Creating products that help, rather than hurt, the environment is a very important goal for us at Humanscale. Part of this mission includes assessing the materials that go into our products and continuously working to ensure that they are the healthiest – for both people and the planet.
There are a number of harmful chemicals and ingredients that are unfortunately commonly found in materials that go into furniture. The Red List is a list of toxic chemical contaminants that pollute the environment, bio-accumulate in the food chain, and/or harm human health. When the Red List chemicals are released into the environment, they pose greater threats, like increased mortality, to already impoverished communities. At Humanscale, we strive to create products that are free of Red List materials, while also revisiting older products in order to find areas where we can improve.
When it came to designing our QuickStand Eco, we evaluated a number of different chemicals to use on the surface. After landing on powder-coated formaldehyde-free MDF, we faced another challenge: Though void of formaldehyde, the powder-coat we decided to use on the work surface contained another Red List chemical. The chemical, Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, from the same chemical family as “Teflon”), is a known endocrine disruptor, which means it interferes with the body’s hormones and can have neurological, reproductive, developmental effects and can cause cancerous tumors. We did not want to include this in any of our products if we could help it.
In order to find a solution to our problem, we found a supplier, DVUV, who was willing to experiment with different formulations to find a powder-coat that would properly adhere to the MDF without the use of any Red List chemicals. DVUV completely replaced the PTFE in the formulation with a material derived from a naturally occurring clay mineral. This new material creates a process that has a much lower carbon footprint than traditional heat-cured powder-coating and now it is free of dangerous Red List chemicals. As we demand safer chemistry, our suppliers have begun to offer safer alternatives, creating a ripple effect that improves the industry standard.
At Humanscale we prioritize creating simple and functional products that do not contribute to the environmental and physical harm caused by Red List chemicals. Even though the Red List chemical would have made up a small amount of the powder-coat, and an even smaller percentage of the entire sit/stand solution, we didn’t want to put any more of this dangerous chemical out into the world. As Luke Zhou, the Sustainable Materials Specialist, states in our annual report, “We felt that having even one Red List chemical in production just wasn’t right.” Through commitment, teamwork, and ingenuity, our Net Positive philosophy moves us to create products that are better for our consumers and the world around us.