Latest In Organic Products: Furniture

Americans already have a taste for organic food and organic clothing. Now, the organic trend is making a mark on the world of furniture.

In The Early Show's "Trend Report" Tuesday, House & Garden magazine's special projects editor, Susanna Salk, shows some stylish examples.

According to Salk:

Such furniture is made with stuffing, upholstery fiber and wood certified as chemical-free. While organic furniture sales make up just a fraction of the $14 billion rung up by the organic industry, the trend is growing. Just as organic food has become acceptable in the mainstream, organic furniture is now moving in the same direction.

The most noticeable change during the past few years is who buys it. While in the past, organic furniture sales where primarily to people with chemical allergies, today a majority of sales are to consumers who want a "green" lifestyle.

From Brooklyn to Oregon, more stores are offering organic, but now, more than ever before, we're seeing a stronger design element among these organic products: form and function, commitment to beauty, and environmental preservation, all-in-one.

Organic used to mean sacrificing form, but now, the designs have gotten so nice that you'd never know they're organic. Ecology is uppermost in the design process priorities.

The idea is also to make the consumer feel good about what his or her money is going toward. As people become more aware that their daily life is filled with toxicity, many are "greening their home," meaning they're making it more environmentally friendly.

Not only are companies using chemical-free ingredients, but many stress easier assembly, so less packing material is used, meaning less gas is used for shipping. Some items are even carbon-neutral. For instance, a tree can be planted for each chair sold.

What is organic?

Organic refers to the way agricultural products, food and fiber, are grown and processed. Organic products are grown, raised or dyed without the use of synthetic chemicals, heavy metals or GMOs (genetically modified organisms, also called "genetically engineered"). They are free of toxins and irritants and are biodegradable.

What does "Certified Organic" mean?

"Certified Organic" means the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards set by the federal government. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the National Organic Program, and makes sure any food labeled organic meets these standards in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. However, the broadening scope of organic products has led to confusion about products claiming to have organic or natural ingredients, and who has authority over them. They include cosmetics and personal care items, as well as pet food, dietary supplements, textiles and fish. In the case of cosmetics, personal care items and textiles, the authority is the Food and Drug Administration. But the FDA isn't the only agency to co-regulate with the USDA when it comes to organics. The Federal Safety Inspection Service oversees meat labels, and the Environmental Protection Agency now performs NOP registration of pesticides. This leaves an enormous gray area that's not adequately monitored.

There isn't really an official certification process set up yet for upholstery/furniture. The upholstery lines featured on The Early Show are organic by construction, meaning all the fibers/fabrics are organically grown, the woods are reclaimed or sustainable, and adhesives are non-toxic. So, the whole process of making each component is done organically.

What are the benefits of organic products?

Choosing organic and or earth-friendly alternatives is a healthier option. It's chemical-free, so it's better for your skin and it's better to breathe in, especially for people with allergies. Also, organic products don't use harmful chemicals, which cause pollution, so the products are more sustainable. The benefits of organic items are in preserving the environment as well as our health.

How is organic different from recycled or reclaimed?

There is, technically, no such thing as organic furniture. There is earth-friendly furniture, which is covered with organic fabric and made with materials that are earth-friendly (recycled, reclaimed and/or low impact). Recycled and reclaimed are basically the same thing; with recycled furnishings, they generally process the material to re-use it, and reclaimed would mean it was something that was simply disassembled and reused.

What about the term sustainability?

The idea of sustainability is to encourage a way of thinking about resources that translates into significant lifestyle choices with an awareness of resource use, thereby permitting citizens to use less, waste less, reuse materials and conserve raw materials and energy in their lives. People who work in a daily way to conserve resources and help the environment are working toward sustainable living.

Go to Page 2 for specifics on products featured in the segment, and more.