Rejecting the Disposable Society

In a society that is growing and moving faster than ever before, the importance of conserving and sustaining has never been more front of mind. With ‘sustainable living’ one of the biggest buzzwords of recent years, many of us are making more conscious efforts to investigate what this really means, and how we can make more sustainable choices in our day-to-day lives. Perhaps you drink your coffee from a re-usable cup, buy organic local produce, or drive a hybrid; maybe your second car is a bus, your home is solar-powered, or you recycle – but have you ever stopped to think of the impact your furniture is having on the environment? In this article, we’ll highlight the importance of buying sustainably-sourced furnishings, and discuss the environmental, moral, and psychological benefits of rejecting the disposable society.

It’s no secret that furniture made from manufactured or man-made materials – such as MDF or plywood – are bad for the environment. Not only does their production incur high levels of toxic gases to be released into the atmosphere, their composition (timber offcuts held together with a formaldehyde-based adhesive) can be damaging to our health. Traditionally, these products were so appealing because of their low price point – but as time has shown, the necessity to replace these items because of irreparable damage or breakage actually makes them more expensive than their solid-timber counterparts. As solid timber is more durable, and more easily repairable, it’s less likely to be disposed of – because of its nature, it’s an unfortunate fact that most MDF (or equivalent) products end up in landfill. It’s estimated that the lifetime of a piece made from solid timbers is 10-15 times that of an engineered or manufactured timber product. So while the immediate cost of solid timber furniture is likely to be more expensive than MDF, in terms of ‘cost-per-wear’, solid timber is incredibly affordable, and a much better investment for your home.

The Bastian Chest of Drawers and Tall Boy in Solid American Oak.

While buying solid timber furniture is preferable to MDF, it’s also really important to ensure that your timbers are sourced sustainably – ie. whether the forest they came from is FSC certified (or equivalent). At Icon By Design, we partner with the American forestry industry to source our Oak and Walnut timbers from FSC-certified forests – where the trees are harvested sustainably and responsibly. We further reduce our carbon footprint at our factories, where the emphasis is on traditional carpentry and craftsmanship – ensuring the strength and durability of our furniture, without the need for polluting glues or other chemicals. Lastly, we want our products to last a lifetime (or longer!). Our timeless design ethos ensures that the styles you buy now will look as current today as they will in 30 years. All of these elements are vital in reducing the need to replace your furniture, and assist in the rejection of the disposable society.

There have been a number of recent studies documenting the detrimental effects that consumerist culture has on our psyches. The constant pressure to ‘keep up appearances’ – whether that be amongst friends or on social media – has resulted in many of us harbouring a deep dissatisfaction with our lives or our way of living. Rejecting the disposable society has huge psychological and mental benefits. Rather than buying something for immediate satisfaction but subsequent regret, why not – in the words of our founder, David Light – “buy something, and just enjoy it.” Many of us are going one step further, subscribing to the Minimalist manifesto of “the intentional promotion of the things we most value, and the removal of anything that detracts us from it.” (For more information on that, we really enjoyed watching The Minimalists, which you can find on Netflix.) Indeed, this notion of the ’emotional value’ of furniture is one that is echoed by our founders. We strive to make furniture that promotes positive associations; we want our customers to remember the experience they had when purchasing, as well as their reasons for purchasing the item. Our designs (their timeless style and sustainable durability) encourage shared experiences.We make furniture that’s good for the soul; designed to be enjoyed, designed for making memories.

The underside of our Axel Dining Table in Solid American Walnut, demonstrating traditional carpentry techniques.

That’s not to say there’s no emotional benefit from updating your interior; you can evolve your style by investing in sustainably-sourced accessories. Australian-based companies like One Another, Zakkia and Kaz (which can be found in Icon By Design stores) all support ethical manufacturing and source their materials sustainably, allowing you to add beautiful accessories and still be environmentally conscious.

We all have a moral obligation to the world we live in, and rejecting the disposable society is one of the ways you can fulfil this. The advantages of sustainable living stretch far beyond the obvious environmental benefits; it can help us live a far more considered and enjoyable lifestyle. For more information on Icon By Design’s sustainability principles, or to browse our collection of sustainably-sourced furniture, visit our website or stores.