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Particle Board & the Environment

These days, most affordable furniture is made out of particle board.  One thing that's good about particle board furniture from an environmental standpoint is that it is often made from leftover sawdust and lumber scraps, which means that less trees will need to be cut down.  This isn't always true, however, so if buying particle board furniture try to find out the origins of the wood.  

Other than that, particle board can be very bad for the environment.

A major problem is that the components that make up particle board can be highly toxic, namely formaldehyde.   Formaldehyde is considered a "probable human carcinogen" by the EPA.  Inexpensive furniture is thought to emit higher levels of formaldehyde because it's cheaper to manufacture particle board using glues that are higher in formaldehyde versus low-formaldehyde options.

It also takes more energy to produce particle board than it does to manufacture lumber boards.  The process typically begins where scraps of wood are broken down, dried, mixed with adhesives and heated.  It's then pressed into particle board.

Above all, one of the main rules of green living is to buy quality items that won't need to be replaced often.  Particle board furniture doesn't usually last very long.

Buying solid wood furniture can be very expensive, so what's a cheaper alternative to particle board?  I'm a big fan of buying unfinished furniture.   I've found that the prices are often comparable to particle board products.  There are also lots of ways you can stain the wood in a non-toxic fashion.  Care2 has a recipe for homemade wood stain.  You can even use dirt from your backyard to stain furniture!