The morning after, could this be your car?
We have been looking for about a year for a used bedroom set for my teenage son. He had outgrown his children furniture, and I wanted him to have a set he can take with him when he decides to live on his own, which is coming sooner than I thought.
Like all young parents we bought into the idea of transitional furniture for our kids. It was smaller and youth like. Not much bigger than their baby furniture. Kind of the three little bears, just right for our children with a small desk and smaller drawers for their little clothes. Why should I buy him an adult set I thought. I remembered we all fit in our twin beds until we went to college and beyond. I would have never dreamed of buying him an adult set. He was so small. An adult set would just be too big.
Fast forward to a decade and some years later, he is big. He is bigger than both my husband and me. I am not sure where he came from. Was it an alien abduction in my sleep? His big shirts, plumber like baggy shorts, and large sweatshirts no longer fit in his transitional furniture. It was time for an adult set for him and his littlest brother would take his. For all of the young parents out there, in hindsight, perhaps we should have bought him an adult set from the beginning so I would not have been in this dilemma.
Why used furniture? I can’t stand the smell of new furniture as it off-gasses the chemicals from the glues and finishes. Remember those ads you see of furniture made out of wood, well, plywood is wood and so is medium density fiberboard and particleboard. All contain glues that emit formaldehyde. However, I have been told that plywood emits less than MDF and particleboard because there is less glue in plywood. I am not sure if that is the case, but in any event, new furniture smells.
Why not eco-furniture? I was looking for traditional furniture with clean lines for him that would never go out of style. This style is not readily available in our area in our budget, and to ship it from another state is very expensive. This is a choice we made, but I encourage those who have more choices than us to shop for eco-furniture for their children. Many times people will think that if the furniture is made out of FSC certified woods that it is totally environmentally friendly. Just make sure that the stains, sealers, and glues are at least low toxic as well. If the company can not verify it, don’t buy it.
As I continued my search, I started to get discouraged looking in the newspaper and Craig’s List for a bedroom set for him. Everything I saw was very retro and not the style I wanted for him. Most adult sets were too ornate. One day I saw an ad on Craig’s List for a sale of a bedroom set that was used for staging a home for sale. I thought, well maybe a lot of the chemicals off-gassed while in the new home. When we went down to look at it, it smelled a little bit. He needed a bedroom set I rationalized. Perhaps it would only smell a little and I would air it out for a month. Going against my better judgment to keep my house as non-toxic as possible, we bought the set. It was used after all. Right?
The bedroom set would be delivered via a local delivery service. Even if it smelled a little, at least it was something that was used and little gasoline was expended to get us the set. Two out of three eco-choices met as I continued to rationalize. He needed a bedroom set, I kept saying. The day arrived and six cartons of furniture were delivered to us. I was surprised it was in cartons because wasn’t it already used in another house? We opened the cartons that day and the smell was so overwhelming. Was it the Styrofoam and cartons that absorbed the smell? Have I become more chemically sensitive because I live in a nontoxic house?We immediately put a HEPA filter in the room, an ozone machine, and opened the windows. I could smell it all the way down the hall. We had previously decided before the set came that we would let it air out for at least a month before my son would move back to his room. Given the smell, it might be more like two months or more.
So, what were we going to do with all of those boxes and Styrofoam? The boxes were easy since my town has a municipal recycling center for paper and cardboard.
What about the Styrofoam? My husband’s first inclination was “let’s just throw it out.” Neither one of us had heard of Styrofoam being recycled. I just did not have the heart to throw it out. Thinking it was going to be a long night trying to find a recycler in NJ, I started “googling.” Much to my surprise after a few searches, there was a recycler who took plain white Styrofoam within a ½ hour of my home but about ten minutes from my husband’s offices. Recycling information is just getting easier these days.
On the epspacking.org website, the following information is available as to local drop off programs and national mail-back options:
Find an EPS Recycling Drop-Off Location near you.
The majority of EPS recycling locations are intended to serve as outlets for expanded polystyrene packaging ONLY. Each EPS collection site has distinct criteria regarding the types of material they can accept. To make sure you have a successful EPS recycling experience, we recommend the following:
1. Once you have identified the closest collection site, call them to verify drop-off times and check to see what types of polystyrene material they accept.
2. Make sure the EPS is clean and free of any plastic film, loose parts or glued-on cardboard.
3. Check to see if they accept other recyclables to streamline your recycling efforts.
In the event that there is not a local drop off, EPS has a national mailing program.
On a beautiful day as Mother Earth smiled at me for my perseverance, and turned her back as we loaded the Styrofoam into the back of a gas guzzling Yukon owned by my “not quite there green” husband. Well life is not perfectly green, but I am trying. At least he could take the Styrofoam down in one load and not have to make two trips. As for the bedroom set, it is still off-gassing behind closed doors with a HEPA consuming energy as I write this post. Next time, I vowed I am going to buy used furniture. I learned my lesson.