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Are office chairs bad for the environment?

17th May 2022Blog PostSustainability

One of the most environmentally impactful elements of an office is its furniture.Office chairs in particular can have a sizable impact on the environment throughout their lifespan. From the extraction of their raw materials up to when they end up in landfill, chairs can often become a silent contributor to a business’ carbon footprint.

More businesses are becoming aware of the difference sustainable office furniture can make, but how bad are office chairs for the environment and what are the environmental benefits of choosing more sustainable options?

Why are office chairs bad for the environment?

Impactful materials

The standard manufacture of office chairs usually involves a range of materials whose production is damaging to the environment. Whether it is wood from unregulated deforestation or plastics that are non-biodegradable, office chairs are often designed for short term profit rather than long term solutions. Both the extraction and eventual disposal of these materials can add up to significant impacts on the environment.

Carbon intensive manufacture

Each step of the manufacturing process for office chairs often involves a huge amount of carbon emissions; the extraction of the raw materials, transport of said materials, all the way to the manufacturing of the chair itself uses fossil fuels. The total carbon emissions involved in chair manufacturing is known as embodied carbon, and the mass production of office chairs that have high embodied carbon damages the environment through increased CO2 emissions.

Environmentally damaging waste

According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), 1.8 million office chairs end up in UK landfills each year. Many businesses are forced to dispose of their office chairs early as they are designed with cheaper materials from unsustainable sources, resulting in a short lifespan. These chairs also feature fixed designs that do not have replaceable components, meaning refurbishment is often impossible.

How can office chairs be environmentally friendly?

Low impact and responsible sourced materials

The first step in making an environmentally friendly office chair is right at the beginning with the materials. Ensuring they are responsibly sourced and sustainable is key to avoiding unregulated or impactful materials that are often used in office chairs. For example, sustainable office chairs will use wood-based materials from supply chains that are either Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) accredited, and prioritise renewable materials over fossil-fuel based materials. Chairs that use these materials will help lower a business’ carbon footprint by reducing the amount of embodied carbon used in making their office furniture.

Designed to last

The lifespan of an office chair is directly related to how sustainable it is; the longer a chair is in use, the less demand there is for new office chairs for businesses. To ensure a long lifespan, manufacturers should use reliable materials and test the chair repeatedly to validate strength and resilience for decades to come. On top of that, manufacturers should accommodate disassembly options to allow for replacement parts, which in turn extends the chair’s lifespan even further. Office chairs that are designed to benefit businesses by saving them the financial burden of repeatedly purchasing new chairs, as well as allowing them to demonstrate their commitment to the environment.

Built to be refurbished

Chairs designed for disassembly and built with replaceable parts make refurbishment a viable option when a chair is near the end of its lifespan, or when a business wants to sustainably remove the chair from their office. Refurbishment allows existing chairs to be repaired, remanufactured and repurposed with sustainable materials from the circular economy, before going to a new office as a sustainable piece of furniture.

Sustainable office chairs at Office Resale

At Office Resale, we work with businesses to provide a full range of sustainable office chairs and services to encourage environmentally friendly practices. Not only do we offer high quality furniture from leading brands, but we also offer refurbishment services to help make the most out of existing assets to prolong their lifespan and make them ‘as good as new’.

Shop our range of refurbished office chairs from the best brands, or contact us to discuss how we can refurbish your office’s existing assets to any requirement.

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