Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chemical Explosion in Texas Exposes Larger Issue

One of two observed fires at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Tx.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the residents of Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey. It looks like we might be in for a long hurricane season, and no amount of words can express the hardships many Americans will face after the storms pass this year.

Making life even more challenging for the residents of Crosby, Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey, they also had to evacuate a 1.5 mile radius around the Arkema chemical plant after an explosion there August 31. When the facility lost power, an organic peroxide ignited and caught fire after the refrigeration units failed. The toxic smoke caused one police officer present at the scene to be hospitalized with eye and throat irritation.

While Hurricane Harvey was classified as an 1000 year event, we must take better precautions with dangerous chemicals, where they are manufactured and located. It reminds me of Fukushima and the nuclear locations along U.S. coastlines that are vulnerable to flooding events.

I don't have answers to all these problems, but I do know how to play my part and understand my role. Deforestation caused by poor city planning placed thousands of Houston area residents in harms way. Those low areas were historically known to be vulnerable, and the forestation there was a natural barrier that absorbed flood waters. This is a reflection of how irresponsible oversight and treating the Earth as a limitless source of raw materials without regard to sustainability destroys the natural systems that provide us prosperity and protect us. That mission drives me to find the best ways to manufacture a product that I know, and gives me hope that we can achieve a sustainable balance between humans and the planet we call home.  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chemical Lobbyist Spins Benefits of Chemical Flame Retardants in Maine

I continue to bring awareness to this topic after reading an opinion article yesterday in The Bangor Daily News about protecting firefighters. The author opined that eliminating the use of flame retardants in couches was a bad idea, if you weighed the benefits of surviving a fire over everyday personal health. The contributor of the article is also the chair of the Science Advisory Council for the North American Flame Retardant Alliance, which is a well-known lobby group for big chemical. Here is another classic case of how the industry fights legislation by using a disenfranchised group as a political shield to protect its interest, cast doubt and sway opinion.
The movie “Thank You For Smoking” highlights how the alcohol, tobacco and firearm industry has perfected this message to bend the truth, and make the public question what is in their best interest. Also an uncomfortably, goofy love story of sorts, the ending moral reminds us that as long as there is money in politics, special interest legislation will be defended by men with machine gun mouths and giant marketing budgets.
With every victory declared in the fight against dangerous and toxic chemicals in our everyday items, there will be a reaction, and one that is also marketable. The ruling change of TB 117 doesn’t force any manufacturer to remove the chemical flame retardants, but does require labeling which must be easily recognizable. The labeling doesn’t require listing of any other chemicals used in the manufacturing process either. There is a lot of “greenwashing” by the large manufacturers who find it easier to change marketing than actual processes that make furniture non-toxic, eco-friendly and sustainable.
At EcoSelect, we’ve spent more than a decade pursuing the most sustainable and environmentally safe product available on the market. As a small business, we can’t afford to cut corners or spend on marketing, so we attempt to provide the best value we can by selling directly to you without the typical retailer costs.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Fight for Safe Furniture is Not Over

Chemical-flame retardants can be added into several materials
during the manufacturing process, from the cushions to the many
layers of fabrics required in the upholstery process.
When California instituted their non-flame retardant regulations, the general public thought that their worries about chemicals in furniture was over.

Not exactly, as stated by the Green Science Policy:

“In 2008, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission proposed a smolder test for fabric similar to TB-117-2013 called 16 CFR Part 1634 that would not lead to the use of flame retardant chemicals. There is no timeline for possible implementation of this standard.”

Just like a host of other items in American households that are the source of toxins, furniture can harbor a host of chemicals that are harmful to children, adults, and pets.

There has been a disconnect as a result of manufacturers, department stores, and outlets mixing safety issues and merchandising messages in order to jump on to the environmental wave.

More consumers are increasingly aware of the over-saturation of chemicals in our daily lives. The story about laminate flooring imported from China did get visibility. It focused on the presence of formaldehyde in the product.

However, not as well-known is that furniture made with pressed-wood (also known as particle board or fiber board) has formaldehyde in the adhesives that are used. This same cancer-causing chemical is also used as a finish for some permanent-press fabrics.

Ironically, there are numerous lists on the internet of companies that have eliminated toxic flame retardants from their products but may have other components that are not safe.

The manufacture and retailing of furniture is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Unfortunately, when it comes to money, not everyone is going to be forthcoming about how and from where they source their materials. Actually, by the time a product gets to a large outlet, the chances are very good that the sales help doesn’t have any knowledge about these issues.

Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, has been instrumental in pushing for new environmental stands across the board. He has already stated that he will lead his state in an effort to meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals, regardless of what the federal government does.

On flame retardants he said: Toxic flame retardants are found in every
thing from high chairs to couches and a growing body of evidence suggests that these chemicals harm human health and the environment. We must find better ways to meet fire safety standards by reducing and eliminating—wherever possible— dangerous chemicals.”

At EcoSelect Furniture, we never had them in the first place!

It is important to remain vigilant about all aspects of the elements used in furniture, whether made in America or overseas.

We will continue to do so.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Why We Only Use Sustainable, Certified Wood

It starts with certified, sustainable
Poplar and Maple hardwood frames
Our customers are concerned with buying furniture that is not made with toxic fire retardants or other chemicals.

Although that is a key feature that sets us apart from other manufacturers, our commitment to sustainability is of equal concern.

Furniture is the third largest user of lumber, after construction and packaging. Although most consumers are aware of the problems facing rain forests, knowledge of the specifics are under the radar.

The Amazon Rainforest is consistently ravished for it's hardwoods, mostly illegally, and then exported on a global, unsustainable scale. This wood finds its way into both expensive and inexpensive furniture.

Rainforests function as virtual lungs for the planet. They absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen more efficiently than other forests. This helps the world’s climate to stabilize. In addition, rainforests are home to 50 percent of all plant and animal habitat species on earth. The existence of global rain forests protects against soil erosion, drought, and floods. It also supports the indigenous populations who have been dwelling there for centuries.

An example: China has an ongoing call for rosewood, because it is the type of wood in demand for their classical furniture designs. With an increased supply and demand situation, rosewood has become the most highly trafficked property in the world.

Forest crimes are not the only part of the picture. Trees are an integral part of the ecosystem which is connected to the control of insects, disease, and droughts.

Government involvement in the United States protects and regulates forests. One of the better-known rules, the Idaho law, requires forest practices to protect soil and water, and guarantee reforestation
after trees have been harvested.

Illegal logging is the source for about 15 percent of lumber used in furniture. That is why we utilize legally and sustainably sourced wood, bought from vendors with a verifiable chain of custody. It is tagged with the label “SFI certified,” short for Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Ecoselect purchases only Poplar or Maple, which is then kiln-dried to stabilize it. Since it comes from the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, the delivery transportation footprint is relatively low.

Curious to learn more about how each individual can make a difference, via their purchases and life style? Take this Ecological Footprint Quiz. Check out their Canopy Project, which “strengthens communities through tree planting.”

We are all in this together.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Marching for the Environment

In New York City, thousands peacefully
assembled for Earth Day this year.
This April is turning into a blockbuster month for environmental action.

April 22 was both Earth Day, and the March for Science. On April 29, people will gather in Washington, D.C. to show their support for taking steps to keep the planet safe. The 2017 People’s Climate March is expecting huge crowds there, and around the nation through satellite events.

The first Earth Day was held in 1970. Gaylord Nelson, a Governor and Senator from Wisconsin, saw the writing on the wall. He was particularly concerned about the oil spill which had occurred in Santa Barbara in 1969.

Taking a page from the activism of the 1960s, Nelson pulled together citizens to become part of a grassroots protest that would bring attention to protecting the earth.

As we learn about diminishing resources, disappearing animal species, and experience extreme weather events more often, it’s clear that we all must play a part in moving the needle towards sustainability.

I have written before about the unhealthy materials frequently used in furniture, and how they add to the indoor pollution concerns of families. Thinking about my granddaughter, top on the list for potential impact is our young children and future generations. Last month’s posting about “New Findings on the Relationship between Flame Retardants and Kids” was our highest read post to date -- so I know that this a prime issue for our clients as well.

Through social media, we have forged connections with “Moms” groups, manufacturers with similar goals, and folks who are promoting renewable energy, non-toxic products, and recognition for how each person can make a difference. We are proud to be part of this community.

Sister Marches are happening throughout the country and around the world. I encourage you to find one at a location near you. I attended the Earth Day rally here in Charleston, S.C. where we had a great turnout. I plan to be marching in our local event on Saturday.

Together, we can all generate a change that will benefit ourselves and future generations.

Monday, March 27, 2017

New Findings on the Relationship between Flame Retardants and Kids

Many of our customers connect with us specifically because they are concerned about buying furniture that comes with the assurance: Safe for the family.

It is for that reason that we always have our finger on the pulse of the latest health information. I have written previously about the issue of flame retardants in furniture before from legislation to the evolution of its use (in response to tobacco related fires). We were also mentioned in a Dr. Oz segment exploring the hazards of chemicals in furniture and manufacturers who shun them

Now, there are new findings to share with you and they are concerning.

A March 2017 study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University has found a connection between pre-school children exposed to common flame retardant chemicals and behavioral issues.

 A complete abstract was published in the Environmental Health journal, titled “Cross-sectional study of social behaviors in preschool children and exposure to flame retardants.” The stated objective was to determine if “flame retardant exposure was associated with measurable differences in social behaviors among children ages 3–5 years.”

Conclusions indicated that children with higher flame retardant exposures “exhibited poorer social skills in three domains that play an important role in a child’s ability to succeed academically and socially.”

One of the authors of the paper, Molly Kile, an environmental epidemiologist, stated, “When we analyzed behavior assessments and exposure levels, we observed that the children who had more exposure to certain types of the flame retardant were more likely to exhibit externalizing behaviors such as aggression, defiance, hyperactivity, inattention and bullying.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Looking at Love Seats in the Month of Love

From our Garland Collection, the stylish and natural
 hemp fabric loveseat from EcoSelect
What better time to talk about love seats than the month of February, when Valentine’s Day is smack in the middle of the month.

Ironically, although this piece of furniture is the prototype of a romantic seating arrangement, its beginnings actually have nothing to do with courting or love.

The design concept was developed to accommodate women’s voluminous clothing during a period that included hoop skirts and yards of fabric. A woman needed a seat all to herself, in order to spread out her couture while she was at rest.

The terminology of “Love Seat” didn’t come about until the 1800s, when many pieces made replicated an S-shape. It allowed a couple to face each other for personal conversation. That’s where the intimacy began and ended. There was the safety and propriety of an arm rest to physically divide them!

Today, the Love Seat has evolved into a piece of furniture that is multifaceted in both use and design.

Many of our customers in urban areas, especially New York City, look to this construction as the perfect solution to get more seating into their apartment’s limited square footage. In houses in suburban areas, we have created Love Seats specifically to suit a bedroom setting.

Most frequently, the Love Seat is an alternative to the traditional L-shaped configuration of sofa and chair. When facing each other, with a low table in between, they become a perfect duo for formatting an entertaining unit suited for conversation and get-togethers.

We offer ten styles, matching all of our collections (except the Malibu). Nine of them can converted to sleeper sofas. With a pull-out bed frame and ecofriendly mattress, the problem of where to put the overnight guest is solved!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Green and Durable Furniture Begins with a Solid Foundation

Savile Sofa - EcoSelect Furniture

In every conversation I have with customers about how we make our sofas sustainable and without toxic elements, I always begin at the very beginning with our frames. Like a house, the design and durability of our product depends on a good foundation.

In the January 2017 issue of Southern Living, there was an article by Deb Schwartz outlining, “Sofas Deconstructed.” There is a sidebar feature on page 103 titled, “The Anatomy of a Sofa: The Frame.” Schwartz noted, “The most important part of any sofa is the frame.”

We couldn’t agree more!

Having spent four decades in the furniture business, I have always believed that a superior frame construction is essential to the longevity and comfort of a chair or sofa.
It all starts with solid hardwood frames with a lifetime guarantee.

At EcoSelect Furniture, we begin by using top quality lumber from locally certified sources. One and a quarter inch (5/4”) kiln dried maple or poplar hardwood are our woods of choice. Both are abundant in the eastern forests of the United States, grow relatively quickly, and are “straight grained” which allows them to resist warping. One of their top qualities is their density, a plus for holding screws and adhesives well.
To ensure security and strength, we double-dowel the joints and secure the connections with a non-toxic glue. Every element is important!

Furniture can take a beating, and we build ours with an eye to that inevitability. To ensure that corners and high stress areas are exceedingly resilient, we use hardwood corner blocks. For increased strength, both glue and screws are applied to secure them.

A drill down is given to the issue of what Schwartz calls “the second-most important construction consideration.” That is the “sofa’s suspension system,” otherwise known as the springs. I was thrilled to see the reference to “eight-way hand-tied springs” as the definition of a “quality product.” This method of tying springs in eight directions is a cornerstone of our production methods. In addition, we put a second set of springs inside our seat cushions for added comfort and durability.

Just like the article outlines, I always ask potential buyers about the situation that the chair or sofa will be placed in. Is it a formal setting? Will it be a family room with kids and animals as regular users? This helps them pinpoint the best choice.

There was no specific mention of flame-retardant materials in the run down, but by now, you know that is non-toxic materials is the key feature of an EcoSelect piece of furniture.

Oh, and by the way, if you check out the magazine, I would say that our designs fall into the category of Classic and Handsome!