From the way designers are churning out greener desks for office use, you can discern a definite trend towards more environment-friendly office furniture. “Eco-friendly” computer desks, office chairs, and cabinets as a whole reflect the growing awareness that even furniture affects the environment, particularly during their manufacturing process.
So desks for office workers are getting a closer look by greenies – their materials and manufacturing processes are being revamped to reflect our emerging awareness of the environment.
A few promising areas of study stand out from the rest:
Low-VOC Manufacturing Processes. In the course of manufacture, desks for office use may be put together using volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are mostly present in solvents like glues, paints, and stains. VOCs are bad news for the human organism: they can irritate eyes and throats, cause headaches, and damage the nervous system.
VOCs have harmful effects that persist long after the end of the manufacturing process: offices with VOC-positive furniture have indoor concentrations of VOCs that are up to five times higher than outdoor levels. When VOCs make their way into the wild, their cumulative effect can be devastating: they contribute to air pollution and leach into the water supply.
So it’s of extreme importance that facility managers purchase low-VOC emissions products, to reduce health risks to its employees in the short term, and mitigate the impact of their furniture on the environment in the long term.
Buyers of desks for office use should look for products with the Green Seal (pictured at left); their manufacturers have stringent standards that control the levels of VOCs in their furniture, achieved primarily by using water- or powder-based finishes on their office furniture.
FSC-Certified Wood. Ensure that the wood in your new office furniture comes from sustainable sources. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) oversees forests that are managed in accordance to FSC’s stringent standards, and certifies companies that source their raw materials from such forests. So furniture that bears the FSC logo do not come from forests that have been logged irresponsibly – just the opposite!
The FSC certification is not lightly granted – independent certification organizations perform the assessments that result in FSC accreditation, which include tracing a furniture manufacturer’s supplies back to FSC-certified sources themselves.
For an example of companies that are fully compliant with FSC certification, a group of charities – the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation – have redone their office with green building principles in mind, using FSC-certified wood for their offices’ construction and interior design.
Remanufactured Desks for Office Use. Supply managers turn to remanufactured office furniture as a source of desks for office workers – furniture that has already made its impact on the environment in the distant past.
Remanufactured furniture has been intensively recycled from used stock: a process involving disassembly to component parts, cleaning, repair, refinishing, and replacement of parts are performed to bring used furniture back to “better than new” condition.
Many remanufacturers use low-VOC paints and finishes to lower their impact on the environment, with the same result: furniture whose quality is within a whisker of brand-new.
Are your office facilities – from the desks for office workers to executive chairs – compliant with the best environment-friendly practices? Look at your office furniture now, using the standards listed above – and get ready to make a green change for the better.
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