturing

Where possible consider the journey of the furniture as that 100% recyclable item may not be so eco-friendly if it’s had to be shipped hundreds of miles from its raw material state to its end stage destination. 

Where possible opt for furniture made by local manufacturers and reduce the carbon footprint for the logistics.

Best Sustainable Materials for Furniture 

When considering the sustainability of furniture it’s important to look at the materials it is constructed from. The most eco-friendly furniture materials are from sustainable and recyclable sources.

1. Wood 

Wood is probably the first natural material that springs to mind when considering green materials for furniture. 

The most used softwoods are relatively fast-growing and more easily replaced. Hardwoods are slower growing, and furniture made from these are generally more expensive to purchase. For sustainability you should always look for the FSC trademark, ensuring the wood is grown and managed in sustainable forests and not illegally cut or harvested.  

A good wood substitute is MDF, this is made from the shavings and wood fibres and discarded portions of wood that are recycled and turned into usable boards.  This is a sustainable and environmentally friendly material, although lacks the character and grain of real wood. 

All wooden furniture, including MDF, is recyclable at the end of its life span, and providing it hasn’t been treated with an array of chemicals, is a good sustainable material for furniture designs. 

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2. Straw

A new sustainable material for furniture that is being developed in the next generation of MDF, is “Ecoboard” or “Wheatboard”.

It’s completely environmentally friendly and made from 100% high-quality natural wheat straw and uses advanced technology and a formaldehyde-free adhesive, making it a completely environmentally friendly sustainable material.

Its high tensile strength, weight-bearing ability, natural moisture and fire resistance are some of the reasons why Ecoboard is quickly gaining popularity in the residential furniture industry, office furnishing, flooring and construction and the building industry.  

3. Bamboo 

Another natural and sustainable furniture material that is readily available and sustainable is Bamboo.  

It grows quickly like weeds and can be easily replaced.  It is one of the most sustainable materials available being resistant to scratches and other general wear and tears due to its tensile strength. All in all, bamboo can provide a beautiful sustainable base material for furniture which can blend in with contemporary and more traditional décor. 

4. Rattan / Seagrass / Cork

There are several other natural sustainable materials worth a mention that can be implemented for other furnishings around the home including hard-wearing seat covers, lighting shades, décor accessories, and matting.  Natural materials like Rattan, Seagrass and Cork are ideal for these furnishing accessories.

These natural materials are generally imported rather than grown in the UK so consideration needs to be taken when looking at its carbon footprint for logistics, however, as natural products they give off very little VOC’s, are sustainable and fully recyclable. 

5. Recycled Materials 

Natural materials are not the only sustainable material for furniture.  We now have an abundance of resources that would otherwise be sent to landfills and designers are conceiving new ways of utilising these products and reducing, reusing, and recycling. 

6. Cardboard

One eco-friendly furniture material that is gaining ground is corrugated Cardboard finished with glass tops and strengthened with metal rods.  

UK company, Deckle and Chop, have been in business for over 20 years, originally starting out as manufacturing standard boxes for commercial and business use. Their design team have diversified and developed some innovative designs to produce 100% recycled and recyclable items of furniture.

Their range includes side and coffee tables, shelves, lighting, and other items of décor. 

7. Scaffold Boards and Reclaimed Materials 

There are several innovative and contemporary craftsmen utilising all sorts of reclaimed materials and turning them into sustainable furniture designs. 

One of the common materials used is scaffold boards, pallets, and industrial type fittings.  These have been turned into some very useful and attractive pieces of furniture from tables and chairs to shelving units and headboards. 

Companies like Robert Rose Carpentry, specialise in designing and building custom-made industrial scaffold furniture.  Their sustainable furniture utilises scaffold boards and reclaimed materials and they pride themselves on their environmental core values and workmanship. 

8. Plastics

There are more and more designers utilising and incorporating recycled materials into their furniture designs.  Technological advances and innovative ideas and processes are creating sustainable fabrics and frames, chairs, and sofas for interiors and exteriors all from plastic that would otherwise be sent to a landfill

Instead of drowning under the mountains of single-use plastic that is being discarded every single day, companies are finding ways to recycle and incorporate more sustainable materials for current and existing furniture designs. 

Companies such as the Pennsylvania furniture company Emeco have collaborated with Coca Cola to create “the Navy Chair” from 111 recycled plastic bottles.  This chair design has been in continuous production since its emergence in 1944.  They are substituting the materials it is made from and utilising recycled plastic bottles. They estimate production will keep 3 million plastic Coke bottles out of landfills each year. 

Other companies following the new trend for sustainable furniture and recycling plastic include Van de Sant. This incredible company is utilising ocean and land waste plastic to create sustainable furniture frames and fabrics.

Not only is their sustainable furniture designed with comfort and style in mind, but they are manufactured from 100% recycled plastic waste and designed to have a fully circular life span. Every piece can be re-processed into raw materials and re-manufactured into new designs for the future.