It never ceases to amaze me what other people throw out in their trash. A few years ago I was walking down a street and spotted what looked like (and turned out to be) a hardly-used sofa on someone's drive, left out with the trash.
So, I knocked on the door and asked the owner if she'd mind if I re-homed it for her. I needed a sofa for my new home and hated to think of something so useful ending up in the landfill.
Since then, I'm pleased to see "dumpster diving" has become very popular and the website Freecycle.org, which is based on the same principle, has taken off on a global scale. To me it's a no-brainer: re-using someone else's trash keeps it out of landfills and means you get to furnish your home for free!
Having said that, dumpster divers and freecyclers can't be too choosy, and in their salvage efforts often end up with a really comfortable seat covered in really ugly fabric. A good way around this is to invest in some furniture slipcovers. These come ready-made in various sizes to fit most types of sofas, loveseats and chairs. They're ridiculously simple to use and are great for totally disguising unattractive, faded, torn or plain unfashionable upholstery.
To be really green, you could attempt to make your own slipcovers from secondhand fabric. But if this sounds like too much hassle, look out for some organic cotton slipcovers, such as those available from Sure Fit Slipcovers.
As growing conventional cotton accounts for something like 25% of the world's pesticide use, it's good to see organic textiles are becoming more widely available. So far, I've found only sofa and loveseat covers made from organic fabrics, but hope we won't have to wait long before there are organic slipcovers for armchairs and dining chairs too.
From using slipcovers over the years, I've picked up a few tips to get them to fit better. For example, old magazines rolled up and secured with rubber bands are great for stopping slipcovers from un-tucking and working loose. Just push them down into the gaps around the seat to hold the fabric tightly in place. Another handy tip is to use an old blanket or towel to add padding to places where a slipcover is too loose, such as around wooden arms.
With a bit of resourcefulness you can use slipcovers to give freecycled furniture an eco-makeover and give your home a green new look.
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