We started Vermont Woods Studios out of a passion for forest conservation. It was this one astounding statistic that really lit a fire under me:
Every second an acre of rainforest is lost forever
Along with trees, some of my favorite iconic wildlife species that live in the rainforest are being lost. For example, all the great cats (lions, tigers, leopards, cheetas, etc) are critically endangered as are all the great apes (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc). Our planet is actually losing over 100 species/day. The cause is habitat destruction. Rainforest trees are being clearcut for timber to make cheap furniture and flooring.
Eco Friendly Wood Furniture: What It Is
So to me, eco friendly wood furniture is first and foremost, furniture that's made from sustainably harvested wood. More specifically, North American wood (recycled or newly milled) that's been obtained through legitimate local partners, thus minimizing transport distances and helping regional economies (and greatly reducing fuel usage and carbon emissions).
Other aspects of eco friendly furniture relate to how a tree is transformed into, say... a table or a bed. Vermont furniture makers use both traditional and modern methods to maximize the yield from each tree and minimize (or eliminate) wood waste. All wood processing by-products are put to some type of use here in Vermont. For example: sawdust is used by local farmers for animal bedding and wood chips are used for heating.
Non-toxic furniture finishes are also characteristic of eco friendly furniture.
Eco Friendly Wood Furniture: What It Is NOT
Unlike many large American furniture companies, we do not consider imported wood furniture eco friendly. The global timber trade has been infiltrated by organized crime to the point where illegal wood (often clear cut from the rainforest) is pervasive throughout the imported wood furniture and flooring industry. Much of it is accompanied by counterfeit documents labeling it as green certified by the Forest Stewardship Council FSC (here are a couple articles reporting on this: Liquidating the Forests and Corruption Stains the Global Timber Trade).
National Geographic recently reported on a UN study showing that the global environmental crime industry (with illegal logging being the primary component) has now surpassed the global drug trade in terms of estimated annual revenue. "We have regulations, but we need to inform consumers," said Indonesian official Budi Susanti, "if buyers won't buy the products that aren't sustainable, there won't be demand."
How to Know the Difference
A google search for "eco friendly wood furniture" turns up all sorts of questionable results from big, multinational companies that pledge to use green certified wood. Of course your best bet would be to find something made locally from local wood. But if that's not possible or practical for you, any furniture that's truly 100% Made in America is likely to be an environmentally friendly choice.