What's "Fast Furniture"? What's our role? And why does it matter?
We probably all heard about "Fast Fashion". A topic that has been discussed in media for quite a while. The mass production of clothes overseas with around 26 collections every year for some chains, that's a new collection every 2 weeks!
Fortunately, there is a movement against this trend and some people are starting to look for long lasting quality and fair production chains. Even the politicians in some countries are starting to see the problem. Like in Germany where on 9. September 2019 a state-owned textile label called "Grüner Knopf" for Corporate Social Responsibility was introduced and plans are on their way for a law called "Supply Chain Act". That is supposed to secure labour standards in the totality of the production chains of products sold in Germany. Both projects still have some issues, for example critics argue that the "Grüner Knopf" is risking being a sham with the only purpose of greenwashing. Because the certifying process lacks strict standards and the given information’s by the participating companies are non-transparent. Nevertheless at least it's a start, that the movement against the trend of "Fast Furniture" is still missing.
Pic.: Own Photo, Bavarian Forest, Bavaria
What's "Fast Furniture" and its consequences?
Like "Fast Fashion" it describes the trend of mass producing cheap and low-quality furniture. Big chains developed a business model that's targeting mass consumption of big furniture and home accessories. With low prices and trending marketing campaigns people are drawn to buy new stuff every few months. And the low-quality forces people to buy new furniture after every house move or renovation. So that sadly thousands of tonnes of cheap, mass-produced items end up in landfills and waste incinerating plants every year.
In the United States alone, the Environmental Protection Agency says that approximately 9.7 billion pounds of furniture, from couches to credenzas, are sent to junkyards every year. (Cf. M. Hague 2020, Special to The Globe and Mail)
In 2018 the amount of bulky waste in Germany was estimated around 2,7 million tonnes. (Cf. N. Kuhn 2020, ZDF)
The consequences of this mass consumption are enormous for nature and climate. Wood is one of the most needed materials for this cheap homeware. But intensified logging is causing rapidly ongoing destruction of woodland.
Forests are functioning as an important part of the ecosystem. They are a valuable carbon dioxide sinks and habitat to many endangered Animals and Plants. With ongoing deforestation, the capacity for binding CO² from the atmosphere is declining. And through fire clearance for farming and increasing wildfires especially in tropic region like the Brazilian rainforest, that are critical for global climate, CO² emissions that were bound for centuries are now released into the atmosphere. New introduced policies to enlarge farming land by the Brazilian president Bolsonaro make it even worse. With declining forest land and more fires, the climate change, with increasing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather phenomena’s, is accelerating and causing even more damages to forest worldwide. It’s a vicious cycle.
Pic.: Own Photo, Dying Trees in the Bavarian Forest, Bavaria
Also, Europe is not saved by the global consequences of this development. A country in the EU that massively clears out its forests for the furniture industry is Romania. There are still hundreds of thousands of hectares of primeval natural forests. (Cf. N. Kuhn 2020, ZDF) These forests must be saved in order to stop global warming. Also, in Germany the negative impacts of climate change on forests are already visible. In 2018/19 already 110.000 hectare of forest got destroyed through heat, drought and pests. This equals half the area of the state of Saarland.
Pic.: Own Photo, Dead Forest in the Harz Mountains, Lower Saxony
4 ways you can be active against the trend:
1. Start thrifting
Second-hand is a great way to give pre-loved items a second chance. Especially if you are looking for more individual pieces and are more limited in your budget, thrifting is perfect. Because of the fast furniture trend and its successful chains every living room is starting to look the same. And people seem to think that great design on a budget is only possible with mass produced Swedish furniture. You can find great individual design pieces second-hand. Furniture from the last century is often good in quality and design. Many vintage stores and estate sales offer bargains in good condition. Thrifting saves resources, energy, logistics, packing material and preserves history.
2. Take your time
If you are still preferring buying new, you should keep following advice in mind. First do your research! Don’t buy by your first impulse. Invision what exactly you are looking for. A sofa, a shelf, a chair, dishes, a vase or just something decorative. Make sure you know what you want and start looking for these exact items. No one is judging a little side buy from time to time but don’t collect to many useless and unwanted things that will just end up in your basement. If you know what you need, think about the specifics. What material do you like? Wood? Metal? Porcelain? Stoneware? Brass? What style do you like? Mid-century? Modern? Antique? What colours and patterns do you like? Blue? Green? Purple? Multicolour? Leo print? Stripes? Chequered? This can narrow down your search and save valuable time.
Secondly compare! Look in different shops. Take a walk around your next big high street, have a look around little shops in more local areas, even try some big brands and also search in different online shops. To compare is not only a way to find great deals but also a way to support small business owners or social campaigns. Because often big chains are not cheaper, and it is worth supporting a small family-owned business in your neighbourhood. Often these businesses are an important part of communities and support local initiatives.
Thirdly look for long lasting quality!
If you are looking for a sofa for example, make sure you get all the information. Is it handmade or mass produced? What’s the base? Wood? Nailed? Stapled? Screwed together? What’s the filling? Natural? Plastic? Cotton? What’s the cover material? Natural? Cotton? Polyester? Is it strong? Is it stain-resistant? How does the quality of the workmanship look like? Especially with expensive purchases you should take your time and do your homework. Big money should be well spent.
And last look for good materials! Good in the way not only considering the quality of the material but also its eco-friendly and fair production. Knowing its origin is important and often an information that is easier to get in a small business than in a chain.
This advice should also be considered while buying second hand or from local makers.
3. Buy from Locals
Locals often are the best choice! Makers, Up cyclers and Artisans from your town are your neighbours and you should support them. Often, they offer gorgeous handmade things with great quality. And like I said earlier, its important to know the origin of your products! These small manufacturers know about their products and their history. They know where the materials come from, under what conditions they were made, harvested or transported. Additionally, you will get all the information you need to make your choice. Everything about the quality of the materials and the workmanship, the functionalities and the design. And as a treat you get a unique and individual item!
4. Make, Repair, Repurpose or change the look
Individuality is also a big part of our last way to work against fast furniture. Maybe you already tried several DIY things for your home. But even if you didn’t discover your skills yet, we know that you have hidden talents! Next time you are looking for a new home décor piece you should always ask yourself “Can I make it?”. Most of things that you see on TV or Instagram are easy to recreate and most of the time you can find guidance quickly. There are tons of DIY Videos on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok. Just try it!
You will enjoy having a project in your spare time. You can even invite some friends and work on something together. Most of the time making your own piece is even cheaper, but certainly more unique. It can be so relaxing to concentrate on a simple but creative task. You don’t have to create from scratch. Just start with repairing or repurposing things. Also changing room style or the look of a furniture piece can change the whole vibe of your interior and give you a complete feel of “New”.
Why does it matter?
Considering one of our 4 ways for your next home accessory purchase and to reject fast furniture matters because our planet is beautiful, and we should preserve it. Acting now not only reduces the amount of bad-quality furniture becoming garbage. It also saves resources, ecosystems, forests and in the long run the climate. The forest is one of the most effective climate activists worldwide. According to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety forestry plays a crucial role in saving the climate. In Germany alone forests and forestry are relieving the atmosphere of more than 120 million tonnes of CO². 14% of the CO² produced in Germany can be compensated by forests. That’s around the number of emissions that is produced by the German traffic. But you are not only reducing emissions. You are also helping to stop unfair production and trade practices. Many mass-produced home décor pieces are produced outside of Europe under conditions that are bad for the environment and people. With our suggestions for your next shopping tour, you make sure that the labour to produce your desired goods was paid fairly, and materials are not poisoning to the ground, water or the workers. These practises will also save you from introducing toxic materials into your home and in the long run even save you some money with better quality and materials. Your local artists and makers will be thankful, and you are not only supporting local and small businesses. You are also supporting your community, charities and projects of your neighbourhood network. Small business owners are often connected and integrated in a local support systems with NGO’s, social entrepreneurs and charities. Enjoy the way to your next vintage, handmade or self-made piece and appreciate long lasting quality, individuality and a good feeling about the fact that you choose well how to decorate your home.❤️❤️❤️