Home furnishings make up about 6% of what goes into landfills in the U.S. Americans threw away 48% more furniture and furnishings in 2015 than in 2000. We send 9.7 million tons of furniture to landfills each year! Let’s stop doing that! As a rule of thumb, your best bet for used furniture is to repair if possible, donate if available, give it away or sell for further use, and trash as bulk waste as a last resort. ¹
Check with your local Habitat for Humanity ReStores, which are reuse stores operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations. They accept donations and sell home improvement items to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Many ReStores will come to you and pick up your gently used furnishings – it’s easy and convenient!
Find more places to donate used furniture at sites like the Furniture Bank Association of North America (FBANA) and the Mattress Recycling Council. Through FBANA, you can locate your nearest furniture bank. Furniture banks provide furniture to those in need at little or no cost. Many will pick up gently used furniture straight from your house. You can also look for Goodwill or Salvation Army locations. If these options don’t appeal to you, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters and thrift stores are often looking for furniture donations. Contact them and see if you have something they could use. In some cases, you might have to haul your old furniture to a drop-off location just to donate it. But that’s not always true. Sometimes, you can arrange to have it picked up. Many donations can be deducted from your taxes. ²
You can also give or sell used furniture to someone who will continue to use it. There are many classified websites out there (such as Craigslist) with people looking to buy. Tap into your network of social media contacts. Trade networks (like Freecycle) are worth investigating, too. Instead of selling an item, trade it for something you need. This is a fun and easy way to participate in the circular economy!²
If the piece is in no condition to be used by anyone, consider repurposing or upcycling it. Search “upcycled furniture ideas” and you will find nearly twenty million hits. You can (re)build something wonderful that saves you the money of buying another piece.
If there just isn’t any appealing way to reuse your furniture, check with your community to see if it provides bulk waste collection. Most cities offer bulk waste pick-up for large items like furniture, appliances or electronics, but you’ll likely need to schedule a collection. ¹
Abby Overton is the Communications Manager for Sustainable Furnishings Council. She is grateful to be part of the team and, in her small way, contributing to the greening-up of the furnishings industry. She is excited to help educate consumers about their eco-friendly options.