How to Shop for a Sustainable Sofa

VOCs, GOTS and FSCs, we explain it all

Where are you reading this now? Let’s not lie: it’s probably on the sofa. It’s where we vegetate nursing a hangover; where we’ll optimistically try to work (and fail). It’s where Netflix binges, Covid isolations and napping-through-lunch-breaks take place. But, have you ever thought of your sofa in the context of climate change? Consider this your starting point.

A Guide to Buying a Sustainable Sofa

Vinterior plush velvet orange sofa

Image courtesy of Vinterior

A Guide to Buying Eco-Friendly Candles / Furniture 

A Second-Hand Sofa is Your First Option

Gumtree, eBay and Facebook Marketplace are your friends. The more you’ll use them, the more you’ll know the best search terms for the specific style or time period you’re looking for. It’s also good to keep a lookout for startups, like the new Narchie app that’s answering the need for a Depop equivalent for interiors. For more designer, second-hand sofas, have a look at Rehaus and Vinterior. You can also think laterally about it. There are plenty of local car boot sales, regional antique sales to research for in your local areas too. With second-hand sofas, you are guaranteed to have low VOC levels too as these levels wear away with time. What are VOCs? We’ll tackle this in materials to look out for.

Our Sofa Picks

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5 Pieces Togo Set By Michel Ducaroy For Ligne Roset


Vinterior is a second-hand online marketplace for more high-end vintage and antique furniture. It’s the place to go for unique, velvet, antique finds that add a bit of soul and history to your space.

5 Pieces Togo Set By Michel Ducaroy For Ligne Roset, Vinterior, vinterior.co

Bayleaf Settle Sofa by Sebastian Cox

Sebastian Cox

British brand Sebastian Cox is ostensibly a wood-centric brand, but it has a few brilliant sofa options which are hard to ignore. For every product in its shop, they have calculated its environmental impact using their Life Cycle Assessment, plus every product listed is shown with its carbon value.

Their Bayleaf Settle is made with solid English ash and woven English ash that’s all made in their workshop in the UK. What’s quite nice with this one is that you can upholster the sofa with your own fabric to save waste, or you can request the fabric to be supplied.

Bayleaf Settle, £5,950, Sebastian Cox, sebastiancox.co.uk

The Muse Sofa by Benchmark


It’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, and part of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Benchmark is ISO14001 certified, and Benchmark has also been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category twice.

And going against plastic foam, Benchmark is partnered with Naturalmat Company, which uses natural, sustainable and biodegradable materials – coir, latex and sheep’s wool.

Muse Sofa, £5875, Benchmark, benchmarkfurniture.com

Port & Hole Sofas

Part & Whole

If you live in the US, Part & Whole have an interesting take on sustainable sofas. Comprised of just three elements, Port & Whole’s Chord Sofa is made from FSC certified and formaldehyde-free plywood. The upholstery is 100 per cent new wool. Plus you can buy each element individually, so if one part is beyond repair, it doesn’t compromise the whole sofa.

Chord Sofa, £1,575, Part & Whole, partandwhole.com



Rehaus is specifically an online marketplace for designer furniture. Everything that’s sold goes through the brand itself which vets for quality and authenticity, so you won’t be dealing with individual sellers. Featuring designers like the oh-so covetable De Sede and Ligne Roset we’re seeing on TikTok.

Ligne Roset by Michel Ducaroy Togo Pink Modular Sofa, Set of 3, £5,705, Rehaus, rehaus.co.uk

Materials: What to Lookout For

With almost every brand nowadays touting sustainable credentials, it’s hard to know what’s an ethical practice and what’s greenwashing. Here’s the breakdown.

Wild Leather Lounge Chair by Sebastian Cox

Image courtesy of Sebastian Cox

Avoid Harmful & Fossil Fuel Sofa Materials

If you didn’t know already, plastic and polyester are fossil fuel materials. It’s best to avoid Chrome-tanned leather too. The process creates toxic wastewater that has a detrimental impact, especially in developing countries. Vegetable-tanned leather is a better alternative.

Spot Certifications

We’re often told to opt for ‘natural’ materials – but what does actually mean? It’s always best to swerve past the fuzzy unsubstantiated buzzwords and rely on brands that can back up their claims with quantifiable evidence. Of course, linen, cotton, and hemp materials are good. But you can take it a step further and look for cotton that has a GOTS certification. What’s that? It’s the Global Organic Textile Standard that ensures the organic status of the textile and responsible manufacturing across the supply chain.

Port & Hole Sofas

Image courtesy of Port & Hole

Look For Low VOC levels

First off, what actually is a VOC level? It stands for a volatile organic compound, and its often used in the manufacturing process for safety concerns like flammability. Interior designer, Nicola Holden for Refinery29 explains that ‘a ‘cheap’ sofa is usually filled with foam and many of these upholstery foams have been made from polyurethane. Polyurethane is flammable, so it’s also treated with flame retardants that often contain hazardous chemicals.’ So as we’re seeing interiors becoming as bad as ‘fast fashion’, these cheaper materials (cheap foam over organic filling; composite wood over solid wood), means they are more likely to be made of – and treated with – VOCs.

Look for Responsibly Sourced Wood

Responsibly sourced wood, that’s been safely treated, is your go-to. An FSC Certification is a widely recognised certification for responsibly managed wood that’s good to look out for.


Sustainable Material Series: Wool / How to Buy an Antique Rug / Furniture