Diverting from eco-friendly furniture, let’s discuss cabinets, as Tilde’ Furniture does provide custom cabinets for their clients. The three main materials that make up a cabinet are the box, exposed frames and drawer faces, and the finish. It is easy to find healthy home and sustainable products in all these categories. The main objective is to eliminate petroleum-based products altogether.
Traditionally, plywood is the main material used for cabinet boxes. It is usually veneered with either wood or plastic laminate, and is very stable. Make sure that you purchase plywood made with no added urea-formaldehyde. This is a cancer-causing material that most glues contain. Purebond is a soy-derived glue that was created to mimic nature’s properties. Sierra Pine and Columbia Forest Products both make plywood using this glue. Both companies make sure that their woods come from managed forests; but, if you need third party certification, select FSC-certified veneers on the plywood. They are available from both companies. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is often used in the construction of cabinets, but most cabinetmakers prefer plywood for it’s inherent strength and stability. Sierra Pine has several qualities and formulations of eco-friendly MDF products. A high-quality, easy to paint, MDF product that we use is their Medite II. It’s urea-formaldehyde free and made of re-purposed wood waste. Wheatboard, made of agricultural waste products, is an additional option for the substrate. But, the cabinet manufacturer will need to adhere the veneer to the substrate prior to construction of the boxes.
If your cabinets are to be exposed wood, FSC-certified woods are the assurance you need that the forest has been properly managed and social equity standards have been practiced. The majority of wood sourced in the USA is managed to very sustainable standards, as it’s in the best interest of the forest owners. Rarely do we hear about clear cutting and forest degradation in the states. All of the woods standard to Tilde’ Furniture are domestic and FSC-certified. Because very little energy is used in processing solid wood, domestic hardwoods are considered highly eco-friendly and sustainable.
If your intention is to paint your exposed cabinet elements, consider Sierra Pine’s Medite II. It is eco-friendly, non-toxic, easy to work with, and it allows a very smooth application of finish materials.
Speaking of finish materials, make sure that you use water-based or plant-based materials. Several manufacturers make wax and plant oil based stains and sealers that are very friendly to the user and the planet. They are available through green products stores and websites, as well as hardware and specialty paint suppliers. We find the purest ones available through green products stores. They take a little more patience than petroleum-based products, but the results are durable and the reapplication easy for anyone to do. And, they don’t cause cancer and respiratory diseases. If you need something that can handle more abuse, in situations like your Kitchen, opt for a zero or low VOC water-based polyurethane. This will give you a smooth waterproof barrier that applies like traditional cabinet finishes, yet minimizes the eco footprint and health concerns.