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Sitting pretty and green 

Local company offers environmentally friendly furniture

EARTH DAY has taken on new meaning for Mike and Raquel Ayres.

They’re hoping to celebrate with the opening of a storefront for their business, Structured Green. The Ayres offer seating, tables, beds, storage, items for kids and pets, even lighting and accessories that are eco-friendly.

The Ayres started the business after furnishing their own home with “green” furniture. “We’ve always been interested in environmentally friendly products,” Mike says.

“When we started restoring our house downtown, we didn’t want to spend money making everything environmentally friendly and then fill it with furniture that isn’t,” he says. “The EPA says that the toxic levels inside are three to four times what they are outside.”

Where do these toxins come from? “Your paints, your flooring, your wall covers,” Raquel says.

“Inside, you don’t have the ventilation you do outside,” Mike says. “It’s all contained inside. If you get mold in the duct work, it just recirculates.

“We didn’t want to fill our house with anything that wasn’t good for us,” he says. “That’s why we started our business.”

So far, Structured Green has 20 different lines of furniture. In your mind, picture taking a sofa apart. Now imagine remaking every piece of that sofa with eco-friendly materials. That’s what these furniture companies are doing.

In setting up their business, the Ayres looked for companies that make high quality furniture and accessories. “It will last forever,” Mike says. “That means more furniture that we’ll keep out of the landfills.”

Everything used to create the furniture, every material, every glue, every chemical, is produced in a way that is eco-friendly. Some items come from recycled materials and some are themselves made to be recycled.

“We have one line that makes things with materials from the junk yard,” Raquel says. “They use things like washers and rebar.”

“One company takes its wood from trees that have fallen,” Mike says. “Some get wood from buildings that have been de-constructed.”

“Some go in where tornadoes have hit and get all the wood,” Raquel says. “They use a lot of processes to collect it. It’s amazing how they can make something out of nothing.”

“The workers at one company work with arborists,” Mike says. “When lightning strikes a tree, they go in and figure out how to cut it to get the most use out of it.”

Another company uses screws and metals that have been recycled. “The fibers that are used are organic,” Mike says. “The wood used is sustainable-harvest wood.”

Mike is an architect and Raquel is an interior designer. They found the search for green furniture to be difficult and time-consuming, and thought the things they’d learned would be helpful to others. “It’s hard to find if you’re not looking for it,” Raquel says.

They want their customers to think about the life cycle of a product -- where does it come from? How is it manufactured? How long it will last, and is it recyclable?

Even if a customer doesn’t believe in global warming, it doesn’t matter, the Ayres say. What does matter is making an effort as a group to leave the world a better place for the next generation.

Once the storefront is open, shoppers can come in and see the items. For now, they can be seen at www.structuredgreen.com. They even offer gift cards.

Orders can be placed at the website or by calling 1-877-593-8064 Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Questions can be e-mailed to customerservice@structuredgreen.com.

Savannah is the perfect place to start a green furniture business. “It’s become a haven for green companies,” Mike says.

If you are on a budget and have to worry about a different type of green, Structured Green has products that range in price from low to high. “It runs the whole spectrum,” Mike says.

“It’s definitely better quality,” Raquel says. “The construction is much better.”

The Ayres are Leed-certified and donate one percent of their profits to organizations that fight for the environment. “We make every piece of the puzzle as eco-friendly as possible,” Mike says. “A lot of people who don’t know about this might be educated and choose the right products for the environment.”

To comment, e-mail us at letters@connectsavannah.com

A representative piece from Structured Green’s 20-line repertoire
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Linda Sickler

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