"Blending Nature with Creative Imagination"

do! magazine

"In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired." -- Author Unknown


KS forest products - natural form furniture from trees

'Natural TREE Furniture' featured by Tiffany McKinnon,
 a freelance writer for, among many others, do! Magazine.
"Take a Stand ~ Improve your health with all natural furnishings."

There ís a plethora of media attention these days devoted to maintaining a healthy lifestyle including, but not limited to, how many carbs you should eat and how long you should exercise. But, what, if ever, do you hear about maintaining a healthy home?

If you stop and think about it, the quality of the air you breathe in your home can have a direct result on your health. (If you don't believe me, ask anyone who suffers with a pet allergy.) So, have you ever stopped to think about how your home furnishings can give off toxins from dyes, finishes, and synthetic fibers and affect your indoor air quality? Luckily for us, there are manufacturers out there that have and are devoted to producing all natural, environmentally friendly furniture.

Going Green
I hate to generalize, but there are essentially two different consumer groups who founded the need for all natural furniture. First, there are those with health problems, who cannot tolerate items that emit certain chemicals. Many of these people have what is called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) Syndrome, although it is not a recognized disease by most governing medical organizations. When you have the windows [of your house] closed in the extreme heat or cold, everything's air tight. "We're sitting and sucking in all these chemicals and we don't know what it's doing to us," says owner Barry Shaprio of Massachusetts based Furnature. Buyer beware: most non chemically treated furniture is not fire retarded and requires a medical note in some states to be sold to a consumer.

The second, and perhaps larger group is a part of the LOHAS marketplace. LOHAS is an acronym that stands for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability and describes a niche that appeals to consumers who value health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living. "The LOHAS customer isn't necessarily a granola person," says Chuck Blumenthal, owner of Bean Products, Inc. of Chicago, Il. "It could be a woman with a family that's concerned with a healthy environment and can't grow and manufacture her own organic materials, so she needs the convenience of someone else doing it for her."

Variance Is The Spice of Life
Unless you are planning on buying the also environmentally friendly recycled furniture made from recycled glass and scrap metals, most of your sofas and bed frames are made from wood. The lumber chosen by the manufacturer makes a huge difference in the overall environmental result and it should come as no surprise that there are as many varying opinions as to what's more ecological as there are pieces of furniture.

For example, the owners of Natural Tree Furniture in Wilson, KS use wood from dead standing trees or dead branches on live trees. "We will cut live trees, but only to rescue them from the bulldozer when requested," says Ray Smith, owner. After harvested, they sterilize the wood to all wood boring insects and mold fungus by putting it through a kiln.

Other companies that aren't personally involved in the harvesting process, but who are still concerned about forest management, look for certified, sustained wood. Sustained wood is wood that's cut down in a way that maintains the principles of good forestry management. In simplistic terms, it makes sure that something's always growing where something else is cut down, so that the forest is sustained over time. The most extensive certification is SmartWood, a program of the Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit environmental group, but there are other certifications in existence.

There are yet other companies who get even more specific about the type of wood they choose. Furnature chooses sustained maple for the frame of all their upholstered furnishings. "Most wood gives off a natural chemical, so we use maple, which is a non aromatic wood," says Shapiro. Bean Products, Inc. takes its ecological commitment very seriously by using wormy maple, which is literally a maple tree with worms in it, so it's rendered unusable for outside furniture or flooring. "It can, however, be used as a frame inside upholstered furniture since it's not seen," says Blumenthal.

The Bottom Line
There's a constant struggle with which all manufacturers of sustainable furniture will agree: balancing the practicality of the furniture with their environmental commitment is difficult. It's easy to take a stance and do something 100 percent ecological, but the cost of such an endeavor is not cheap. An all natural sofa will retail about three times as much as a mass produced sofa ($3,000 to $5,500), but you are also receiving a hand-made and well built piece of furniture. "I could do it for less, but it would also be less ecological and it would have less impact on the plant and on its consciousness," says Blumenthal. "The key is to encourage others and other companies to add to it." Smith couldn't agree more, "It doesn't matter how small your contribution is to the health of the planet. If enough people make a small effort, it will have a large impact on the health and well-being of everyone."
Do Your Homework
If you're a consumer who is interested in non-toxic home furnishings, be ready to do your homework. Although it's an expanding industry, it's not easy to find at your local furniture store. The World Wide Web is going to become your most valuable asset. And, like most things you buy, the more research you can do about the product, the better educated purchase you'll make and the better you'll feel about your contribution to the environment and consequently, your health.
Types of materials used in eco-friendly furniture:
Organic cotton - Cotton that has been grown and harvested using no pesticides or chemical fertilizers is considered organic.

Kapok - A silky fiber obtained from the fruit of the silk cotton tree and used for insulation and as padding in pillows and mattresses; a substitute for goose down.

Buckwheat - An annual Asian plant with clusters of small pinkish white flowers and small edible triangular seeds.

Hemp - Illegal to grow in the United States, it is the largest useable fiber volume producer per acre of plant. It has no natural antagonist; therefore it needs no chemical fertilizer or pest control. It is drought tolerant and a sister plant to linen or flax.

Natural wool - Natural wool should be cleaned and created without bleaches, formaldehyde's or dyes. Wool is a natural fire retardant.

Pure natural latex - A yellowish, amorphous, elastic material obtained from the milky sap or latex of various tropical plants, especially the rubber tree, and vulcanized, pigmented, finished, and modified into products.

Recycled polyester fibers - Many times companies punch out a circle or square out of a larger foam shape and the remains get scrapped. The furnishing manufacturers are finding ways to use the scrapped foam fibers in pillows and mattresses.

Water based glues - There are a variety of glues that are more ecologically conscience than formaldehyde based glues. Some manufacturers will use screws instead.

What you WON'T find:
Formaldehyde - Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that sometimes has a noticeable odor. Exposure to formaldehyde in the air can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. It can also cause symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.

Fabric protectors - Stain guards often contain a lot of formaldehyde's and should not be used on sustainable furniture. Instead, ask about melted organic waxes that or melted into the fabric's fibers during the manufacturing process.

Dyes - Just because your comforter or upholstered furniture was made from 100 percent organic cotton, doesn't mean it wasn't dyed with something chemical. Be sure to ask questions if it's a colored print.

Home Away From Home
Care to extend your healthy living and support the environment even when you're not at home? The Sheraton Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, PA is America's first environmentally friendly hotel. The hotel uses all 100 percent organically grown cotton for upholstered furniture, bedding and window treatments. Even the cleaning and laundering products used throughout the hotel are nontoxic. All the guest rooms, meeting rooms and public areas receive filtered fresh air 24 hours a day and the entire building is smoke free. The six story atrium lobby features a jungle of bamboo trees welcoming guests into this pocket of natural life tucked within its urban surroundings.
KS forest products - natural form furniture from trees

do! Magazine

"do! is a home improvement magazine geared toward men and women from ages 25 to 40 aiming to get ideas for improving their home. The publication covers topics ranging from the latest in appliances to decorating trends. While we provide ideas and tips for projects and a few step-by-step projects, do! is NOT a how-to publication. Its main focus is to inspire readers to dream, create and improve - whether on their own or with the help of a contractor. do! also covers every room of the house in every issue... inside and out." Editor Amber Jones
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KS forest products - natural form furniture from trees

E mail: Natural Tree Furniture 436 Avenue H., Wilson KS 67490 Telephone (785) 658-2618