Susan Yeley Interiors
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Time for A GREEN Sofa

Top 2 Things We Hear On Initial Consultations:

  • My husband needs that chair. Directly in front of the television.
  • I hate my sofa.

The first one is for another post (a long one, with no helpful conclusions, I'm afraid), but the sofa? It's time.

It was a handmedown from your in-laws. It's a scratch-post for your cat. It's a vestige of grad school, lounged on for years by your husband's unemployed friends between rounds of fooz ball and now supported by a piece of plywood under the cushions.  

We get it. A new sofa is expensive. It's a big, impactful piece. You don't want to get it wrong.

But friends, it’s time. Chuck it. Buy yourself a new sofa.

Why? Well, there are lots of reasons, not the least of which is the memory of your husband's half-clad friends sweating on your living room's centerpiece.  But here's a good one:

Because it’s likely that your old couch is a touch toxic.

It’s not your fault.

It stems from a nearly 40-year old California flammability regulation. In order for couch foam not to catch fire, it’s loaded with pounds of chemicals. Pounds! Many of the chemicals have been found to be carcinogenic. The others, untested. 

Over the 40 years, it’s been found that these chemicals actually carried no benefits. (What?!) Instead the chemicals have caused more problems—for everyone from the people who breathe them in while making the sofas, to your husband's heretofore mentioned mostly naked friends (and now you and your children and visiting mother-in-law), to the firefighters who breathe the stuff in while putting out fires. 

All those hours we spend being couch potatoes (sorry, I mean, following the inevitable rise of Daenerys Targaryen) means Americans carry much higher levels of these chemicals in our bloodstream than other nations. Some U.S. children carry some of the highest levels ever measured. That's a statistic that will get your blood boiling.

In January 2014, California came out with new standards. (Oh, California. Thou art so Forward Thinking.) Starting in 2015, many companies have made efforts to remove these chemicals from their product lines. To boot, by now, any remaining (toxic) 2014 inventory should have been sold.

The new flammability standards can be met without the use of the toxic chemicals. Nonetheless, they do not ban the use of the chemicals.  So, as you might have expected, living in the modern world: you still need to be an educated shopper.

Search for the TB117-2013 label on sofas and pillows, which suggests that the item meets the standards without fire retardants. This is the best version of the label-->

But we know you, Over Achieving Reader. You want to step it up a notch and be super green. You can!

1.     Avoid Scotch Guard or any other stain protectors.

2.     Find a couch built with FSC certified wood.

3.     Choose natural fabrics like wool, linen and cotton—organic if you can find it and your pockets allow for it.

4.     Go for a couch that uses a natural latex foam vs. a petroleum-based (polyurethane) foam that off-gases VOCs.

let's shop

Here is a brief low- to high-priced list of companies that offer chemically safer couches, with the greenest couch options book-ending this list. 

1.     A futon. No joke. That trusty college futon is probably safer than a couch.  If you are short on cash, you can probably find a frame on craigslist and then purchase an organic futon mattress online for under $500. Bonus – you have a spare bed. Check out The Futon Shop. There is a storefront up in Noblesville. This company has been a forerunner in organic, non-toxic furnishings. And you can dress up a futon. We can help. 

Courtesy Andrew Snow

Courtesy Andrew Snow

2.     IKEA. The gold standard when it comes to affordable furniture for the masses. We think of IKEA as stuff for your first apartment, but mixed in and curated well, it can easily live in a grown-up home too. Machine washable covers yell KID and DOG FRIENDLY to us. IKEA is complying with the new regulation and their cushions contain no flame retardants. And, for a company, they are very transparent about the sourcing of their products. As always, read the label on the couch in the store: you want to be sure you are purchasing a couch that is newly manufactured and meets the new regulations.

Courtesy Rikke Brams and that nordic feeling

Courtesy Rikke Brams and that nordic feeling

3.     Williams-Sonoma brands (West Elm, Pottery Barn, Willams-Sonoma). This family of brands now offers flame-retardant free upholstered furniture. Not all their pieces meet this standard, so read their product descriptions on the website.  We love West Elm and specify it often for our clients. Shoot, even the mayor of New York City loves West Elm. 

Courtesy Caela McKeever © 2015 Houzz   

Courtesy Caela McKeever © 2015 Houzz   

4. Joybird. This online shop is fantastic. Nice, mid-century designs in a gazillion colors. They do not use flame-retardant chemicals. Their foam is high-density, which provides good support and holds the lines of the sofas really well. Their goal is to build "healthy" furniture that uses superior fabrics, water-based glues and wood from sustainable sources. They also try to do it without breaking the bank.  

Courtesy Joybird and happy Joybird customer, Sarah M. 

Courtesy Joybird and happy Joybird customer, Sarah M. 

4.     Crate & BarrelA leader in the movement, none of Crate & Barrel's sofas use flame-retardant chemicals. (Woot woot!) Crate & Barrel upholstery is made to last—quality we feel good getting behind—and their clean lines and subtle detailing make their pieces work in a wide variety of styles and spaces.

Photo courtesy Cartoloji LLC.

Photo courtesy Cartoloji LLC.

5.     Cisco Bros. These guys are the Tesla of the green couch industry with their Inside Green option on their products. They’ve been offering this upgrade since well before 2014. Their Inside Green upholstery is flame-retardant free; constructed with FSC certified wood framing; and made with natural latex and organic wool, goose feathers and down.  Plus they have some beautiful pieces that we love.

Courtesy Layla at The Lettered Cottage. 

Courtesy Layla at The Lettered Cottage. 

For those of you who have no cash to spare or have a relatively new couch that has flame retardants (we're right there with you!), follow the “How to Reduce Your Exposure to Flame Retardants” steps on the blog entry found here: https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/safe-product-guides/sofa/  

Further reading

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/vsingla/want_to_avoid_toxic_couch_chem.html

http://www.nrdc.org/health/flame-retardants/files/safer-sofas-FS.pdf

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-flame-retardants-furniture-20150123-story.html

**Please note that this is a relatively new regulation and many companies are adopting it slowly or in different ways, so these articles can date themselves quickly. When in doubt, search for the TB117-2013 label and ask the manufacturer (not just the salesperson) questions.