The 4 Best Eco-Friendly & Low VOC Office Chairs

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Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

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Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.

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  1. What to watch out for in office chairs and gaming chairs

Looking for a comfortable office chair for your new home office? What’s more comfortable than knowing your chair is eco-friendly as well as ergonomic? Sure, most office chairs are made with toxic foam, plastic, plywood, and vinyl, and, let’s face it, they’re highly unattractive, but some office chairs are designed with comfort, function, eco-friendliness and aesthetics in mind.

So, if you’re committed to an eco-friendly office, don’t just unplug all your electronics and turn out the lights when you leave, consider eco-friendly office furniture, like stand-sit desks and office chairs too.

Some of the most sustainably made task chairs or office chairs make use of smart design where individual components of the chair can be replaced as needed without having to scrap the whole chair. And many chairs are made with recycled materials that can themselves be recycled. Both of these things help to support a circular economy and much smarter use of resources, as does choosing an ergonomic office chair that you’ll be able to use for many years.

In addition to smart, eco-friendly, and ergonomic design, you’ll want to look at the safety of individual components in task chairs or office chairs. Thankfully, a number of such chairs have been certified by cradle to cradle (c2c), which is one of the most robust standards for eco-friendly, sustainable products around. This means that any wood components are sourced sustainable and not treated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that then ruin your office air quality.

A good number of these chairs are available online as refurbished models. This is great! It helps save you money, reduces resource use, and helps keep office chairs from filling up the dump. If you can find an office chair second-hand, this is definitely the most eco-friendly way to go, or if yours is broken, check to see if there’s a simple fix. You can also see if a local organization takes office furniture to refurbish and redistribute. Curious about how we rate products? Click here to view our methodology, which at its core, is about voting with our dollars to fight climate change.

1

Steelcase Think® Chair

Highlights: Our top choice for a super stylish, ergonomic, mostly recyclable office chair made with recycled materials.

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The Steelcase Think® Chair was one of the first office products to receive c2c certification and it continues to perform at a super high standard more than a decade later. In addition to just looking great, the Think chair is well-named, given how eco-conscious and ergonomically smart this chair is.

As much as possible, this chair is made with locally sourced, renewable resources and materials that don’t emit noxious gases. And, once you’re done with it, the Think chair can be disassembled in just 5 minutes using simple tools and was designed for easy recycling or refurbishing to keep materials out of landfill.

The Think features adaptive bolstering, where the seat adjusts to support you, however you wriggle around. Its weight-activated design offers seamless adjustments to recline resistance, so you feel supported without feeling confined.

This eco-friendly office chair also boasts comfy armrests, adjustable lumbar support, seat height and depth, recline tension, and angle, as well as a flexible seat edge.

The 4D Think chair is made with 99% recyclable materials and 44% recycled materials, while the 3D Think is made with 98% recyclable materials and 37% recycled materials. They’re SCS Indoor Advantage Indoor Air Quality Certified and c2c bronze certified, with gold certification for social fairness.

2

Steelcase Amia Chair

Highlights: Smart, eco-friendly design and good lumbar support ideal for shorter or mid-sized folks.

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Steelcase are a high-design furniture company with a solid reputation for building sustainable products including office chairs. The Steelcase Amia Chair is no exception, being made with recycled materials that are also recyclable in turn.

While not quite as eco-friendly as the Think chairs, the Amia Chair is c2c certified bronze, Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified, and Indoor Advantage™ Gold certified for air quality. It also has Oeko-Tex 100 Standard certification for the polyester fabric, and is made with around 34% recycled and 97% recyclable content. Thanks to smart design, the chair has minimal mixed materials, meaning that parts are easily separated for more efficient recycling or reuse. And, once you’re done with your Amia, the Steelcase Environmental Partnership program will help you pass on or recycle your chair in an eco-friendly way.

As for its ergonomic qualities, the Amia offers plenty of good support for those long hours in the office. This is mainly thanks to the Live Lumbar technology in the Amia chair, where a system of flexors in the backrest adapt to the shape of your spine as you shuffle and fidget throughout your work-day. There’s also a handy tilt-lock, adjustable lumbar support, and you can also adjust seat height, seat depth, and tilt tension. If you’re quite tall, though, this one might not be for you as the back rest isn’t super high.

3

Herman Miller Mirra 2 Chair

Highlights: Made with 93% recyclable materials out of 45% recycled resources, the Herman Miller Mirra 2 Chair is a close second for the most eco-friendly office chair around.

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Herman Miller have been in the ergonomic chair-making business for more than twenty years and their Mirra Chair is an updated version of the original and has around a 25% reduced carbon footprint thanks to smart design.

Certified c2c bronze, the Mirra is made in a facility that uses 100% renewable energy and accounts for the recyclability and reuse of the chair’s components throughout its lifecycle.

The back and seat are made with AirWeave® mesh specifically designed for the Mirra Chair. This helps you stay cool and comfortable by evenly distributing pressure an all without the need for foam upholstery padding.

This office chair is highly customizable, making it a fantastic choice if you shift positions a lot during the day, or if you’re sharing a chair in a co-working space. It responds seamlessly to shuffling and offers excellent lumbar support thanks to a lumbar brace. The butterfly back also helps with movement and breathability and the tilt support and adjustable seat depth and armrest angle make for a comfy office experience.

4

Herman Miller Classic Aeron Chair

Highlights: Almost entirely recyclable, highly customizable, eco-friendly, and ergonomic office chair. Refurbished and open box chairs available!

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The Herman Miller Classic Aeron Chair is a classic design that rivals their Mirra chair the for top spot. Ideally you’ll pick up a refurbished model to save yourself some money and save perfectly good chairs from landfill. But, if you’re hankering after a new model, those are available too.

Like the Mirra, the Herman Miller Aeron uses the c2c certified silver AirWeave® Pellicle mesh material and comprises around 39% recycled content, with 91% of materials recyclable. Herman Miller chairs are manufactured in a facility powered by 100% renewable energy, the company sources materials from environmentally friendly suppliers, and they use eco-friendly packaging with minimal waste.

The classic Aeron design features a Pellicle seat and seat back that helps you stay cool and comfy by distributing pressure. This is made by weaving textiles with elastic properties together, making the material flexible and breathable while also being supportive and comfy, and all without the need for foam upholstery padding.

The PostureFit SL design offers support to keep your spine’s natural s-shaped curve, and we also like the tilt action of the Aeron and the fully adjustable arms with an arm-pad. This chair has a graphite base and frame and carpet casters.

The Aeron is available in three sizes, so tall, petite, and mid-sized folks don’t struggle to sit. Classic Aeron Chair Size B, for instance, provides optimal support for people 5’5″ to 6’2″ and 150 to 230 pounds, and the lumbar support adjusts to fit the spine’s lumbar curve.

The refurbished model is tested and certified to look and work like new and comes with a minimum 90-day warranty. If you buy new, the Classic Aeron Chair has a whopping 12-year warranty. And, if you’re a fiend for good design, you might like to know that the Classic Aeron has been added to the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. Definitely something to mention on your next Zoom chat from your home office.


What to watch out for in office chairs and gaming chairs

Ideally, office chairs would be make with a mixture of recycled and recyclable metal, wood, fabric, and natural components like latex, cotton, or hemp that are all non-toxic and sustainable. In reality, I am yet to come across a single chair made without at least some synthetic materials. This is why the main focus of this post is on recycled materials and recyclability, rather than an empty list waiting to be populated by non-toxic office chairs.

That said, there are ways to minimize toxicity. These include looking for chairs made without PVC and phthalates, polyurethane foam, chrome-tanned leather, and potentially carcinogenic azo dyes and flame retardants. Often, the best way to avoid some of these is to look for chairs made with recycled polyester, which is one of the least troublesome synthetic materials around (compared to PVC and polyurethane foam). Choosing a mesh back and seat can also minimize exposure to toxic chemicals in textiles, and allows you to choose a natural cushion if needed.

You can also look for air quality certifications such as CARB II and SCS Indoor Advantage Indoor Air Quality Certified as well as Greenguard Gold and OEKO-Tex. These offer at least some reassurance that the chair doesn’t off-gas an excessive level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can impact health.

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14 Comments

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    • Hi Nora,
      I didn’t come across any non-toxic gaming chairs in my research, but it’s on the list for a deep-dive sometime soon, so stay tuned!
      Leigh

      • I’m looking for this as well! Ones specifically without polyurethane foam, harmful flame retardants, or that emit VOCs.

      • I suffer from severe MCS and I dont find out something is toxic until after I purchase it and then suffer, from watery eyes to swollen ankles and full flu like symptoms. I have been searching for computer and desk stuff for a while now and no one takes it seriously. They even go so far as to lie. I purchased a couple of mouse mats that were so toxic they had to go straight in the bin. Id do better with fly spray sprayed right in my face. My chair… over $300 worth or 150kg weight professional office etc… is too toxic for me to use as is my nice new desk. Trying to get back into the workforce from being unemployed… working from home is an option but when it takes a year to save for this stuff, only to have to sell it for peanuts on the local sale boards.. is crazy unfair. So I hope you continue the push for LOW VOC non toxic furniture and also look at adding some computer keyboards, mice, and mousemat alternatives too.

        • Best of luck to you, Brett. MCS is a struggle, for sure, and I hope you’re managing to find some things that do work for you. We’ll definitely look at researching more home office type equipment going forward. Thanks for the suggestions and good luck with the job hunt!

          Leigh

        • Manufacturers/retailers do lie (or don’t get it) which shows that we need regulation. Even if one doesn’t have MCS, they should be able to buy healthier products if they want them. Anything that an MCS reacts to IS harmful to the human body. We detect it while others passively sit around carcinogens, endocrine disrupters etc.

    • I have the same question. My husband has been asking for a gaming chair, and i have not been able to find one that satisfies my requirements for being non-toxic

  1. we have the same problem. My son’s gaming chair, arrived this week and is already out in garage for sending back. The VOC’s are atrocious. We’ve both been sick for days. Need a gaming chair, and I need an office chair, that gives of NO OFFGASSING AT ALL! No memory foam, no flame retardant, no glue fumes, nothing!

  2. A no or low VOC gaming chair is something I have been searching for for YEARS to no avail. I would love to find one.

  3. I am also looking for a no VOC gaming chair for both husband and myself. Anyone that possibly has any info on this would be greatly appreciated!

  4. Who can afford this selection of chairs?? The prices are ridiculous. Maybe offer more affordable selections for the average person?

  5. “there are no synthetic-free office chairs on the market”is said (no offence) WHILE the comments indicate people want non-toxic chairs, above all other things. What a hell of a market opportunity: make office chairs natural. Give people what they want, me included, and become rich. 50y ago ALL office chairs were non toxic because pumping of cheap oil was for cars.
    Polyester is non toxic? Polyester is a major part of all micro-plastic( micro-polyester ). Pumping of oil is this there and it needs an excuse: ”recycling”. The excuse goes as followed: the footprint of making the product is mentioned in advertising. The bigger footprint after it goes broke are not mentioned.
    There is worldwide only 9% of recycling. Recycling is for 89 % a myth and for the other 11% becomes mico-plastic which ends up in our food once it enters the food chain. Please give me a chair.

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