The 8 Best Eco-Friendly Couches of 2021

Sit back and relax with these sustainable sofas

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There’s a good reason that for many, a mark of adulthood means investing in their first couch. It’s a big purchase, both financially (and physically) for most people. It’s something you don’t do often, and it can dramatically affect the style and comfort of your living room. Besides our beds, couches probably get the most use out of any piece of furniture in the house. 

That’s why it’s definitely worth it to find one that’s eco-friendly and made without toxic chemicals, which are commonly found in the frame, foam, and exterior materials of conventional furniture. These chemicals both pollute the air and water in the places where the furniture is made, and can also slowly but surely leach out into the indoor air of our homes where we breathe it in, and into our bodies as we lounge (or sleep) on our couches. 

We researched the market to find the best eco-friendly couches:

The Rundown
Reasonably priced, this sofa has clean lines and natural, certified, and recycled components.
This budget-friendly sofa scores high on comfort, durability, and easy assembly.
Medley offers a wide variety of sleek, modern styles in a variety of configurations.
The only ecofriendly leather couch that is free of both heavy metal and chemicals of concern.
Best for Pets and Kids:
West Elm Bradford Sofa at West Elm
A durable choice from a company known for its design bona fides, and materials that are easy to clean as well as less toxic.
This sleeper sofa has real midcentury style when in couch mode, and Joybird plants trees to replace wood used to build its couches.
Best for Small Spaces/Best Loveseat:
Cobble Hill Soho Loveseat at Abchome.com
When it comes to small spaces, an NYC retailer can’t mess around.
Extra-plush, but still modern, this sofa is available in several sizes and configurations.

Best Overall: Sabai The Essential Sofa

Sabai The Essential Sofa

This well-priced sofa has it all: Great customer reviews for comfort, style, and ease of assembly. It can be put together by just one person. The sofa is made in the United States (High Point, North Carolina, specifically) and fabrics are made from natural fibers and polyester from recycled water bottles, including a velvet option.

Frames are made with FSC-Certified wood, covered with certiPUR-US foam, with recycled fiber pillows. Shipping materials are made from 100 percent recycled materials and minimal plastic is used in the packaging.

Best Budget: IKEA KIVIK Sofa

 IKEA KIVIK Sofa

Ikea has made a commitment that all its wood and cotton will be from more sustainable sources as of 2020. This roomy couch isn’t as eco-friendly as others on this list, but it’s also about half the price, and it gets high marks for comfort.

The cotton/polyester fabric covers are removable and washable (or replaceable) which can make the difference between keeping a couch and tossing it if you get it stained. This couch needs to be assembled, but most people find it to be fairly straightforward, and it can be easier to get up and into an apartment as opposed to moving a full-sized couch.

Best Sectional: Medley Sectionals

Medley Sectional

Medley offers a wide variety of sleek, modern styles in a variety of configurations. They’re handcrafted in California and made to order in 10-18 weeks. That customization means that you choose the fabric, the pillow filling and sizing—in preset sizes or sized to the inch (that can include changing the depth of the seat or the sectional’s height).

The wood is all FSC Certified or bamboo, and the exterior textiles are certified organic or recycled. Pillow options include organic latex or a polyester foam that’s certified clean, called CertiPUR-US.

Best Leather: Ecobalanza Couture Collection

Gina Couch

Leather is a complicated material; to be completely toxin-free, it needs to be both tanned, dyed, and treated/coated with nontoxic materials. There are several manufacturers who sell chrome-free tanned leather, or leather that’s naturally dyed, or uncoated leathers.

However, Ecobalanza is the only one who ensures that their leathers are EcoPell, which are unsealed, vegetable-tanned, and free of heavy metals. It is certified by several European associations for safety. Ecobalanza’s couches come in a variety of styles, and can be made with EcoPell leather, over frames that are made from FSC-Certified wood, steel and hemp-tied springs, and GOTS-certified latex, and natural wool and organic cotton batting.

Best for Pets and Kids: West Elm Bradford Sofa

Bradford Sofa

West Elm has a variety of sectionals in all kinds of organizations that you can order based on your room’s needs (l-shaped, with a chaise) and styles, including classic and modern. The company uses FSC Certified wood and several lines, like the Bradford, are made with hand-built frames, which means they are more likely to be durable. They are also hand-upholstered in the United States.

The Bradford has foam cushions, rather than polyurethane, which other West Elm lines use (sometimes paired with feather pillows). The fabric options includes a whole range that’s particularly good for those with pets and can be certified “green guard” which means that the fabric meets stringent chemical and VOC standards.

Best Pull-Out/Sleeper: Joybird Eliot Sleeper Sofa

Eliot Sleeper Sofa

The company’s most popular sleeper sofa, this one gets high marks for comfort as both a couch and a bed. The couch’s frame is made from kiln-dried, responsibly-sourced wood, and joints are glued with low-VOC adhesives, stapled, and screwed to ensure durability over time.

Choose the Key Largo fabric option, for bright colored textiles produced in an environmentally-friendly mill. For every order, Joybird plants trees to offset (and then some) the materials used in your couch.

Best for Small Spaces/Best Loveseat: Cobble Hill Soho Loveseat

Cobble Hill Soho Loveseat

This Manhattan-based ethical home store offers a number of sustainably made couches in a variety of designs, and when it comes to small spaces, a NYC retailer can’t mess around. The SoHo loveseat is a bestseller. It's made in the United States, using wood from responsibly managed forests.

The upholstery is 100 percent cotton velvet and comes in 16 colors, including a bright yellow, bright red, purple, blush pink, and pale pink, a refreshing change from many of the couches on this list which are available only in neutral colors. Brass legs are made from recycled material and the seats are composed of a foam core filled with feathers and down. It’s free from flame retardants.

Most Comfortable: Burrow Range 3-Piece Sofa

Burrow Range 3-Piece Sofa

Available in a few configurations, Burrow’s Range line is designed to be extra-comfy, with overstuffed plush cushions. All Burrow couch frames are made with sustainably-sourced hardwoods and their foam cushions are made with the promise of minimal VOCs, and are free from heavy metals, formaldehyde and phthalates. 

Opt for the upcycled olefin fabric that’s made without any chemical additives and is free of perfluorochemicals. The fabric has such a tight weave it’s inherently stain-resistant. The modular design also means that if you want a bigger couch in the future, you could order additional sections and avoid replacing the whole thing.

Final Verdict

The Essential Sofa from Sabai (available at Sabai Design) offers the best value for the most sustainability without sacrificing style. A more expensive, but more luxurious option is the Burrow Range couch (available at Burrow), which also comes in a variety of sizes to suit various spaces. 

FAQs

What toxic chemicals should I avoid when shopping for a couch?

There’s a fairly long list of chemicals used in different parts of the furniture manufacturing process. There are solvents and sealants to coat wooden parts and coatings sprayed on fabrics to make them stain-resistant. As a group of chemicals, these are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Often you can smell VOCs (that “new stuff” smell is oftentimes these chemicals offgassing). Some people have reported asthma attacks, dizziness, and headaches after bringing new furniture home and being in the same room with it. The United States government doesn’t set standards for VOCs but reports that levels of these chemicals are typically 2-5 times that of outdoor air, and links that to both household cleaning products, dry cleaning and “household materials and furnishings.”

Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, is used to treat the wood frames couches are built around. Phthalates, which have been outlawed for use in children’s toys because they affect young children’s hormones, are sometimes used in furniture. Short-term, VOCs and formaldehyde exposure can cause a variety of possible symptoms, like eye irritation, coughing and wheezing, skin allergies, chest tightness and wheezing. Long-term, exposures can increase certain cancer risks and endocrine system disruption, but of course it depends on the dose received, other exposures, and other factors—which is what makes these chemicals tough to regulate.

It’s not always easy to avoid these chemicals, since couches don’t come with an ingredients list. But you can look for furniture that promises it’s not made with VOCs, wood that’s not treated with formaldehyde, and for natural materials, like organic fabrics and solid wood.

How can I reduce my environmental impact when shopping for a couch? 

If you are thrifty, or if you are looking to be even more earth-friendly in your purchases, buying used or vintage could be a simple answer to your couch needs. Most VOCs and other concerning chemicals will offgas in the first few years of the couch’s existence. So buying used, even if it’s not originally sustainably made, means that you’ll be keeping usable materials out of the landfill, and you’ll be reducing your toxin exposure too. Plus, a used couch is almost always much less expensive than a new one. 

To take advantage of this option, spend a few minutes gathering online local resources for used furniture. Look for Buy Nothing and Yard Sale or Garage Sale groups associated with your town or neighborhood on Facebook, follow local thrift and antique stores on Instagram. Or check out eBay and Craigslist, which often has a huge variety of furniture on offer, sometimes at deep discounts (and even free) if you are willing to pick up and transport it yourself. 

Of course, there’s always in-person vintage shopping at Salvation Army, Goodwill, and other charity stores. Local antique stores can have great options you can try out in-person too.

Are eco-friendly couches more expensive?

Because those chemicals are often used to cut costs and make cheaper furniture, a more sustainable couch can be more expensive. However, that’s not always true. There are plenty of very pricy couches made with the chemicals that many would like to avoid, and there are inexpensive options that aren’t. So, while price can be a factor, paying more doesn't guarantee that your couch is nontoxic or eco-friendly.

Before You Buy New

Before you go any further and buy a new couch, remember the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. So if you already have a couch, consider reusing it. Have you checked into how much it would cost to simply recover it with a new fabric? Take a quick measurement, and give a call to your local upholsterer and ask for an estimate. Next, consider if you could recycle — by buying a used or vintage couch. If the answer is no to those two options, only then should you consider one of the new, sustainably made couches above.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Starre Vartan has been researching and reviewing environmentally sustainable products for 15 years and wrote a book on eco-friendly, healthy living. She has never bought a new couch, preferring to reduce her eco-impact by buying used furniture, and reupholstering her great-grandmother’s couch that’s 130 years old. 

View Article Sources
  1. "Volatile Organic Compounds' Impact on Indoor Air Quality." Environmental Protection Agency.

  2. "Formaldehyde." American Cancer Society.