Updated October 26, 2019. | Swedish furniture giant IKEA is sprucing up the planet with its renewable initiatives and tempting vegan food offerings.
IKEA is a trailblazer of green business solutions. Alongside amusingly shaped utensils and unpronounceable storage solutions, the furniture company is known for its renewable energy initiatives and eco-friendly packaging. Since its launch by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad in 1943, the company has continued to move with the times, both with its modernist product designs and its environmentally-focused production methods. These range from reducing packaging to utilizing renewable energy sources. For example, IKEA has sold domestic solar panels since 2013. In 2018, it vowed to phase out all single-use plastic items by 2020 and it has been serving up the vegan food in recent years as part of its commitment to the environment.
IKEA placed the environment at the epicenter of its business model in 1992 when it launched its Environmental Action Plan. This energy-efficient minimal waste model was inspired by the pioneering Natural Step Framework. IKEA’s adaptation of the framework focuses on making the most out of very little in terms of resources, materials, and energy. This is summed up by the Swedish word “Lagom” which means “Just the right amount is best.”
IKEA has been spearheading the use of new materials in furniture production for decades; its OGLA chair is made from 100% post-consumer plastic waste. However, wood remains a primary furniture material, which is why IKEA is constantly developing ways to reduce how much of this natural material used in its designs. A prime example of this is IKEA’s REINSVOLL wardrobe door, made of recycled wood and recycled PET bottles. In addition, the global chain’s PLATSA range has been specifically designed to offer maximum durability from minimum material. In addition, since 2017, all of IKEA’s wood comes from sustainable sources.
As IKEA’s Global Forestry Manager Mikhail Tarasov explains on the website.
“We’re promoting the adoption of sustainable forestry methods. We do this in order to influence others and also to contribute to the important work of ending deforestation”
Another way IKEA has significantly reduced its wood consumption is by transitioning away from traditional wooden pallets. In 2011, the company realized almost half of its pine and spruce stock was being used as the stacking material, so IKEA began the transition to paper pallets and the eco-friendly “Optiledge system.”
In keeping with its sustainability focus, all of IKEA’s cotton is from more sustainable sources and is grown using less water and pesticides. The company has also taken steps to reduce its water consumption both in its product sourcing and its in-store use. For example, rainwater is used in French IKEA’s sprinkler systems in its distribution centers. Polish IKEA’s primary log factory also utilizes rainwater in its log preservation processing. British IKEA stores all have waterless urinals and Dutch IKEA restaurants have water meters fitted to help understand and limit water consumption.
IKEA’s environmental focus also extends to its customer base. The company’s entire lighting range is made up of energy-efficient LED lamps. It was also one of the first major retailers to do away with single-use plastic bags at the check-outs, instead offering its signature, reusable blue bags. The forward-thinking chain also offers electric car charge ports at all of its UK stores.
Sticking firmly to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra, IKEA operates a minimal packaging policy, and all of its packaging is made from non-mixed materials to facilitate easier recycling. An especially eco-friendly initiative is IKEA’s investigation into fully biodegradable packaging options, such as mycelium-fungi. Made from mushroom roots and recycled farm waste, the polystyrene alternative is made by New York firm, Evocative Design. This start-up company has not restricted its mushroom mastery to compostable packaging. Evocative Design also trialed its prototype mushroom bacon at 2018’s Biofabricate Summit in Brooklyn and is researching lab-grown meat
The Nordic chain is particularly dedicated to finding green alternatives to fossil fuels and has invested EUR 1.7 billion into renewable energy initiatives and research since 2009. IKEA’s initial goal is to become “energy neutral” by 2020. This term describes producing the same amount of energy that is consumed by relying on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Ever eager to push the limits, IKEA’s ultimate grand plan is to be “energy positive” by 2030, meaning it would create more energy than it consumes. As part of its energy efficiency mission, 90 percent of IKEA’s 50 US stores have solar panels on their roofs. Even more impressively, IKEA has 750,000 solar panels installed across its 424 stores and also operates 416 off-site wind turbines.
Grow Your Own
IKEA’s focus upon self-assembly has been a game-changer in the furniture world.
Selling furniture as flat-pack rather than ready-made not only lowers transport costs, it also reduces packaging and makes the products more affordable. Ever the ambitious trendsetter, IKEA took self-assembly to a whole other level in 2012 when it launched an entire flat-pack home. Named the Atkiv, the single bedroom bungalow is constructed from fiber-cement and metals and measures 745 ft.sq. The all-in-one bode contains a dual flush toilet, energy-saving lights and a range of eco-friendly facilities, all for the bargain price of $86,000. Of course, that doesn’t include ground rent or the inevitable cost of a de-stressing spa weekend. After spending a fortnight crying over an assembly manual and trying to locate your allen key, a holistic retreat will doubtless be in order.
For a smaller and considerably less stress-inducing IKEA purchase, the company began selling Indoor Garden kits in 2015. These sets are designed to suit the lifestyles and living spaces of 21st-century nature lovers, many of whom won’t have access to a garden. IKEA’s website also offers indoor gardening advice, ranging from instruction on how to re-pot a seedling to constructing your own table terrarium from scratch. Aside from prettying up your living room, nurturing living things has been proven to have considerable psychological benefits. As Stylist Carl Braganza comments on IKEA’s website: “Growing and keeping plants alive creates an everyday sense of achievement and of staying connected to nature.”
IKEA has built upon this idea and cleverly combined customer wellbeing and food sustainability with its range of indoor growing systems. Launched in 2016, the hydroponic garden range named VÄXER and KRYDDA enables people to grow their own herbs and even vegetables from the comfort of their own home. The range includes everything green-fingered enthusiasts need to get going, from sprout boxes to multi-tier cultivators.
The more elaborate multi-stage starter kit contains heat-treated stone-wool plugs which retain the perfect amount of moisture for seedlings to germinate. The sproutlings can then be transferred to a larger growing tray fitted with an LED lamp, for gardeners lacking a direct sunlight source. Of course, if you have a sunny spot you can also enjoy watching the miracle of nature flourish on your windowsill. KEA’s VAXA range of herb and lettuce seeds are also available throughout European stores, but the indoor cultivators can be used to grow any shallow bedded plant. The inspired initiative makes bringing in your own mini harvest accessible to all. It also makes your homegrown salad a zero-waste and packaging-free dish.
Vegan Restaurant Options
While IKEA has stores in 52 countries, its restaurants have always been inspired by traditional Swedish cuisine. Though the menu is subject to a few local twists. Stores across Switzerland and Sweden, for example, now offer vegan mousse, cakes, and soft-serve. One location in Vancouver, Canada offers a vegan cheeseburger.
IKEA’s classic Swedish meatballs were given a makeover in 2015 when the company started serving up veggie balls at its restaurants. The vegan balls or “GRÖNSAKSBULLAR” are made from ingredients like sweetcorn and carrot and have proved so popular that they have spawned a legion of food blogger imitations.
Following the initial “GRÖNSAKSBULLAR” launch, IKEA said in a press release: “The veggie ball consists of only vegetables and has a lower environmental impact, such as a lower carbon footprint. This is a natural step for IKEA, building on the vision of creating a better everyday life for the many.”
Spending the afternoon perusing inflatable armchairs and collapsible sofas can really work up up an appetite. IKEA’s cafeteria-style bistros are placed after the checkouts for customers to grab a quick bite before heading home. The intuitive company has made its Bistro menu even more tempting with the addition of vegan hot dogs. The KORVMO are made from red lentils, quinoa, carrot, and kale and are sold alongside their porky counterparts before being topped with red onions and other condiments. Launched throughout Europe in August 2018, IKEA sold around a million of the vegan bangers in their first two months and the sausages are now being sold in the store’s Swedish food market section.
Customers looking to satisfy their vegan sweet tooth can also pick up a ring doughnut (or two) from the bistro counter. Treating dessert with the gravitas it deserves, IKEA has also announced its plans to introduce vegan soft-serve ice cream. This vegan treat is already available in Malaysia and in Thailand, where the vegan balls are served up in tangy Panang sauce.
Vegan Market Products
IKEA’s Swedish Food Market has a number of vegan-friendly items available. These include the following.
Munsbit Oat Smoothies
These two fruity drinks were launched at the start of 2019 and come in Apple, Pear, and Ginger flavor or in Blackcurrant, Blueberry, and Acerola flavor. They are available in US and EU stores.
Korvmo Vegan Hot Dogs
IKEA’s vegan hot dogs are available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and soon, Australia.
Grönsaksbullar Vegan Meatballs
While it’s known for its Swedish-style meatballs, the veggie versions are popular too – made with chickpeas, kale, peppers, carrots, peas, and corn, the Grönsaksbullar are also gluten- and soy-free, and come in a mild Indian sauce. Soon, it will launch new, even meatier vegan meatballs.
Lördagsgodi Gummy Sweets
These snacks come in three flavors and are completely gelatin-free. They’re available at the majority of IKEA stores worldwide.
Pajmix Rabarber & Hallon
The Rhubarb & Raspberry Crumble, which much like IKEA’s furniture, is designed to be assembled at home.
Sjörapport Vegan Caviar
The name translates as “Seaweed Pearls” this plant-based caviar is made from kelp, giving it an authentic saltiness. Like the traditional fish eggs, “Sjörapport” comes in both red and black varieties.
IKEA is increasing its dairy-free ice cream options with the launch of vegan soft-serve. It launched dairy-free strawberry ice cream at Bistro locations across Europe last April with the intention of an eventual international launch. The soft-serve at IKEA Malaysia was replaced with a soy-based version.