Improving Productivity in the Workspace with Color

by Marci Klein June 22, 2017

Improving Productivity in the Workspace with Color

Business is booming, you’re hiring more talent, and you are rapidly  outgrowing your space. It’s time to upgrade the office. You need something that will both optimize workflow and impress potential clients. You’ve worked out the layout, now what color scheme? Cool white modern, a playful pop of color, or subtle yet elegant?

pantone color chips

Multiple studies have researched how color schemes in the office effect productivity.  For example, a University of Texas study found that bland gray, beige and white offices induced feelings of sadness and depression, especially in women, while orange and purple had similar effects on men.

ultramodern white commercial furniture in cowering workspace

Ever wonder why hospital rooms are typically pale shades of blue and green? These low-wavelength colors are known to lend an overall sense of well-being and tend to be calming and sedating. In other words, they PUT YOU TO SLEEP. This palette may work if you own a yoga studio or a spa but may not be optimal if you want your workers to actually work.

calming serene blue in modern room setting

That being said, Blue is also known to promote feelings of trust and communication so if your business warrants a high level of teamwoork and collaboration, you may just want to add a splash.

Yellow, on the other hand, often viewed by color psychologists as the shade of optimism, is energizing and fresh. It is believed to trigger innovation and is best used in work environments where artists, writers, designers, developers and other creative professionals work.

modern workspace in white and yellow is energizing

Red, a high-wavelength color, is highly stimuating and energizing. It’s great for active, intense jobs and places that require night shifts. But beware, it also increases the appetite, so if your going with red, use it sparingly or make sure you’ve got some munchies for the team.

pop red colors in the modern workspace keep workers aware and energetic

Despite the plethora of data out there on color theory and maximizing productivity, at Modify Furniture, we also understand that each employee is more than the sum of statistical data and as such, individuals may be affected differently or may in fact have personal preferences. That is precisely why the Polychrome Office Line is designed with swappable colored components. Because in the end, a happy worker is a hard worker.

read more about Modify Furniture at www.modifyfurniture.com

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references

https://www.quill.com/blog/workplace-culture/productive-palette-how-color-can-influence-workplace-behavior.html?cm_mmc=NEW_Infographic_GHG

http://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/color/news/a8927/best-office-colors/

Put a Plant In It

Modify Furniture’s guide to improving workspace productivity, employee health and the environment in one simple step.

Modify Furniture’s guide to improving workspace productivity, employee health and the environment in one simple step.

The benefits of plant features in the workspace go way beyond cosmetic. Research from Cardiff University shows that plants can boost productivity in the office by as much as 15%. The study sites that plants improve employee satisfaction,  focus, and perceived air quality. Further studies  go on to validate these positive effects of fresh foliage in the office environment.

modern office furniture ecofriendly
The Clean Slate Desk by Modify furniture

Improving Air quality 

University of Technology in Sydney Australia did a study in 60 office environments and found that indoor  plants removed up to 75% of volatile organic compounds from the air These substances, also referred to as VOC, can cause difficulty breathing, reduced energy levels, itchy eyes and skin and more. They are released, or “out-gassed” from various building materials including  paint and carpet, as well as furnishings, plastics and electronic equipment. In high concentrations, many of these agents are acutely toxic and carcinogenic.   In this study, the benefits were most significant in older spaces or those with poor ventilation.

 

 

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Polychrome 02 Storage Unit by Modify Furniture with removable flush-mounted planter boxes.

Decreasing sick days

The University of Vermont has indicated that offices with plants spread throughout experience more than 14% less absenteeism. This may be due to an increased sense of pleasantness regarding the actual workspace or the more tangible environmental factors such as air quality. Either way, it furthers the arguments of office plants as a worthwhile investment.

Fostering Creativity and Productivity

According to Business to Community, having plants spread throughout your office has been shown to raise productivity by as much as 12 percent, largely due to a reduction in stress. When you begin to consider what that 12 percent could mean for your operation, the question is no longer whether to get plants but rather why you don’t already have them.

modify furniture modern desk with removable accessories built into design
The Clean Slate desk By Modify designed with creativity in mind.

The Clean Slate Desk  by Modify Furniture is designed with the invisibin™ system, a playful assortment of mounted accessories that fit seamlessly into the desk surface and offer the owner the ability to design their desktop to suit their needs.The Weedgarten and Una Cosa are created with plants in mind

office installation by Greenery NYC
Installation by Greenery NYC

 

references/photo credits

  1. https://greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org/news/potted-plants-can-significantly-reduce-urbanindoor-air-pollution/
  2. office installation photo by http://greenerynyc.com/green-walls/
  3. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/view/47147-flower-power

Meet the Holocene Coffee Table by Modify Furniture

 

Our new Holocene Coffee Table is designed as a commentary on current Environmental Issues

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The Holocene table is designed as 5 discrete bamboo rings balanced perfectly, yet seemingly tenuously on delicate anodized aluminum supports. The design represents a centered, currently stable earth under the weight of the four barely balanced planetary boundaries that we humans have transgressed, leaving us teetering at the edge of the Holocene period, the only time in all of our planet’s 4 billion year existence capable of supporting life.

Climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and biochemical flow have already been realized, leaving us at the precipice of an uninhabitable world.

“Thank You for Being Late”, by well known New York Times Journalist, Thomas Friedman, is an incredibly in-depth and quite overwhelming analysis of the current state of the modern world. He eloquently discusses how society and our environment are impacted by the accelerating advances technology, market globalization, and industrialization. The reader can’t help but appreciate the delicacy of the Holocene Era, which supports life as we know it. This table is meant to represent the tenuous situation we humans face.

materials include:

sustainable bamboo hand polished with low VOC oil-wax
bioclean-anodized aluminum
glass
36w x 36″l x 15 1/2″h

This modern, minimalist is handmade to order. The table is now available at modifyfurniture.com  Custom options available on request. Or visit us at the Modify Furniture Factory in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Bacteria take a Bite out of Messy Manufacturing

Anodizing aluminum has  gotten a bit of a bad rap in the environmentally conscious community. It’s not the anodizing process per say, but rather the by-product of the cleaning method that is the culprit. The emulsified slurry of greasy buildup and detergent typically needs to be hauled off and dumped by the ton daily in many manufacturing facilities. That’s where Timothy Calhoun, CEO of BioClean USA in Bridgeport, CT and his miraculous microbes step up to the plate and take a bite out of pollution.

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Pseudomonas bacteria

photo credit: Quantov

All metal manufacturing requires the use of oily coatings which are indispensable in both the machining process and as a coating used to  prevent corrosion. But a quality anodizing job worthy of high end furniture and product design requires squeaky clean aluminum. As Timothy astutely puts it, “A good anodizing job requires three qualities of the metal: clean, clean and clean.”. This typically requires the aluminum parts take a soapy hot bath in potent detergents or highly alkaline (and dangerous) solutions.  The resulting by-product is a toxic emulsified sludge whose destiny is to be dumped in a toxic waste site.

Calhoun, with a grant from Connecticut Innovations and the help of U Conn doctorate students in environmental studies,  was able to develop and perfect his 10,000 gallon machine and system which acts like a brewery, optimizing the medium for his special bacteria who have a particular taste for greasy, oily sludge. Essentially, he offers his little pals a permanent table at their favorite fast food restaurant.

Bioclean use plant
American Anodizing Plant, Bridgeport, CT

And that’s nothing to turn your nose up at. These bacteria, when give the optimal environment (Calhoun’s machine), can munch their way through tons and tons of sludge, saving companies huge amounts of money and saving the planet thousands of gallons of fresh water  while avoiding pollution.

Anodized aluminum is used frequently in high end furniture and products, given the material’s aesthetic, mechanical properties and insusceptibility to rust. Modify Furniture is fortunate to have the ability to work with Calhoun, whose shop a mere three miles from the Modify Furniture Studio. Our newest product, the Nebula (gradient) light is made using BioClean-anodized aluminum, recycled glass and our sustainable bamboo.  The Modify Furniture Nebula Light will be available November 2016 but for a sneak peek  visit us at the Broadway Market in SOHO,  at 483 Broadway, Manhattan.

Modify Furniture eco-friendly LED light
Inside the Nebula Light by Modify Furniture
color changing eco-friendly LED light by Modify Furniture
The color changing Nebula Light by Modify Furniture

For more information about Modify Furniture products,  visit our online shop  at www.modifyfurniture.com. To read more about our eco-friendly materials and processes visit our sustainable practices.

3D printing: from prototype to production to the populous

We are seeing more hobbyist-grade 3D printers in the community. Who wouldn’t want to make his own adorable little trinkets like frogs, mini-eiffel towers and piggy banks?  Home-model printers are readily available these days  but why do we need to learn CAD, buy a machine, and deal with the repeated breakdowns (yes, they do get clogged regularly) just to make an adorable figurine for our shelf?

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http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/ugly-dolls

Stay tuned, the story is about to get a bit more interesting…

But first, a bit of history. The birth of additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) goes back to the late 1980’s.  In 1986, Charles Hull, the co-founder of 3D Systems, invented stereolithography, a printing process that enables a tangible 3D object to be created from digital data.    (http://invent.org/inductees/hull-charles/) The earliest use of additive manufacturing was in rapid prototyping during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Prototypes allow manufacturers a chance experiment with design and even test a product or component before producing a final product in mass quantities. (http://computer.howstuffworks.com/3-d-printing1.htm).

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 6.51.25 AMhttps://www.emaze.com/@ALIFICOQ/SLA

Since that time, additive technology has been widely used in countless industries from Aviation and automotive to medical and, most recently, has extended to hobbyists, food industry and even jewelry.

The medical field caught on in 1999 when the first bladder augmentation using the patient’s own 3D printed cells was successfully accomplished. In 2002 it was the 3D printed kidney, and in 2008, the first 3D-printed prosthetic leg, with all parts — knee, foot, socket, etc. were printed as one unit without the need for assembly.

 

natasha-long-prosthetic-leg-by-melissa-nghttp://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2014/08/31/3d-printed-prosthetics/#72accc6b543e

Aviation and automotive industries are now using 3D technology for many complex components. Additive technology produces parts that are structurally comparable to steel, lighter,  create less waste, use less energy, and is of lower cost than a tooled component.

The transition to the consumer market  was spearheaded in 2005 by Dr. Adrian Bowyer’s RepRap Project, an open-source initiative to create a 3D printer that could basically build itself—or at least print most of its own parts. It’s 2008 release, Darwin, is a self-replicating printer that’s able to do just that. Suddenly, people everywhere had the power to create their own printers and make whatever stuff they could dream up on their own. In  2008 Shapeways launched a private beta for a new co-creation service and community allowing artists, architects and designers to make their 3D designs as physical objects inexpensively http://individual.troweprice.com/staticFiles/Retail/Shared/PDFs/3D_Printing_Infographic_FINAL.pdf.  Soon after, Makerbot hit the market as a consumer friendly and modestly priced (for 3D printers) machine. And with the opening of makerbot stores across the country, suddenly the masses had access to this cutting edge technology that had previously only been open to big industry.

Makerbot-Replicator-Mini1

This couldn’t happen at a better time, with the Internet and social media making small startups and micro businesses possible, now there is access to affordable prototyping for the budding inventor.  And for entrepreneurs that don’t feel like learning programming, there are plenty of freelance options for help.  Now all you need is  a dream and a computer (and an idea, lots of research, luck, and  a bit of money to get a new business off the ground. Economically speaking, the days of needing half a million or an investor to start your business are also in the past. New businesses can start on a shoestring. Throw in crowd funding sites like Go Fund Me, Indigogo and Kickstarter, and even cash is available.

But not everyone aspires to launch a new business.  So what can everyone else do with this new technology For starters, the educational aspect cannot be underestimated. learning CAD and 3D modeling, computer technology and having a deeper understanding complex spacial relationships at an early age (with the added reward of making ones own object) has tremendous potential.

Authentic-renders-with-Lightworks-Artisan-in-Renditioner-Prohttp://sketchup3dcomponent.blogspot.com/2011/08/artisan-based-renditioner-pro-for.html

Alternatively, There is the possibility for joining the additive marketplace, freelancing  to create objects or files for objects. Shapeways is the etsy of additive technology.  Admittedly, most of these objects are of limited use. We don’t really NEED to print our own business card holder or phone case.  But it’s only a matter of time before the community develops more functional components.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 7.01.41 AMhttp://www.shapeways.com/marketplace/jewelry/

At Modify, we embrace this concept and are currently reaching out to designers and students to help us develop new drop-in accessories for our Invisibin™ System of routed depressions in our furniture line. This system allows customers to design their own furniture without the need for a workshop in their basement. Desktop Accessories that help with cord management, lamp shades, planters and device mounts are just a few of the possibilities. Artists may opt to design a paint well tray, or specialty pencil holders.

bamboo2https://modifyfurniture.com/collections/drop-in-accessories

Looking forward, Modify Furniture will soon launch our open-source our accessory line, creating a  “customer-generated” line called the Modify Marketplace, a collaborative community everyone can  design, make, and share their own designs.  In this way, we will help to create a collaborative community,  a new platform for designers and makers across the globe.

Week 2: Finishing the Pallet Garden

Modify furniture is proud to offer our old pallets to this great new project.

palletableproject

This week, it was all about structure. Using three pallets, scrap 1×4’s, and a whole lot of muscle, I was able to construct the vertical pallet garden. Now it’s time to get some plant donations from local garden shops!

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A fresh look at “good design”

What characterizes good design? Clearly form and function are key components. Add longevity, innovation, manufacturability and toss in sustainability; you’ve got a winning product. Sometimes these features conflict with each other and it is the task of the designer to come up with the perfect balance.Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.48.59 PM

One of the greatest challenges is creating a product whose form will be stylish and current yet still span the life of the object. A quality, well built, credenza may last a century but it’s design may become dated quickly as styles change. With pantone colors changing yearly and the fashion world moving forward exponentially, it is a select few products that can truly hold up to the standards of good design. With the average product taking two years from concept to market, it can be quite a difficult task to design a truly iconic product.

Modify Furniture, a newbie in the design market, has come up with an interesting workaround, The concept: adaptability built into the design. Their core line, the Polychrome Series does just that. With their patent-pending aluminum framing system, the sleek, minimalist and timeless frame is the “scaffolding” that supports endless creativity. “I have a hard time committing (except to my husband). I can’t bare the thought of closing the door on a particular color, design or material. I wanted to create an innovative line of furniture that could evolve with time. The design for the framing system was critical to get right. The versatility of the whole line is dictated by the morphology of the frame. But at the same time, the aesthetic had to be clean, minimalist, and simple enough to be ageless”.

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modern clean lines and simplicity create the perfect canvas for a pop of color

The aluminum frame can be powder coated, anodized or plated. Modify uses the same system for their line of case goods, desks, coffee tables and their playful Omnicarte and Cubist small storage solutions. Plans are underway to create office pods and floor to ceiling room dividers that double duty as book shelves. Hinge doors and drawers that can be retrofitting into and unit are also in the works.

The true fun is in the sliding panel doors. Because the frame itself is structural, sliding panel doors are purely aesthetic. Owner and designer Marci Klein compares it to a post and beam structure with the sliders acting as curtain walls. It leaves a world of options for playing around with color, materials, and textures. “As new materials and styles come on the scene, I can work them into the existing structure rather that start with a new design from scratch”.

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modify furniture color pallet

The core line uses a playful yet sophisticated mix-and-match pallet of 11 colors. Color matching is also an option for customers that need something special. As these panels are removable, it’s easy to re-design own’s furniture on a daily basis if desired.  So when a customer goes from the young, urban pop color vibe to the more sophisticated white decor, it’s as easy as changing one’s outfit.

“Glass, recycled through-color fiberboard, eco-friendly resin panels are all directions we can go quite easily.”

One of the most exciting adaptations of their core polychrome line is the After Dark Series. This is where the real magic lives. “We have developed a unique process by which we can embed artwork from HR images into the surface of our furniture. So any credenza or coffee table can become a one-of-a -kind piece of functional art.” With the art printed directly onto a metal surface, it is resistant to physical and UV damage and absolutely glows when the sun hits it.

Modify plans to continue designing innovative products that are high-function, high-design and have the unique ability to adapt.

miamiretina
Modify After Dark collaborative piece with artist Kristin Reed

Crazy Customizing Customers

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Modify Furniture offers a a wide array of colors and options for customers to choose

One of the earliest lessons in life is taught in preschool; “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”. Sure, it makes sense that your child should accept the cupcake with red frosting rather than the one with blue frosting. Seriously, they both taste the same right?

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preschoolers offered choices

Hold on, the last time you painted your house were you forced to take the first paint can on the shelf? There are at least 1,677 Pantone colors for a reason.

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pantone color chart

Individuality and differences in  taste are intrinsic to human nature.  But choice in the retail world means huge inventory, and resulting loss of revenue when that inventory doesn’t move. Overstock shops and outlets may help but not all companies choose to let their  high end  brands wind up on the shelf in these locals. Many stores would sooner demolish their overstock and drop the debris in the dumpster than donate or discount. This is the unfortunate outcome for many products. The environmental (and economic) impact is too often disregarded in hope to protect the “brand” name.  So how can retailers offer choice?

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discarded products

Several major trends in recent years have offered a solution to this unfortunate situation. Firstly, small local businesses with a “made-to-order” model are popping up across the states. We have become (again) a country of makers. Whereas mass produced, foreign made,  and cheaper  products was the ethic in the last century, we are now seeing a trend toward quality, American made, and yes, custom made products with a world of options.  Items made to order may cost a bit more and take longer but today’s consumers are willing to wait for a product that is made exactly the way they want it.

The “artisan economy” has its roots possibly in Brooklyn, N.Y. with the hipster population and strong “built in Brooklyn” sentiment. Cities like Brooklyn, Austin St. Louis, Portland, Minneapolis  to name just a few have opened their doors for small shops that make products to order. Even larger companies like Room and Board are proud to work with local craftsmen for their custom items.

 

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modify furniture worker cutting aluminum parts for custom piece

The internet and social media have been instrumental in helping this new “Artisan Economy” thrive. Customers can easily find the right products and companies they want to buy from. Likewise, small businesses can now reach out directly to potential customers. Social media, affordable internet marketing and “maker” sites like Etsy and Custom Made help customers “meet their makers”. Social sites encourage customer engagement, company transparency, and foster a meaningful relationship between the seller and buyer. Feedback and reviews help a small company gain credibility and help them to quickly adjust their products to meet  their customers’ needs in a way that would be challenging for a large corporation.

New web-based “visualizer” or “customizer” platforms make it easy for smaller businesses to offer their customers a world of options. They offer consumers the ability to see in realtime what they have chosen. Visualizers make it less scary for customers to make these choices when buying online. Several years ago this option was available only for large corporate businesses. Today there are a number of companies that offer more affordable options for smaller businesses.

 

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typical visualizer tool for customizable products

 

The next step in customer customization will allow everyone to be the maker. DIY’ers are everywhere. Sites like Instructibles and Pinterest make it easy to discover new ideas and then learn out how to make them. Home models of 3d printers, laser cutters and mini CNC routers are becoming more affordable and more common in the homes of hobbyists. This will take the customization to the next level. People will be able to design a pencil tray that uniquely fits their writing tools, design their own dresses, bike helmets. The options are endless.

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CNC routed desktop accessories by Modify Furniture

Simple blue cupcakes are the way of the past.

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visit us at modify furniture.com

Bringing midcentury modern design to the 21st century table

What makes midcentury modern design so intriguing? Beyond the clean graceful lines and simple geometric form characteristic of this period, there is a critical aspect of design from this era that is a direct consequence of the social pressures at the time. World events necessitated a change in manufacturing and design. It was in part, these historical forces that helped shape the form of midcentury architecture and design. By the latter part of the century however, it was these same innovations that may have ultimately contributed to the loss of manufacturing of these products on American soil. On a brighter note, over the last decade, we have seen a resurgence of American made products in the design world. Understanding how and why this trend is occurring may help us moving forward in the 21st century keeping US a leader in the design and manufacturing world.

The Second World War was a time of limited resources for the US and much of Europe. The scarcity of steel in particular, prompted a search for new building materials. This sparked the use of more innovative materials including aluminum, plastics and fiberglass. As soldiers returned home and the post-war population boom occurred, there was now a surge in the demand for new homes and home products. These items needed to be produced quickly and efficiently to supply an ever-increasing need. Architects and designers alike needed to focus not only on form and function but also on the new concept of cost effective mass production and manufacturability. This new focus favored more simple geometric forms over more ornate complicated details.

 

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The innovations that worked to supply the needs of the growing population of the midcentury era may have paved the way for a less beneficial trend in latter part of the century. Simple design and cost effective mass manufacturing, in conjunction with advances in modern transportation allowed for products to be made in very high volume and low cost abroad. The cultural shift toward mass accumulation of cheaper products with less focus on quality only further supported this outsourcing of production. The consequence, a cultural explosion of “more, more, more” with accepted tolerance of decreased quality. The surge of supersized superstores supports this concept In essence, we gave up quality for quantity.

mass produced copies
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Moreover, the mass production of goods in places with fewer regulations also paved the way for irresponsible use of materials during manufacturing. Disregard for environmental issues as evidenced by the cutting down of forests and use of potentially carcinogenic adhesives and toxic finishes have only recently become a focus.

 

So have we seen the death of high quality design and responsible use of resources? Possibly, the future is not so bleak. In the past decade, Americans have been starting to realize that less may be more. Tiny homes and container homes are all the rave. Modern magazines like Dwell focus on the benefits od smaller spaces. Eco-friendly building solutions, while still being thoroughly modern are becoming the new norm. Quality custom-made products and craftsmanship are becoming more important to us.

The internet and social media have made it easier for consumers to better understand the companies that make these products. Transparency is the way of the future. Companies are listing what materials they use and where they get them, allowing customers to make informed decisions.

Etsy, Custom-made, and countless other sites are helping to bring craftsmanship back to the US. Today is the time for American entrepreneurs, small local businesses, and independent craftsmen. “Maker Towns” like Brooklyn, St Louis, Oakland, and Austen are sprouting up across the nation. A “maker mentality” is rampant across the states with  incubators and shared workspaces to help startups. Modern innovations like additive technology, 3D printers now make it feasible for new companies with limited means to prototype quickly and efficiently, opening the door for new innovative products.

Where to from here? Possibly the answer is to take lessons from mid-century modern designers and continue our search for innovative processes and new materials. But we should also focus on using buying products that rely on local resources and sustainable manufacturing practices. As consumers, we should look for products with high quality, and craftsmanship. And with the use of social media, we should aim to create true connections between maker and consumer for a truly trusting relationship, something that can’t be outsourced.

 

custom desk made with eco-friendly materials and finishes by Modify Furniture.base_v1.jpg

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modify guide to eco-friendly living in the real world

These days it seems that everything is “eco-friendly.”  It can be challenging to separate fact from fiction. What is really an environmentally friendly product and what is a sales pitch? The truth is, short of living in a tree and catching your own food (without tools) there is no perfectly carbon neutral product.
Knowing the right questions to ask is important to make the  right choices for yourself and your family.  At Modify Furniture, we have done extensive research on materials, manufacturing and other processes that impact how green a product is. We have chosen the materials for our furniture based many factors in an effort to offer our customers highest quality furniture while minimizing environmental impact. We have compiled an outline to help consumers ask the right questions when purchasing products for their home.

1.  Materials used: The most obvious question is, “what is  the product made of?” Most home furnishing products are made from wood, metal and/or plastics.

For wood products, reclaimed wood is an obvious choice as it does not require cutting down trees.  It is important, however to know what that material is finished with (more on this below). Cork and bamboo are both rapidly renewable products. Growing bamboo is actually a carbon negative process although this benefit may be somewhat minimized depending on ultimate traveling distance. U.S. based bamboo manufacturer, Teregren is currently in the process of growing their bamboo on american soil.

      modify desk in bamboo

                             bamboo2

 Considering metals, both steel and aluminum are recyclable materials. While prime (no recycled content) aluminum requires high energy in the production process, recycled content aluminum greatly reduces this burden. The EPA states that Recycling aluminium saves 95% of the energy cost of processing new aluminum. The superior structural integrity and longevity of products made with aluminum is also an important benefit. We proudly source our raw aluminum from a local manufacturer that guarantees an average of  30% recycled content, a proportion that is optimal environmentally while still offering superior quality and structure.

                                cube of scrap metal

 When buying products made with wood, look for items made with FSC certified  or  recycled-content wood materials.  Keep in mind that reclaimed wood may carry health risks related to the finishing products originally used, information which could be unknown. The website, http://www.woodguide.org/guides/materials/ has a wonderful in depth review of sustainability of wood materials.

Plastics can often be recycled but it is important to check labels to be sure that the product you want to purchase is made with recyclable plastic. Additionally, many products out there are are made from 100% recycled plastic.

                                recycling plastic bottles

2.  Where did the materials come from and how far did they travel? Raw materials traveling long distances to the manufacturing plant only to travel yet again to reach the end user expend energy.  Look for companies that source materials locally when possible.

                              

3. Manufacturing process/waste management.  This can be difficult for a consumer to determine. Look for companies that are transparent about their efforts to  minimize waste and avoid  excess inventory. Keep in mind, most products do produce some waste, so look for companies that recycle their scrap and use materials that are recyclable. At Modify, we have researched lean manufacturing techniques and designed innovative programs that effectively minimize waste. Additionally, our made-to-order model limits excess inventory.

4. Finishing processes. As important as the materials used in a product is what they are finished with. Eco-friendly bamboo or cork coated with toxic oil-based paints and varnishes are toxic to workers and consumers. Look for products with low VOC finishes only.  While water based topcoats are typically low VOC, they do require stripping and refinishing for any repair work. For our bamboo finishing, we chose a low VOC natural oil-wax product not only for it’s  rich luxurious finish and safety profile,  but also for customers’ ability to spot repair if necessary.

                         FullSizeRender

5.  Packaging materials- It is important to also consider how products get to their final destination. Flat packing requires less packaging and takes up less room during transport, which translates to lower enegy consumption during transportation. Almost all cardboard packaging is made from recycled material (often 100%). Plastic wrapping that is made from recycled material is usually green tinted. Newer packaging materials including mushroom packaging and biodegradable peanuts are making their way to the market as well.

6. Product quality. “Disposable” furniture even if made with eco-friendly materials is not particularly green. Look for quality products that will last for years to come.  Also look for designs versatile in function so you won’t “outgrow” them.
pile of rubbish
7.  What’s in a name. Looking for products that are Cradle to Cradle certified will assure you that that your products are eco-friendly. They have the most stringent criteria for certifying products as  eco-friendly products.  However, it is also important to keep in mind that obtaining these seals require extensive costs and time and can be challenging  for younger companies to “prove their worth” compared to larger corporations.

More great resources include:

http://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-furniture.html

What’s the Deal With Bamboo? Green or not?

For information on Modify Furniture eco-frienldy products:

modifyfurniture.com