eco-friendly, non-toxic foam-like material needed

October 19, 2009 § 8 Comments

An eco-friendly affordable alternative to Latex foam is needed

As you did probably noticed, lately, my interest has been going round the concern on toxic chemicals in our beloved state-of-the-art designer items, be they electronics, furniture, clothes or food. There are many alternatives already for woodworking, construction, electronics, food, clothing but there’s one field of furniture making where there is a lack of alternative and accessible eco-friendly materials. That’s upholstery.

While eco-friendly fabric exists and is readily accessible, the alternatives to cushioning provided by foams is far from adequate. There is:

  • latex ,of course, but latex has been around for ages and the likes of politicians and celebrities always could afford it. Not me. Not too many of us.
  • Tthere are soy-based or other plant-based foams which sound good until you read carefully that only 5-30% is non-petroleum based filling. See first page on google search for “natural foam” there is a reference to Foamex and their Reflex® Natural™ foam, a high-performance, environmentally-friendly flexible polyurethane foam for the furniture industry, made partially from plant-based renewable raw materials . They reduce dramatically the environmental impact of the manufacturing (at least on paper) which is good but anyway it’s still petroleum-based with the addition of some plant raw materials. Another perhaps better known by you americans is TheSofaCompany with their 20% soy BiOH polynols. The nasty fact besides being petroleum based is that all that soy is treated with pesticides and other chemicals that dilute drastically its eco-friendliness and green healthy appeal.
  • Then there is this company I could find while searching the web that makes a sort of foamy product from animal hair/ coconut hair and latex spray and that has already been used to fill the seats of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

From these 3 options the only readily-available product for the craftsman is the soy-based foams, though I didn’t see it in shops but perhaps that’s because I live at the end of the world, where very little (good)  happens (this would be Romania, if you’re really curious). Can you buy wherever you live soy foam that is organic? I doubt it.

I read all this stuff and write all these articles to have a reference on the many aspects of healthy living, eco-friendliness, contemporary design/architecture and I will take it step by step but I really don’t want to wait for ages to replace my brominated flame retardant, VOCs cocktail-ed mattress and sofa and chairs. Everything that provides comfort in the house depends on foams. And safe eco-friendly ones are too expensive or no-where to be found.

One particularly interesting research is done by scientists at the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, Glasgow. They have developed a better flame resistant foam that doesn’t use toxic chemicals but nano-clay particles. From the product description I didn’t see it being made from stuff other than the same old petroleum products but as long as it’s healthy it’s still ok.

The main problem is that there is no way the small woodworking business or craftsman could get sheets of these foams like they can buy usual polyurethane foams. And that’s frustrating.

If you know any way of the green minded budget-tight way of being able to make cushioning for sofas and chairs from renewable, non-toxic materials please direct me to those info as I am eager to learn more. Until then I’m stuck with thinking of buying or crafting some contemporary nice-looking beanbag, which provides less choices as design is concerned but health comes first, right? I’ll make another article on beanbags with very nice contemporary looks and eco-friendly pedigree so subscribe to my RSS feeds or keep coming back.

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