Sunday, July 19, 2009

Are Antiques Green?

My wife and I live in an older home and we frequent antique stores in hopes of finding the perfect peice of furniture that matches our home's style. I've always considered antiques to be green as it is a perfect reuse of old 'junk' and the quality is a lot better than what you'd find at a big box store.

This article at Tree Hugger takes a closer look at how green antiques are.

My latest predicament is this - my wife and I love to buy antique furniture - especially as we prepare ourselves for our first child. It's green, right? I mean what could be more sustainable than buying furniture built to last, and reused over-and-over again? The trouble is, I'm not so sure...

You see, the more I get to know about the antique trade, the more I find out how far dealers will travel to find salable pieces. And as we all know - travel has a high carbon footprint - especially if that travel is done in a private car or van, as opposed to a shipping container or a truck that is packed for maximum capacity. So is a truck-load of flat-pack Ikea furniture really any more polluting than 12 vans full of ancient artifacts? How do we weigh efficiency of transportation against durability and longevity, or emissions in manufacture? [...]

Having talked this over with my fellow TreeHuggers, I suspect that antiques are still a net positive - but it might make sense to look for antiques that are native to your region, and look to hold on to them for a long time (estate sales are obviously a good place to start!). As my colleague Mike pointed out, it's hard to imagine that furniture that lasts for 100 years, and may be sold maybe three or four times, has a higher carbon footprint than flatpack mass manufactured stuff that may be trashed in ten years.

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