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Up To Two Thirds Of UK Furniture Retailers Could Be Damaging Forests

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Woodpile by Chris RubberDragon via flickr

A new report, published today by WWF-UK, has looked at business operations of 74 of the most prominent UK furniture retailers.

The report, entitled ‘Are you Sitting Comfortably? Sustainable Timber Sourcing and the UK Furniture Industry’, has found that two thirds of UK furniture retailers could be failing to have robust sustainable sourcing policies for the procurement of timber used for their furniture, and share no performance information to confirm it is sustainable.

Of the retailers assessed 68% have either no published policy or any other credible sourcing statement, suggesting that they do not see the need for responsible sourcing of timber, nor are willing to provide any information to support any customer interest in environmental matters. These retailers include some prominent brand names such as Laura Ashley and Oak Furnitureland.

However, 22% of the retailers are making good progress or show industry-leading performance. These include DIY chains such as B&Q, Wickes, and specialist retailers like Magnet, Warren Evans, and Office Depot. Others have achieved a rating of ‘progress’, indicating they are making good progress against strong policy commitments; including Argos, and Ikea.

Julia Young, Global Forest and Trade Network Manager for WWF-UK commented:

“UK furniture retailers could be unwittingly destroying forest resources due to their lack of clear commitments to sustainable sourcing of timber for their products. Some of the retailers who featured in our 2015 Timber Scorecard, have taken little or no action to get to grips with the sustainable forest trade agenda, despite having significant reliance on such actions to maintain supply of timber to their own businesses in the long term.

“Furniture retailers need to understand the nature of their trade better, and appreciate the role they can play in making sure it is a sustainable one for forests.

“As the Living Planet Report has recently highlighted, human activity has resulted in massive habitat loss and degradation. Without good sourcing procedures, forest loss and degradation will only get worse.

“Retailers can not only reduce these risks but also enhance their reputation by engaging with the issue and by publishing and pursuing a credible timber sourcing policy. WWF-UK will produce its next wider Timber Scorecard in 2017, and we hope these companies will make dramatic improvements ahead of this.”

The report notes that the greatest challenge relates to the importing of finished furniture from outside the EU, particularly where the products do not fall within the current scope of the EU Timber Regulation. The report identified €4.1 billion of UK imports of which 59% were from outside the EU. China provides 42% of all relevant UK furniture imports, followed by Italy (15%), Poland (10%), Vietnam (8%) and Germany (7%). However, the import partner is not necessarily the timber’s country of origin. For example, for Poland only 42% of the imported oak is from the EU while over half is from Ukraine with some from Bosnia and Russia.

Total furniture imports from ‘high risk’ countries – those with recognised illegal logging and trade issues – are valued at €1.9 billion (600,000 tonnes) and include China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brazil and Indonesia.

The report outlines key recommendations for all furniture retailers to follow to build up sustainable practices that will not only reduce their business risk, but enhance their reputation. These include:

o Publishing a responsible timber sourcing policy
o Providing supplier guidance notes or training to ensure that all supply chain participants are aware of requirements
o Get third-party verification such as FSC.
o Communicate policies to all stakeholders
o Seek support from suppliers, industry bodies, environmental groups and competitors to help source responsibly.

Environment

Environmentally Sustainable Furniture for Dummies

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eco-friendly sustainable furniture choices
Shutterstock / By Rawpixel.com | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/rawpixel

We probably don’t think a great deal about our furniture choices. I know that I tend to just buy whatever looks pretty, seems functional and fits my budget. That usually means a trip to a few showrooms and big warehouse stores, like Ikea.

But we have a responsibility to the planet. We can do better. There are three major ways that our furniture can help the environment:

  1. Purchase used and/or recycled furniture and extends the lifecycle of precious materials.
  2. Source furniture that is free of environmentally unsustainable products.
  3. Choose furniture that doesn’t require electricity – opting for manual transitioning.

By investing in environmentally sustainable, high-qualify furniture, you’ll be able to pass down items from generation to generation. This will save your heirs on the cost of furnishing their own home, and help to protect the environment from wasteful fad furniture that only lasts a season or two.

Natural and Recycled Furniture Materials

If you absolutely love the look of wood furniture, search for environmentally sustainable products. For example, locally sourced wood or bamboo can easily be replenished without requiring excessive international harvesting of precious woods that harm the environment.

Sustainable wood products are only sourced from companies and locations that have the ability to quickly replace harvested wood – providing a responsible resource for generations of manufacturers and consumers.

Recycled furniture can either be a gently used item from someone else’s home, or a new piece of furniture that’s been used from reclaimed sources. You’ve probably seen examples of this at your local park – cities are increasingly using recycled materials to create benches and picnic tables.

But recycled materials don’t have to feel rough or rustic. Items made from recycled wood are readily available for order online or in-store. And believe it or not, electronic waste can be reclaimed and crafted into beautiful pieces of modern furniture.

The only limitation on recycled furniture design is the imagination of the creator. If you want to do it yourself, check out this DIY recycled furniture pinterest board!

Avoid Harsh Chemicals that Harm the Environment

Did you know that many cushions are made of highly-flammable polyurethane? Furniture manufacturers help keep our butts out of the hot seat by treating the materials in cushions with fire-retardant toxins. Unfortunately this padding breaks down overtime and the dust is both toxic to humans and the environment.

There are multiple lines of eco-friendly furniture that avoid the use of flammable polyurethane – often substituting with organic cotton. Just understand that you’re going to be in for a bit of sticker shock – eco-friendly furniture, when purchased new from major brands, gets pricey.

If you can’t afford the pricetag, I recommend finding used furniture from the same product line. There are a ton of websites dedicated to helping eco-friendly consumers find used organic, responsibly sourced products – and that includes furniture.

You’ll also want to stay away from faux leather. Furniture made from pleather and other leather substitutes are heavily treated with chemicals. That’s never a win.

Hypo-allergenic stuffing, combine with traditional leather might be a decent compromise if you have to have the leather look to tie a room together. But be conscious of the fact that tanning is not an environmentally friendly process, so try to limit these materials in your design.

In conclusion, it’s up to you how crazy you want to go. I think that as long as you stay with used furniture, you’re on the right track – even if it isn’t environmentally perfect, it’s at least a sunk cost for the environment – the damage has been done and you’re extending its useful life. But I think the most important takeaway here is buy quality items that you can pass down to your next generation – if that means spending more on higher quality new items that are sustainably sourced, so be it.

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Livery Services: Mother Nature Needs You to Invest in an Eco-Friendly Fleet

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green fleets
Shutterstock Photos - By tostphoto | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tostphoto

In the United Kingdom, fleet vehicles make up most of the traffic traveling our roadways. If there’s one area of the transportation sector environmentalists should be focusing on, it’s the way we move goods, services and people around the empire.

Businesses that operate a fleet of vehicles need to realize the environmental impact of their service, and the opportunities available to help them lower their operating costs, while saving mother nature.

A green fleet is much cheaper to operate – both because of lower petrol consumption and government grants and tax benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at the things your company is unnecessarily spending money on every year due to an old, dirty fleet of polluters.

Vehicle Taxes on Polluters vs. Environmentally Friendly Fleets

If you want to operate your commercial van on public roads, you’re going to have to pay a VED, or Vehicle Excise Duty. The total fee assessed for this is based on the age of your vehicle, not how much you drive it. This is important, because an idle fleet of polluters can be just as costly as a fleet of green vehicles that produce value for your company.

Vans that were built after 1 March 2001 were taxed either £132 every six months, or £240 annually. This rate is effective per the TC39 VED tax code. There are exceptions to this rate.

For example, if your van is classified as a Euro 4 van, and was manufactured between 1 March 2003 and 31 December 2006, TC36 VED tax code applies to you. The six-month rate is £77, or £140 annually.

For older vans, manufactured prior to 1 March 2001, your tax rate is based on the size of the engine. Vans with engines less than 1549cc are charged £82.50 every six months, or £150 annually. Old vans with larger engines must pay £134.75 every six months, or £245 annually.

Euro 4 vans are the cheapest to operate from a tax perspective. Why? Because they were fitted with specialized filters that help to reduce the amount of dangerous pollutants that make it into earth’s atmosphere. You enjoy the tax savings year-after-year by operating these vehicles.

It really is economically more affordable to operate a green fleet.

Petrol Costs – Another Reason to Think Green to Save Green

The cost of petrol is heavily impacted by our environment. When Britain is thrashed by stormy weather due to global warming, or oil production is impacted by environmental disasters, the cost of filling up skyrockets.

At the time of this writing, petrol is £1.16 per liter, and diesel is £1.18 per liter. There are forecasts from reliable agencies that see the price continuing to rise in the near future, passing price points not seen since 2014.

Regardless of the speculative nature of future fuel prices, the fact remains that vehicles that use less fuel save their operators money every time the wheels turn.

As an alternative, many companies are heavily investigating and testing all-electric and hybrid alternatives for a greener, more economical fleet. As an example, the Nissan Leaf is one of the most popular all-electric vehicles – and it’s a fantastic choice for transporting people or smaller cargo payloads to residential destinations.  The total cost to charge a Nissan Leaf, using current electrical vehicle charging technology, is just £3.64 to go from empty to full charge.

That’s a HUGE savings over filling a petrol tank. And with the prevalence of fast-charge locations, it’s possible to go from zero to empty in just 30 minutes.

In conclusion, there are many ways to save on fleet operation costs. And by investing in a more efficient fleet, you’ll be doing your part to save the environment. Both tax incentives and lower operating costs make green fleets a no-brainier for serious fleet operators throughout the United Kingdom.

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