The art of slow living encompasses much more than focusing on a connection with oneself, loved ones and surroundings. The ethos – that insists that living faster is not always the optimum reality – is also applicable when it comes to sustainability, which is one of the pillars of slow living. Naturally, this can be linked to the importance of sustainability in the designer furniture you choose to adorn your home. In just a few minutes of reading, find out more about sustainability and its inextricable relationship with slow living and designer furniture, as well as how we at Louw Roets are committed to its sustainable creation.
FORGOING SUSTAINABILITY FOR OUR CULTURE OF CONVENIENCE
Unfortunately, this age tends to measure progress by convenience and efficiency. As consumers, we have bought into this idea time and time again. We have accustomed ourselves to the pre-determined speed of this supposed progress. We can order food to be delivered within minutes, ask a question of Google with instant results or attend impossibly large meetings online with only the click of a few buttons and a reliable internet connection.
Where many jot these developments down as effective methods to simplify out lives, the Slow Movement argues that these developments can also complicate them. Rather than making informed and conscious decisions, we walk on in auto-pilot mode and consume without taking the time to reflect on the consequences of our choices. To combat this, advocates of slow living suggest a return to the small scale – that being the hand-made, locally-sourced and sustainable. This is where handmade and sustainable designer furniture comes in.
WHAT MAKES FURNITURE SUSTAINABLE?
In order to establish whether or not a piece of furniture is sustainable, one need only look closely at the type of materials that have been used in its construction. Sustainable designer furniture is often made with materials that have been recycled or repurposed. Bamboo is one example of such a material, as it grows quickly and is therefore considered renewable.
Besides the materials used, sustainable furniture is produced without the use of hazardous chemicals or products that emit volatile organic compounds.
However, utilising sustainable materials is only one part of producing sustainable designer furniture. Equally important is taking a responsible approach to manufacturing practices, which also have a significant impact on the environment. These practices involve manufacturers limiting carbon emissions and other forms of pollution and waste. Furniture design companies who are dedicated to sustainability are also committed to fair trade.
The above-mentioned practices are more commonly known, but what many people tend to forget is the importance of “giving back” in sustainable furniture manufacturing, as well as ensuring that the communities, surrounding environment and people involved in the creation process are not harmed in any way. Louw Roets as a company takes a human-centred design approach for this reason. We believe that designer furniture is valuable not only for its aesthetics, but also because of the efforts of those who created it as well as the respect given to the environment in the manufacturing process.
We truly believe that sustainable designer furniture should epitomise the story of those who came together to create it and accomplish goals that are in balance with their community and environment. This is particularly important in a country such as ours where the odds always appear to be stacked against our underprivileged citizens. We wish to celebrate the resilience and tenacity of the human spirit in the face of adversity through our creations.
SUSTAINABILITY AND DESIGNER FURNITURE
The use of advanced technology and rapid tools has led to a massive influx and production rate in the furniture making industry. The market is being filled with mass-produced, low-quality “designer furniture” that is important from places like China, Bali and Vietnam. Because many of the above pieces are inexpensive, an illusion of price and value that is simply untrue is being promoted. These unsustainably pieces are cheaper due to the fact that there have been no cost considerations for development nor staff-enrichment.
Companies responsible for mass-produced furniture send their items to be shipped around the world. Not only is this process deteriorating the furniture, but also damaging the environment in the form of ocean pollution and the destruction of natural habitats. Little to no care has been taken to ensure that the products, and production is environmentally sustainable. To add further insult to injury, the use of mass production methods often lead to the creation of furniture that cannot stand the test of time and must therefore be replaced in a matter of a few years. Furniture can be considered sustainable if care is taken to ensure that the way in which it is produced does not have a significant, negative impact on the environment or the community.
Becoming ever-more popular, however, is the idea of having a modern and authentic living space adorned with high-quality furniture. Many are straying from the path of conventional furniture and mass-produced furniture in favour of more unique and durable pieces. Handmade furniture, such as the designer furniture crafted by Louw Roets, is often likened to a green revolution in design. It is well sought-after for its high-quality form, sustainable material types and meticulous craftmanship. Further, the fact that there exists no Louw Roets piece that is absolutely identical to another showcases its singularity.
Buying local, handmade furniture is a step in the right direction when it comes to living sustainably. When you buy local furniture, you directly minimise its carbon footprint in when it comes to transportation. Transportation of finished products and oftentimes raw materials for the purpose of manufacturing uses significant amounts of energy, especially when those products are traveling from afar and produced in mass. When you choose a local company such as Louw Roets, you are ensuring that your items are transported in an eco-friendly manner and at no great distance, thus showing kindness to the environment.
Another important factor in sustainable furniture purchasing is the consideration of the furniture’s function. Before you purchase an item, take some time to think about whether the item will truly meet your needs – and whether it is something that you will be content with for years to come. When buying designer pieces, know that they may endure for decades, which means that they will not need to be replaced anytime soon. This means that your purchase will not end up contributing to overflowing landfills around the country.
HANDMADE FURNITURE, OR ART?
Briefly putting the matter of sustainable furniture to one side, it is the simple fact that handmade, high-quality furniture such as the pieces created by Louw Roets are so earnestly crafted that adds to its merits. Behind each handcrafted chair or table of stunning design, is the story of a craftsman who put their hands to the test in order to create something lasting. At Louw Roets, we are all about the story of those responsible for creating our pieces at every part of the furniture making process.
This is one reason why handmade furniture, in all its sustainability, could be considered art. It is as much about the story behind each piece as it is about how gorgeous the piece will look within a home. This type of work simply cannot be substituted by mass-produced items whose creation takes a toll on the environment. When it comes to machines, there is hardly a sliver of doubt that any contraption could top the work achievable by the human hand.
A machine cannot hope to copy the ways in which the hand can add texture, design and shape unique handmade pieces. In the same way, your treasured hardwood table created by the hands of a relative cannot be replaced by a table you ordered for a small cost in pieces to be assembled at home. One thing you cannot find in mass-produced furniture is the story of the person who spent hours dedicating themselves to the piece and putting their heart and soul into its creation. Many would liken the former to the tale of some of the world’s most famous pieces of art.
There is endless thought and sacrifice that goes into the creation of an original and stimulating piece of designer furniture, especially if that furniture is to encapsulate the values of the company behind its design. For example, it takes between 4 to 5 hours to weave one of our Louw Roets Ori chairs. But this does not even take into account the time spent grading; selecting wood; surfacing; planning; cutting of parts; shaping; making of joints; the gluing process; the sanding process; preparation; treating; sanding; treating once again; quality checking, and finally, packaging and delivering to patient clients.
Crafted out of dependable, solid wood and cord, the Ori chair – which derived its name from the Japanese word for “woven” – is a fine example of sustainable furniture which promotes the values of slow living. Featuring a frankly minimalist aesthetic inspired by the Japanese culture as well as European chair construction methods, the Ori chair brings clean simplicity and organic contours to any space. These chairs can take between 4 to 8 weeks, depending on a number of order variables.
Living in an age of instant gratification and mass-production means that waiting times of around 4 to 8 weeks may seem unappealing to many, yet taking raw materials and putting them through both machine and handmade processes is certainly a time-consuming affair. However, as per our philosophy of slow living, we hold fast to the sage words “anything worthwhile takes time to build,” which in this case, never fails to ring true.
HOW CAN SLOWING DOWN HELP US TO LIVE MORE SUSTAINABLY?
Now that you know a bit more about the value of sustainability in slow living, as well as how we at Low Roets ensure our handmade furniture complies to eco-friendly ideals, you may be interested in learning about how slowing down can help you live more sustainably. According to the journal of Science Advances, approximately 90.5% of plastic waste produced has never been recycled. This figure highlights the importance of addressing our “throwaway culture”.
In 2015 alone, waste in the form of plastic packaging amounted to 47% of all plastic waste produced globally. We may never how much of that plastic packaging can be attributed to furniture deliveries, but it is sensible to say that it constituted a fair amount. Moreover, Styrofoam containers – commonly used to package mass-produced furniture and send it around the world – take over 1,000 years to decompose.
While environmentalists and many concerned governments work tirelessly to implement bans and restrictions on certain plastic items, several organisations continue to raise public awareness in an attempt to change consumer behaviour. This is where slow living comes in. Slow living, at its core, is about detaching yourself from the fast-paced rat race daily life in order to make conscious decisions. When it comes to the environmental sphere, this means forgoing the idea of having “no time,” and replacing it with the notion of “living with intent” and doing so by planning ahead so that you are able to consume in a more sustainable manner.
When considering the impact of our hasty, “throwaway culture” on the environment, it is abundantly clear that now is the time to live slower and hop on the trend of sustainable and responsible purchases, whether that be food, fashion or designer furniture.