What does SFC’s current research show?


2015 Consumer Research

Summary of Key Findings by Susan Inglis, SFC Executive Director

The 2015 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study is the 7th wave of national survey conducted to assess consumer awareness, interest and behavior in a variety of issues related to sustainable furnishings. The samples were intentionally limited to the prime demographics for purchasing home furnishings to ensure that the results would be most applicable to decisions made by companies that service this market. The 2015 study was conducted by Impact Consulting.

Overall, findings indicate a growing concern about sustainability issues and an interest in buying products that are good for the environment, so long as they meet given style and budget requirements.  Quality, price and style are always the main drivers in choosing furnishings, but survey trends show “good for the environment” is more and more part of the value consumers seek.

At least half consumers rate themselves as very or extremely aware and concerned about a range of environmental issues from toxic pollution to using up natural resources to deforestation, with no single issue being of much greater concern.  This tells us that the “engaged” population has been holding steady at about 50%.  Most furniture consumers are taking action in a variety of ways, from recycling at home to switching to CFL light bulbs, and over half have purchased green products in a variety of categories.  However, they still are not buying as much in “eco-friendly” home furnishings products as they are in categories they can access more easily, such as recycled paper products and non-toxic cleaners.  It is clear that this is mostly because they have not been made aware of the options.

Purchase interest in green furnishings is growing, with over half of all furnishings consumers indicating interest in buying eco-friendly home furnishings, if they like the style and the price is right for them. Those definitely interested has grown from around 30% when we began the surveys to about 40%.  These are very healthy numbers.

The current survey indicates that price sensitivity may have peaked. Those who would pay nothing or only up to 5% more fell from a peak of 78% in 2010 to around 70% in the current survey.  This is a significant drop.  Further, the solid 30% who will pay more is in line with general consumer inclination to pay more for a favorite feature or brand.

Awareness of specific eco-options in furnishings remains largely unchanged with recycled content, organic fabrics and reclaimed wood the most recognized, though as we always caution these are also the easiest to fake knowledge of because of the descriptiveness of the terms.  It remains for the furniture sales person to point out the significance of eco-features including other recycled or reclaimed content, bio-based foam, domestic manufacture, etc.  It is clearly worth having the conversation, though, since most consumers will respond to these features when the product is their style and price point.

Sustainable Furnishings Council is pleased to offer a range of training programs to ensure that furnishings professionals, as well as consumers, better understand the simple choices we can all make to help ensure a healthy future.  The survey results show clearly that consumers are eager for us to bust the myth that “sustainable” looks a certain way or always costs more.

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Something New for New Years

Green and sustainability has become an increasingly important concept to design, especially since the US Green Building Council and its LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification system has become so prevalent. Like the “Three R’s” (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) that many of us grew up on, this system encourages the innovation of sustainable and green practices in buildings. Extra points are also available for dreaming up new ways to do it! This credentialing system has been adopted by various Federal and State jurisdictions as minimum requirements for new buildings under their purview; a forward-thinking practice. There are other similar rating systems you might run across and all incorporate incentives for reuse of previously developed land, parts of old building, re-manufactured products, reclaimed wood and a variety of other “Three R’s” related stuff.

But today is January 2, so while I’m a proponent of the reclaimed wood and the reuse and repurposing movement, I want to point out the other side and the advantages of the New. There are times where reuse is just not always the best option and something new is needed in any space.

Reupholstering furniture, for example, is not an option that we often recommend to our clients. It sometimes is brought up by clients in an attempt to cut down on a budget, and the assumption is reusing a piece with a new fabric will be less than buying a whole new piece. This is sadly not true. Reupholstering an old piece is usually comparable to buying a new piece of furniture. Go ahead and feel good about buying new when it comes to sofa, loveseats and fully upholstered chairs.

New appliances and toilets are another good idea. Even the LEED systems agree; reusing an older toilet (particularly those from before 1994, as that was a major year for the minimum requirements of plumbing fixtures) isn’t worthwhile. These older fixture use more water per flush or more water per minute than their new counterparts. Since efficiency is definitely part of the game, these are items worth the investment. Much the same is true about new appliances. Every few years the energy efficiency improves and you can get more cleaning/cooling/heating for less power.

A fresh look is still, always a coat of paint or stain away. The newest lines of paints can also come with low or no VOCs to do away with the new paint smell (alas, stains and varnishes don’t really have this option) but get the look easy. Also, if you take a good look at a wall a few years old, it might be in need of some freshening in terms of filling some dents or sanding away old paint drips. With paint or stain, a little can go a long way.

So with those few pearls of “new” wisdom Happy New Year, from our family to yours!