#Immediacy on speech making

IRAIN - They contain fewer poisonous chemicals, use fewer items made from non-renewable resources,....

They contain fewer poisonous chemicals, use fewer items made from non-renewable resources, and contain less wasteful junk. FURNITURE - THE FACTS: Fashions in furniture come and go, but the basic function of chairs, tables, cupboards and drawers has remained unchanged over the decades. This, coupled with the long life of good furniture, explains why the market in second-hand furniture is rapidly expanding.

Yet at the same time, demand for new furniture (a market currently worth £2 billion a year) is also increasing. The UK's population has virtually stopped growing, so this suggests that a great deal of furniture is being thrown away.

Until about 40 years ago, most furniture was made of natural materials like wood, leather and horsehair. Wood is still the most popular material, though there is now considerable concern that many of the hardwoods used in furniture are coming from forests which are not being properly managed and replaced. The UK is one of the largest consumers of hardwoods in the world. More than 60 per cent of our hardwoods come from the tropics, 99 per cent of them from badly managed and unsustainable sources.

Today a wide range of materials is used in furniture, including plastics, fibreglass, and reconstituted wood products. Several of these materials have proved to be considerable fire and health hazards, especially the polyurethane foam used in soft furnishings such as sofas. This foam creates dense black, acrid, toxic smoke when it burns. Formaldehyde - a known carcinogen - is used in chipboard, and the PVC used in some upholstery gives off toxic dioxins as it burns.

Although safer alternatives are now being introduced, there is still a lot of furniture in daily use which puts its owners at risk, not to mention the eventual problem of disposing of it safely. WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE: We should have a comprehensive system, like the Friends of the Earth (see: www.foe.co.uk) Good Wood Guide next webpage), to monitor the hardwoods used in furniture. Customers should be able to ask for, and be sure of getting, timber products from well-managed plantations. The renovation and re-use of durable basic furniture should be encouraged.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Buy furniture wisely, and look after it. Choose furniture made from natural materials whenever possible; avoid plastics and plastic-laminated board. Don't buy new furniture made from tropical hardwoods like mahogany and teak. Avoid untreated foam furniture and PVC. Think carefully about buying second-hand, especially for basics like tables, chairs and bedsteads - you will almost certainly get better value.

Find a good home for your unwanted furniture, like a member organisation of the Community Furniture Network. Friends of the Earth (see: www.foe.co.uk) have produced a Good Wood Guide, which gives full details of furniture manufacturers and retailers who use only certified or recycled hardwoods. Friends of the Earth (see: www.foe.co.uk) is campaigning for a green economy - kind on nature and good for our quality of life.

A green economy would be a strong economy. It would: Ease our addiction to expensive imported oil and gas.

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