Studies show that sustainable educational furniture is better for the planet, student and faculty health and, in the long term, budgets.

According to the city of Bloomington, IN “An estimated 40% of schools in the United States are subject to poor environmental conditions that compromise the health and learning of students. The healthier environment and atmosphere in school buildings utilizing green design and construction principles is shown to lead to significant reductions in student absenteeism and improvements in test scores.”

1. Helping the Planet

Recycled Steel. Furniture made with the planet in mind helps reduce waste in landfills and energy consumption. Look for manufacturers that use recycled steel—which requires only 74% of the energy that new steel requires. Recycled steel also generates 86% less air pollution and 76% less water pollution than new ore.

Powder Coating. Powder coatings eliminate VOCs from manufacturing and are more reusable than liquid paints. They also do not interfere with the recyclability of the steel substrate and are in fact classified as a “non-hazardous” waste when disposed.

Laminate. Look for laminate that uses recovered and renewable materials. The base of the laminate material can be made from trees—and use 95% of the tree—as opposed to dimensional lumber, which only uses 63% of the tree.

Manufacturing Process. Smart practices eliminate waste and pollutants.

2. Health

We’ve all heard of BPAs in plastic. There are still many manufacturers out there who manufacture unsustainable furniture made with toxic chemicals. Formaldehyde and fire retardants can lead to cancer, asthma and allergies in children.

According to the Green Education Foundation:

  • More than 20 percent of public schools reported having unsatisfactory indoor air quality, according to the Department of Education. Carnegie Mellon University has shown in studies that there is an average overall health improvement rate of 41 percent due to improved indoor air quality.
  • Asthma is the leading cause of disease-related absenteeism in U.S. public schools. By improving indoor air quality, green schools can improve the health of students, faculty and staff, potentially decreasing sick days. With public schools relying on average daily attendance rates to receive federal funding, improved attendance is of particular importance.
  • When toxic chemicals — often found in paint, flooring and furniture as well as conventional cleaning, pest management and snow removal products — are eliminated, students and staff report less eye, nose and throat irritation, and asthma-related incidents decline.

3. Budget

Sustainable educational furniture can be cheaper in the long-term because it is made to last.

  • The lifecycle of steel furniture is two or three times that of wood
  • Powder coatings extend the life of the product because they’re harder, more scratch resistant and less likely to peel if dented
  • Thermolaminates and high-pressure laminates eliminate the need for solvent-based wood finishing systems and extend the products’ duty-cycles

When considering new furniture for a k-12 school or university, it is important to consider more than the ticket cost of a piece of furniture. As the adage says, you may be acting “penny wise and pound foolish”.

Haskell is proud to have a strong commitment to innovation in sustainability. In fact, we have introduced a rapidly renewable wheat straw-based substrate to the market that is formaldehyde free. And that qualifies for various LEED categories. Also, we have received the Low-Emitting Materials Certificate of Compliance from MAS Certified Green. Learn more about our commitment to sustainability.

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