HIGH POINT, N.C. – The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) announces a new furniture labeling program designed to help manufacturers communicate a product’s safety, health and environmental features to consumers.

Called Eco3Home, the program is anchored by a consumer website, www.eco3home.com, where shoppers will be able to research the attributes of a particular piece of furniture in detail. The site will launch Monday, October 18, although many informational features are still under development.

Kincaid Furniture’s “Homecoming” collection, being introduced this week at the High Point Market, is the first furniture collection to feature the Eco3Home label. Kincaid management, sales representatives and dealers are previewing the Eco3Home hangtag this week, along with a consumer brochure and sample store signage that could be used by retailers to identify products with the Eco3Home label.

“Consumer research conducted prior to the development of Eco3Home was designed to determine what consumers expect from ‘eco-friendly’ furniture,” explains AHFA CEO Andy Counts. “We discovered that consumers tend to express the strongest interest in environmental attributes that impact their personal health and safety, or their family’s health and safety.”

So, for example, emitting no harmful chemicals was identified more frequently than using sustainably harvested wood. This finding was consistent among both “greener” consumers (those already buying eco-friendly products for their homes) as well as the general population of furniture shoppers. The top furniture construction feature named by both groups was “recycled components.”

“These findings did not change AHFA’s commitment to promoting sustainable practices among participating companies in their sourcing, manufacturing and overall operations,” Counts emphasizes. “But the findings did change the way we ultimately decided to communicate

Eco3Home to consumers. In fact, the name ‘Eco3Home’ emerged from our belief that, in the consumer’s mind, safety, health and environmental attributes are closely linked.”

The Eco3Home label identifies products that carry a safety, health and environmental promise from the manufacturer. Those promises include:

* Safety: Eco3Home products meet or exceed federal safety standards, as well as voluntary standards that have been established by the industry as “best practices.” This means an Eco3Home product must meet voluntary ASTM standards, like those created to help prevent furniture tip over, as well as Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, like those for bunk bed construction. For upholstery manufacturers, an Eco3Home product must meet the industry’s voluntary UFAC fire safety standard.

* Health: Eco3Home products meet or exceed federal standards regulating the emission of unhealthy chemicals, such as formaldehyde, as well as the presence of unhealthy substances, such as lead. Further, Eco3Home products must use only paints, stains and finishes with low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and only fabrics and foams with no PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, key ingredients in some flame retardant chemicals).

* Environment: All Eco3Home products are made by companies that are engaged in ongoing efforts to conserve water and energy, reduce waste and increase recycling. They have taken specific measures to “green” their supply chain and are using raw materials and construction techniques designed to have minimal impact on the environment.

Companies seeking the Eco3Home product registration must first install AHFA’s industry-specific environmental management program at all domestic facilities, including factories, warehouses and headquarters buildings. This program, known as EFEC, improves management of resources and raw materials, reduces energy use and water consumption, reduces waste to landfills and increases recycling efforts. EFEC requires participants to make continual improvements and undergo an annual maintenance audit to retain their registration. More than a dozen U.S. companies, including Furniture Brands International, La-Z-Boy, Flexsteel, Bassett and Hooker, have implemented or are implementing EFEC.

Companies seeking Eco3Home product registration also must implement AHFA’s Sustainable by Design program, which extends sustainable business practices to global operations, including sourcing of raw materials and supply chain management. Only four companies – La-Z-Boy (including Kincaid), Century, Hickory Chair and C.R. Laine – have thus far entered the Sustainable by Design program.

“Having these two programs as the building blocks of Eco3Home reflects AHFA’s core belief that a ‘brown’ company cannot produce a ‘green’ product,” Counts explains.

Eco3Home product registration takes the environmental requirement one step further to encompass product design and development. Companies must conduct an environmental inventory that calculates an individual product’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, energy consumption and waste-to-landfill.

In addition, an individual product content inventory lists all major product components and their environmental attributes. This will include wood from certified sustainable sources,
components from recycled/repurposed sources, and components from natural, bio-based or certified organic sources. Where applicable, third party certifications will be required for verification.

Consumers will be able to find this storehouse of product information on the website.

“If she chooses, a consumer will be able to research a manufacturer’s documentation of each step taken to meet the three Eco3Home program promises,” Counts explains. “

Following the Kincaid pilot, AHFA will begin reviewing additional Eco3Home registration applications in January 2011. Interested manufacturers should contact Bill Perdue, AHFA vice president of environment, health, safety and standards, at bperdue@ahfa.us.

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The American Home Furnishings Alliance – located in High Point, N.C. – represents more than 240 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, as well as nearly 200 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

SOURCE: American Home Furnishings Alliance

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