Thoughtfully selecting furniture that’s both safe for us and the planet — like a non-toxic sofa — is a key component of a journey towards a holistically healthy home.
But the fact is that there is a lot to look for when it comes to the hunt for a sustainable sofa. Here are a few of the things to watch out for when looking for a sofa or another piece of sustainable furniture.
What Makes a Sustainable and Non-Toxic Sofa?
Unsurprisingly, the same toxic chemicals that are unhealthy for us are just as terrible for the environment — after all, we are part of and interconnected with the planet and natural world.
No flame retardant treatments. Flame retardants can be found in many household building materials and items, including couches. These toxic chemicals — once required by law — were and continue to be used to treat polyurethane foam in sofas and other furniture, though now many companies are shifting away from using flame retardants. Toxic-Free Future has more information on toxic flame retardants.
Responsibly-sourced and safely treated wood: while wood is technically renewable material, it’s important to ensure that the wood was harvested from responsibly-managed forests and is not contributing to deforestation. While not perfect, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is the most widely recognized certification for sustainable forestry management.
What about plywood? Pressed wood, like plywood, is typically made with formaldehyde, a chemical that has been linked to cancer in studies and listed as a known or probable carcinogen by multiple expert groups. Solid wood furniture is not always financially accessible, though, so look for formaldehyde-free plywoods if you have to go that route.
Finally, look for low- or zero-VOC (VOC stands for volatile organic compound) finishes on the wood.
Organic, recycled, and natural fabrics: Many sofas are made with harsh chemical-laden fabrics such as chrome-tanned leather and polyester. Even “natural” cotton is not necessarily toxic-free, as cotton is one of the most pesticide-ridden crops grown today.
Look for linen, organic cotton, or hemp fabric where possible. Bonus points if a fabric has the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification! If you want a leather couch, look for vegetable-tanned leather, as the chrome (short for chromium) tanning process uses extremely toxic chemicals.
These fabrics are not widely available for sofas though, so you might also consider sofas made with recycled synthetic materials. Not ideal, but we can only purchase from what is available and what is within our budget and do the best we can.
Natural and/or non-toxic foam: Most foams are petroleum-based (polyfoam). Look for natural fillers such as organic cotton, responsibly-sourced wool, and GOLS-certified organic latex where possible. If not feasible, look for the CertiPUR-US® seal which ensures the foam is free of a host of toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, toxic flame retardants, heavy metals, among many others.
What About Secondhand Sofas?
Investing in sustainably-made furniture can be quite expensive, but shopping used is a great way to find eco-friendly sofas and other furnishings for far less.
While many of the sofas on the secondhand market probably won’t be made with non-toxic materials, since the most off-gassing happens when furniture is new, your exposure to VOCs will be less than it would have been if you bought that same piece of furniture new.
Some secondhand furniture options include:
New Eco-Friendly and Non-Toxic Sofas
If you’re in the market to purchase a new eco-friendly sofa, check out this guide! Each brand uses a different set of materials and has slightly different standards, priorities, and values. This guide is a starting point, but do your own research to find which brand would be best for you.
Note: this guide includes affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission on purchases made via these links at no additional cost to you that helps us continue providing free resources for you. Thanks for your support!
1. Cisco Home
Cisco Home has heirloom-quality sustainable sofas made responsibly in the US. The ecologically conscious brand was a founding partner of the Sustainable Furnishings Council and uses materials like FSC-certified wood, latex foam core, linen, and organic cotton throughout their collections.
Price Range: $3,650 – $9,990
Shipping: Ships within continental U.S.
2. Medley Home
Free of harmful chemicals like fire retardants, formaldehyde, azo dyes, and chlorofluorocarbons, Medley makes non-toxic sofas you’ll be able to kick back in with peace of mind. What materials does Medley use? From CertiPUR-US® certified foam and organic natural latex to Oeko-Tex certified fabrics and FSC-certified wood, the sustainable furniture brand has covered every detail. They also use water-based, VOC-free glue.
Price Range: $1,545 – $3,105
Shipping: Ships out of the U.S. Contact Medley for a quote for shipping to other countries.
3. Savvy Rest
Savvy Rest’s organic sofa is made with some of the best materials available, including Cradle-to-Cradle certified Natural Talalay latex foam and GOTS-certified organic hemp or organic cotton upholstery. Their sustainable couch is also made with organic wool batting, jute webbing, natural coir, and zero-VOC finishes.
Price Range: $3,799 – $4,099 (Use code CONSIOUSSTYLE20 for 20% off!)
Shipping: Free White Glove delivery within continental U.S. Contact their team for shipping quotes outside of the 48 contiguous states.
The Futon Shop has an impressive set of organic sofas and sectionals made from natural non-toxic materials with the option to upgrade to organic materials like GOLS-certified organic latex and GOTS-certified organic wool. Their sustainable couches, all made in San Francisco, have frames made from responsibly-sourced kiln-dried wood. Though they note that the legs are “not chemical free”.
Price Range: $1,500 – $5,395
Shipping: Ships within the continental U.S.
Burrow’s modular eco-friendly sofas are designed to be assembled and reconfigured with ease — meaning their pieces can stay with you for a lifetime, even through moves and family additions.
And their thoughtful design goes beyond convenience, Burrow’s comfy couches are made with CertiPUR-US® certified cushions and sustainably-sourced wood.
Price Range: $795 – $3,995
Shipping: Free shipping; ships within the continental U.S.
Green lifestyle retailer VivaTerra is a mecca for all things sustainable home — including eco-friendly sofas and sectionals sourced from manufacturer LEE Industries. As a founding Gold member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, LEE meets high standards for health and the environment. Their non-toxic sofas are all made in the U.S. from many mindful materials including linen, soy-based fillings, and recycled polyester.
Price Range: $4,295 – $6,895
Shipping: Ships within the U.S.
Beyond using sustainable and non-toxic materials like FSC-certified wood, CertiPUR-US® certified foam, and recycled fiber filling, Sabai has programs to extend the life of their eco-friendly couches. The first is their Repair Don’t Replace program where they sell various parts you can switch out and their Closed Loop Program where you can send back your Sabai pieces in exchange for a percentage of the resale price when the piece is sold.
Price Range: $1,095 – $1,395
Shipping: Ships within the U.S.; shipping is carbon offset and packaging is 100% recycled
Dedicated to creating “the ultimate organic sofa”, EcoBalanza really has considered every single component. The Seattle-based boutique uses FSC-certified hardwood, GOLS-certified organic latex, certified non-toxic fabrics, natural kapuk fiber cushions, and organic cotton or responsibly-sourced wool batting. Read more about the materials they use for their non-toxic sofas here.
Price Range: Essential Collection prices range $3,000 – $4,300; Couture Collection starts at $6,800
Ordering & Shipping: Couches are made-to-order. Learn more here.
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