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Cinde W. Ingram

Green style steps forward in furnishings

Eco-friendly furnishings for home are appearing more often in the U.S. marketplace, partially because of a jumpstart from architects, longtime efforts of the Forest Stewardship Council and the new Sustainable Furniture Council.

The nonprofit industry association is raising awareness of sustainable forest practices, helping companies adopt good practices, serving as an information clearinghouse and creating a symbol to reassure customers. While some skeptics dismiss the eco-friendly movement as a trend, its impact is likely to be longer lasting. The concept of "greening" homes, vehicles and workplaces boils down to an awareness of products and manufacturing methods coupled with informed choices by suppliers and consumers to help our planet's 6.5-plus billion population survive despite global climate changes.

"We're seeing lots of interest among everyone," said Susan Inglis, SFC executive director. "Retailers, designers and manufacturers all are seeing a marketing benefit." Inglis talked with a variety of people visiting the GreenStyle Pavilion at the High Point Market, including two women representing Wal-Mart.com who said the green movement is growing more important to the world's largest retailer.

At Target this spring, FSC hangtags are displayed on wooden outdoor furniture.

Lowe's was one of the first large home improvement retailers to make environmentally responsible movements by committing in 2000 to landmark wood and lumber policies by phasing out the sourcing of wood from threatened forests and implementing sustainable forest practices. That's true for its outdoor wood furniture as well as plywood, shelving, molding and doors. DuPont's rubber mulch plus garden hoses and decking made from recycled materials continue to be popular choices for eco-friendly customers. Lowe's now has added organic gardening materials including soil, fertilizer and insecticides because of its pilot program's popularity last year in Texas and Arizona.

"Over the last couple of years we have added several products to our offerings to meet the needs of those who are eco-friendly," said Jennifer Wilson, a spokesman for Wilkesboro, N.C.-based Lowe's. "We are trying to educate customers that it's not just a trend, it's a true lifestyle."

Chris Bruning of Groovystuff, a Dallas-based supplier of reclaimed teak furniture and home accessories who was among manufacturers participating in the GreenStyle effort, said he would like to see a similar effort at the Chicago Casual Market. "This whole movement is right for so many reasons," he said.

Foamex International launched Reflex Natural, a high-performance, environmentally friendly flexible polyurethane foam made partially from plant-based renewable raw materials.

"Developing and manufacturing innovative foam products and solutions to meet the exacting demands of our customers is our priority and the cornerstone of our future," said Andrew Thompson, Foamex executive vice president, foam and technical products.

A reclaimed teak dining set from Groovystuff was on display at the recent High Point Market, where the company participated in SFC's GreenStyle effort.

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