Why Buying American Furniture Is Environmentally Ethical

Buying American furniture is not environmentally ethical per se, but it is if you can establish the ethics of the furniture manufacturer. The reason for that will be discussed shortly. The whole point is that you must first be sure that the furniture is Made in the USA, and not simply imported. Here are the reasons for these various comments.

American Furniture or Imported?

Large quantities of so-called ‘American furniture’ is imported or made from imported wood and other materials. It all comes does down the age-old argument: is ‘made in America’ the same as ‘assembled in America?’ Also, is ‘Made in America’ the same as ‘Made in the USA?’ Yes it is!

An item of furniture can be assembled in the USA using African or Indonesian wood, French or British textiles and German or Mexican hardware. In fact nothing can be home grown but the company can describe the item as being American furniture, but not labeled ‘Made in America.’

If you don’t think this is ethical, then how about all the American cars made from parts that have been manufactured in other countries such as Japan? Some American plants are no more than assembly plants, putting cars together from parts made in other countries. Some of our furniture manufacturers are the same, while others simply import the entire thing.

Why it is Important to be Made in America

For you to be sure that you furniture is environmentally ethical, you must first make sure that it is made in the USA. Then establish that the raw materials are also American – particularly the wood. It is fundamentally the wood and the manufacture of the furniture that we are discussing when we refer to being environmentally friendly’ or ‘environmentally ethical.’ Let’s forget the semantics – you know what is being referred to.

If you purchase furniture that has been crafted using teak, mahogany or any other hardwood that is a product of the rainforests that are being systematically destroyed, then you are not being environmentally ethical. You are contributing to the destruction of Planet Earth’s ability to breathe. The oxygen we breathe comes from plants – and rainforests are a significant part of that.

There is a very understandable argument that the people of those countries have a living to make. However, they could also make a living by using the wood themselves to make furniture and other goods without completely destroying the forests. Nevertheless, this is not about rainforests, but about purchasing American furniture.

Amish Furniture and Wood Sources

Take the Amish, for example. Amish furniture is hand-made by craftsmen and women in their own homes and local community workshops. The furniture is then transported, mainly by horse and carriage, to a central distribution center. This saves on gasoline and fossil fuels.

The wood comes from forests that are as closely located to them as possible. Sometimes these can be 500 miles away, but are generally closer. That is why most Amish furniture is made from oak, American cherry, maple and other native American woods. Not only that, but the forests are sustainable. This means that felling is controlled, and new trees are planted to replace those that have been used.

All of this is environmentally ethical. So too is the way that most American furniture communities use the wood. Again using the Amish as an example, off-cuts are used to make small items such as bowls, trays and candleholders. They are also used to fashion children’s toys. The wood shavings and sawdust are also used – for packing for example.

How Do You Know if it’s Made in America?

Good question! How do you know that your American furniture has been made in America and not just assembled here?

Next time you are buying furniture, check the label or find who the manufacturer is. Amish furniture will generally be made in the USA, as will many others that are crafted by local communities. If the product or packaging is stamped “Made in America” then according to the Federal Trade Commission regulations, ‘all or virtually all’ must have been produced in the USA or in one of its territories or protectorates. This includes American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico.

If you are unsure, then ask the retailer. They should be able to inform you whether or not your American furniture is genuinely made in America or just assembled here. If the latter, then you can still buy it, but that does not mean that you are necessarily being environmentally ethical by doing so.