Go Clear to Go Green

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Amid all the talk about constructing and renovating buildings with an eye toward being green, we often miss opportunities to “go green” inside of those buildings.

Efficient light fixtures, improved insulation or utilizing part of the building for green space aren’t always as simple as we want.  In this case, being as green as possible means being green through the furnishings we choose.

Whether you’ve thought about it or not, the furniture you choose for your office space (or even home) has an environmental impact that can be very positive–or very negative.

One of the simplest things you can do to help the environment through your furniture choices is to utilize glass instead of wood, metal, or other materials. Besides providing a clean, modern look for your space, using glass shelving, glass desks, and other transparent fixtures can also impact the planet in several ways.

Here is a look at the benefits that other users are realizing:

Less Use of Natural Resources

Wooden or metal fixtures require larger quantities of finite, partly nonrenewable resources.  Think of your grandpappy’s heavy wooden desk.  Yes, it was sturdy and looked very professional, but it also gobbled up an unbelievable amount of wood.

But that isn’t the end of it with wooden furniture.  Apart from the erosion and loss of carbon dioxide exchange that comes with the use of trees, there was also a lot of fuel consumed in the harvest and processing of that wood.  Each step of assembling the item added to its environmental impact and carbon footprint.  Metal furniture also uses scarce natural resources.

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Glass is a more sustainable material that is lighter to transport and more energy-efficient to produce.  Although there is often a great deal of heat used for glass production, it can be done in a more sustainable way than wood and metal.

Less Use of Chemicals

And of course, wooden and metal furniture aren’t unfinished.  It is painted or stained and varnished, and often ends up being stripped and refinished at some point.

That process often utilizes other harsh chemicals to remove old finishes, and then goes right back to the paint and stain department to put on the new finish.  Then it’s sealed up with volatile polyurethane and allowed to “air out”–which is to say, to release fumes into the atmosphere–before returning to use.

Then there’s the process of cleaning wooden and metal fixtures, most likely with an airborne cleaning agent of some kind.

Glass provides better options by having no finish whatsoever, and routine cleaning can be done with a dry or damp cloth with only occasional use of cleaning solutions, many of which are available in green formulations.

Better Utilization of Light

In addition to being big, bulky, and not-so-green, wooden and metal furniture blocks light and creates shadows.  It is also darker in color, reducing the amount of light that is carried through the room.

Glass furniture, on the other hand, allows light to pass through, so no matter where the windows are in a given room, the natural light they capture can reach more places in the room than it could with opaque fixtures.

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Wise entrepreneurs and managers have been hard at work for several years now, trying to lessen their carbon footprint with their facilities management strategies.  With the right office furniture choices, you can broaden the environmental impact of the green decisions you are already making.

Samantha Peters Avatar

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