I know that green is in these days, and I don't mean the color, but living green as in environmentally friendly. For those of us who thought doing something good for the environment meant recycling our milk cartons, cereal boxes and tomato sauce cans and riding our bike occasionally, the extent of the "green" industry may be a bit of a surprise. Not only can you build your home to be "green", but you can also get "green furniture". There are even companies who use "green" modular office furniture.
As a matter of fact, Canada has a Sustainable Building Task Force that finalized groundbreaking environmental specs for modular office furniture purchased under state contract. Several modular furniture manufacturers bid on the contract, which goes to show that companies did not find the idea outlandish and many of them had used sustainable practices for decades. A three year contract, from 2001 to 2004 was awarded to a US company, with the idea to reevaluate and upgrade the contract after that time.
So what was Canada looking for in their sustainable modular office furniture? Well, among other requirements, some specifications included a high level of recycled content in components and packaging, no CFCs and HCFCs used in foam production, and energy efficient lighting in the work stations.
Modular office furniture and other items in the green building industry are rated. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has a Green Building Rating System. This is a nationally accepted benchmark for design, construction and operation of green buildings. According to the LEED web site:
"LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures. All certified projects receive a LEED plaque, which is the nationally recognized symbol demonstrating that a building is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to live and work."
LEED looks at five key areas of human and environmental health, and one of those categories is indoor environmental quality, and this includes how the building is furnished. There are more ways that your modular office furniture can be environmentally friendly that you may realize. LEED looks at the materials and resources of the furniture. This includes:
- The amount of packing material used to deliver the items to the site. Is each piece individually boxed, or is it delivered in a large truck wrapped in blankets?
- How much recycled content is in you modular office furniture?
- Is it regionally manufactured (i.e. - within 500 miles of the job site to cut down on gas transmissions)?
- Are renewable materials used in the furniture? Products made from plants that mature in 10 years or less decreases the impact on forests and longer life cycle plants.
- Are the adhesives and finishes used on the modular office furniture nontoxic? This helps to reduce harmful VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) from the office.
Now, you may be wondering what this type of modular office furniture looks like, after all, cubicles can already look and feel like a box! But you would be surprised. Overall, most people wouldn't even know that your furniture is sustainably manufactured or made from partially recycled materials. Often times, items that have been remanufactured cost less, and some is quite modern and chic. I bet most people would be impressed and wonder where they could get some too!
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