A variety of thrifted and vintage furniture on a lawn in Chicago for sale

Want to buy Sustainable Furniture? Here's your Best Option

Learn why to buy sustainable furniture, how to choose it and how to make it last. Firstly, there are a lot of ways to buy or make sustainable furniture. 

  • You can reclaim wood scraps and other materials, and turn it into something new.
  • You can buy from “safe” rainforest friendly and fair trade manufacturers. 
  • Or you can thrift. 

Thrifted furniture might be the most authentically sustainable option in this list. 

Thrifted wood record holder table with a vintage radio in an outdoor landscape

*Photo courtesy of @eskiji_vintage

Thrifted, Vintage and Used furniture benefits

Buying local  -- If you thrift from your local community or even your region, you’re avoiding the immense carbon footprint of those huge cargo ships that travel across the oceans.  

Low effort -- While it’s not necessarily about sustainability, thrifted furniture is a very low effort purchase. Finders keepers. Bring it home, and your done. If you choose the DIY route, you’ll have a lot more variables to think through. 

Affordable price -- The cost of new furniture is steep. Buying used furniture saves you a huge investment. You can save, spend or simply live off that money some other way. 

Quality -- Some thrifted pieces of furniture hail from eras when craftsmanship went beyond the IKEA wobbly assembly model of piecing together furniture. It might be heavy, but thrifted furniture is often as durable as a tank.  

Nothing new -- At Goodfair, our motto is “no new things.” This applies to furniture, too. You can buy durable, beautiful pieces of furniture that use virtually zero new resources. 

To think about this more practically, you need to consider how much resources our commodities take to make. For instance, we wrote about how a single t-shirt uses over 700 gallons of water

The same goes for furniture. The furniture industry produces 12 million tons of new furniture each year and almost 10 million gets discarded in the landfill. 

leather used chair tipped up against a brick wall in an outdoor landscape

This is an extreme misuse of resources and just one example of what’s known as the “linear” economy. Based on this model, new things get produced exponentially, and they eventually end up in the trash. IN contrast, the “circular” economy favors using old things by looping them back into the pool of material resources through recycling and reuse. 

The production of new furniture doesn’t just create waste. You’ll also use the wood from trees, the metal from mines and chemical shellac and plastic vinyl and other plastic fixtures from the petrochemical industry. Yuck. It causes deforestation and industrial pollution. The factories that make furniture emit fossil fuel emissions and require lots of fresh water. 

When you buy thrifted furniture, the damage is already done, so you can shop with peace of mind that you’ve done your part to join the sustainable “circular” economy. 

With all of these considerations, we think thrifted furniture is the most sustainable option. 

A large vintage basket in an outdoor landscape

Photo courtesy of @eskiji_vintage

How to shop for sustainable furniture at a thrift store

Shopping comes with a degree of excitement, but don’t lose your head over this. 

  1. Value quality over quantity. 
  2. Search for damage: broken base boards? Torn leather straps? Too much wear and tear? We know it’s old, but is it still useful? 
  3. Give it the smell check. 
  4. Visualize where you’ll put it in your home. 
  5. Measure it with a tape measure to see if it will fit or ask for measurements if you’re shopping online. 
  6. Give it the Goldilocks treatment: Does it feel right? Look right? Spark joy? 

How to keep a piece of sustainable furniture in use 

Just because you thrifted a piece of furniture doesn’t mean your sustainability duties are done. You need to keep the piece alive by using it a long time.

If you get tired of its fabric or finish, though, don’t hesitate to update it with reupholstery, paint or a new finish. If something breaks, try to repair it.

And if you really don’t like it anymore, try to sell it or give it away instead of sending it to the landfill. 

Enjoy thrifting and let us know what you find. 

Need something to wear for thrifting furniture? Try our Mother Earth Bundle


Article written by Erica Eller

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