Is your furniture eco friendly and ethical?

With a little bit of research I’ve managed to follow a couple of products manufacturing journeys and looked into their companies annual reports to reveal what a vast difference there is between a small handmade furniture business like Wood Create and a couple of multi million pound companies.

When buying from Wood Create you are investing in a piece of furniture that is individually hand crafted, durable, long lasting and best of all eco friendly.

In this post I’d like to talk about why Wood Create furniture is a sound investment by looking at the process behind a couple of tables and comparing them to some of the big brand equivalents on the market.

Industrial dining table and bench

Whilst I love some of the designs from big high street brands, I’m a lot less keen on the build process behind them and how these larger corporations benefit from cheap labour abroad, unnecessary environmental impact and their less than ethical approach to CEO and shareholder salaries and bonuses.

We can see some very influential and contemporary design ideas from companies such as John Lewis which are a very well known high street brand, but when we take a little look at their practices we see what impact these products have on the environment and who benefits from their sales.

One of my most popular products is my Cross (X) leg dining tables and matching benches which I’m going to use as my example and comparison to one of John Lewis’s 8-12 seater extending dining table from their Calia range.

Both are similar design styles with a thick chunky wooden top and steel powder coated legs. These are both lovely tables but their build processes have very different environmental impacts. Let me elaborate.

X-Frame Dining Set

Distance travelled

Here’s an interesting one.

I’ve followed John Lewis’s 8-12 seater Calia dining table and can see the wood has been manufactured from American white oak which is only grown in North America, particularly from Tennessee.

This timber is then shipped to Vietnam (a mere 8400 miles as the crow flies) for manufacturing.

It then makes its way to the UK on board a large container ship. Another 5800 miles.

In total this is 14,200 miles or 22,852 km. But remember, this is as the crow flies. The actual distance travelled is more likely to somewhere around a total of 17,000 miles (27,358 kilometers).

And thats before it even gets to your house.

John Lewis table – ~17,000 miles

It would be very difficult to calculate the carbon impact of this journey but let’s compare this to Wood Create’s dining table.

All Wood Create’s reclaimed wood is sourced from within 12 miles of our workshop and the X leg steel legs from just 26 miles away.

Thats a total of just 38 miles (61.1 kilometers) for all my materials on this table.

Materials for Wood Create table – 38 miles total

So Wood Create’s carbon footprint equates to about 0.01 tonnes of CO2e for the manufacturing of about 10 tables, based on a carbon footprint calculator with a diesel van.

Using the same calculator lets see what comes out for John Lewis’s table…

John Lewis Calia dining table = 5.18 tonnes of C02e

Wood Create X leg dining table = 0.01 tonnes of C02e

Yikes, thats 518 times the amount!

Whilst I know this isn’t accurate as container ships produce much more CO2 than a small diesel van and there’s so many more variables but hopefully this paints a picture for you.

Materials

Let’s take a quick look at the materials both companies are using. JL is using an American white oak which is a lovely wood to work with and considered to be sustainable.

Sustainable by definition is – “Sustainability is the ability to exist constantly. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for the biosphere and human civilisation to co-exist.” (Source – Wikipedia).

So that’s not bad, right?

Well, it’s better than non sustainable wood like Ebony or Mahogany but there’s still an impact when we deforest large areas of woodland to fulfil demand.

We’re still damaging ecosystems when we deforest large areas for wood cultivation. Soil erosion, wildlife homes, air pollution, large areas of deforestation with use of large polluting vehicles all contribute to a non sustainable manufacturing process on such vast scales.

American white oak is currently being harvested at 20.1 million m3 per year. That’s the equivalent of about 95,000 trees per year.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/branches-countryside-daylight-environment-566496/

When you buy from Wood Create all the wood is reclaimed. Sourced locally the wood has lived a previous life as scaffold, decking or building boards of some description, to the point in which it’s no longer suitable or required for its purpose.

That’s where I step in.

I buy or salvage the boards, transport them to my workshop and breath a new lease of life into them. The ending result is really quite beautiful if I don’t mind saying so myself. I really love the reclaimed patina on the old beat up boards. It shows real character.

cracking wood

CEO salaries

Again I’m going to use John Lewis as an example for a comparison here.

Are Chairman and CEO salaries justified in large corporations or are they being overpaid?

This is a topic that’s discussed regularly in our household and yet we can’t seem to understand.

Why is there such a large pay gap between none management employees (or partners as JL like to call them) and executives and board members?

If all staff were truly partners wouldn’t that gap be a little bit smaller?

Chairman Sharon White who is responsible for overseeing John Lewis and Waitrose has recently joined the company on a £990,000 a year salary. (£1,430,000 including bonuses and pension contributions).

None management “partners” salary of £9.58 per hour equates to about £18,500 per year which is 1/78th that of the Chairman!

Wowzers. It’s incredibly different!

This however is a fraction of Jeff Bezos’s (Amazon CEO) annual income of $78,500,000,000. Seventy eight and a half billion dollars a year. (£59,492,229,800) That’s mental! This equates to:

  • $6,541,666,666 per month
  • $1,509,615,384 per week
  • $215,068,493 per day
  • $1,509,384 per hour
  • $149,353 per minute
  • $2,489 per second
https://www.pexels.com/photo/abundance-bank-banking-banknotes-259027/

Now Wood Create is primarily run by myself with a little bit of help from my wife.

WC currently turns over about £35,000 per year (before TAX) which goes to support a family of 4.

Whilst we expect the business to expand in the future, this salary is sufficient to live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle.

Yes, there are plans to expand but should we ever take on any staff we would want them to share more equally in the business success and profits.

We’re not greedy people and believe that our “partners” would be part of the business, not just another cog in the wheel.

Here is a great quote I’ve seen posted on FB recently;

“When you buy from a small business, you’re not helping a CEO buy a 3rd holiday home. You’re helping a little girl get dancing lessons, a little boy his team jersey and mums and dads put food on the table.”

Conclusion

With all of these details in mind we should all stop and think about what we are buying because these simple every day decisions are having an impact on our planet.

Online shopping is very popular now and reaching sellers from all over the globe has become very easy.

But let’s slow down and take a minute to Google small local businesses that could quite easily provide the same products at very competitive prices.

You can also find great local craftsmen and women on handmade marketplaces like Etsy, NuMonday and Folksy. Reach out and support small businesses today.

Our continuing efforts to always find the best deal has lead to mass consumerism, fuelled by foreign super producers such as China, often for sub par products that we can often source locally.

So what if we have to spend a little extra, it’s far more beneficial to our country and local economy when we simply change our spending habits. Another great quote found on Instagram, posted by @eco.globe_ was this one:

“You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in.”

@eco.globe_ on Instagram

If we all did this, our local communities would thrive and our environmental impact would fall dramatically. This in turn secures our futures and our children’s futures to live on a planet that can be shared fairly and equally by everyone.

Buy local, buy reclaimed, buy Wood Create.

Thanks for reading

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