The Selene Bar Cart is a simple, stylish bar cart designed to be pretty, without much attention to supply chain responsibility. Urban Outfitters sells this bar cart with barely any description about the materials used in the piece and even less about the production. Urban Outfitters could have omitted this information because they think their consumer doesn’t care about the process of manufacturing furniture. Additionally, this information could be a red flag for their lack of environmental and ethical standards. Urban Outfitters must disclose their actions pertaining to issues of forced labor and human trafficking in their supply chain, but this disclosure is also incredibly vague. Under the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, Urban Outfitters has to disclose what they are doing to make sure there are no human rights violations occurring in their supply chain. As with their description of the Selene Bar Cart, Urban Outfitters is giving the bare minimum of information about their actions. Additionally, Urban Outfitters is not making commendable strides towards environmental reform in their supply chain. Instead, they are selling the idea of a new-age clothing, beauty, and home decor brand that’s as vapid as the photos on their Instagram feeds. The Selene Bar Cart is on-par with another gold bar cart on the market, and there are few benefits to the Selene over the other ones. If you’re looking for a more sustainable accent piece, you’d have better luck finding one secondhand.
The product description of the Selene Bar Cart is frustratingly bare. The bar cart is “metal, glass” - which is obvious after one glance at the product photograph. Given the underwhelming information about the materials, Urban Outfitters isn’t looking to advertise the production process. What’s missing is the composition of the metal and the finish on the metal. However, the bar cart is most likely made of aluminum. Aluminum is lighter and cheaper than steel furniture; seems unlikely that this $179 bar cart is made with quality, durable, and strong steel. The finish is most likely an anodized finish, which is appropriate for an aluminum structure, giving it extra durability. The wheels are most likely a type of plastic, probably a type-7 plastic, which is the most sturdy. The glass is simply glass, with no color to it. Both glass and aluminum can be recycled multiple times, which means that there is a (small) chance that this could be made of recycled materials. Additionally, it is unlikely that this bar cart will be recycled into a new product. Most of the glass and aluminum that is actually recycled is from products like soda cans and glass bottles, not furniture. The materials are durable enough for a sturdy product, but the Selene Bar Cart is not designed to be an indestructible piece of furniture.
There is no information about the production of the Selene Bar Cart on its product page. Urban Outfitters does not disclose where their furniture is produced, and research leaves little information to be gained. However, the process can be deduced from the probable materials used. The metal structure requires aluminum to be mined, processed, welded, and finished. Aluminum is abundant, but not as pure aluminum (thus it must be smelted). Bauxite, the best raw material for aluminum smelting, is found predominantly in China, Australia, and Brazil. The main waste from aluminum production is “red mud”, which can be dried in a pit and reused for cast iron, concrete, and other metals. While aluminum is recyclable, there is no reason to assume that the Selene Bar Cart is made out of recycled aluminum (if it were, it would be advertised as so). Only 35% of finished aluminum products are made of recycled metal sources. Aluminum is a more energy-efficient metal than steel, as the process has been streamlined for efficiency. Aluminum is lighter than steel, so there are fewer emissions from the transportation of the product. 1.7% of (American) Municipal Solid Waste is aluminum. Aluminum is in many products, but beer and soft drink cans are the most frequently recycled. Furniture is part of the “consumer durable“ category, which makes up 8% of the domestic production of aluminum. Thus, furniture is not a driving factor for aluminum production, and a change in consumer habits (for furniture) would not affect larger aluminum production in general. Glass is made from sand, waste glass, limestone, and soda ash. Glass is not typically known as being ”bad“ for the environment, as most of its components are regularly available and it is a fully recyclable product. The main effects of glass manufacturing are water usage, water pollution, NOx, SOx, and dust pollution. There is no information about where the bar cart is manufactured, which means that there is no guarantee of ethical or environmental standards for its production.
Urban Outfitters states that “no act is too small to have a positive impact on the environment” — and they have taken that complacency to heart. Urban Outfitters is a sizable clothing retailer that specifically markets to the “woke” millennial - someone outside of the mainstream (ironically they are now completely mainstream among millennials and Gen Z’s). Urban Outfitters is doing the barest of bare minimums, and only in some places. Clearly, Urban Outfitters is not making quantifiable steps towards a more ethical or environmentally friendly production model. Urban Outfitters has a “Community Cares” page, which includes their “efforts” towards sustainability. These goals are underwhelming, like encouraging consumers to recycle the boxes their online orders come in and using LED lighting in their stores. Urban Outfitters mentions that their distribution center has one of the country’s largest solar arrays on its room - a fact that is incredibly vague (Which country is this distribution center in? What about the other distribution centers?). Urban Outfitters says that they work towards sustainability by partnering with “eco-friendly” brands, but selling two Patagonia fleeces on a website with thousands of other products is not an achievement. Their sustainability marketing is so basic that at some points it reads as if Urban Outfitters doesn’t even know much about sustainability at all. Urban Outfitters hides behind their “Urban Renewal” line and selling products from more “ethical” companies (e.g. Patagonia). The Urban Renewal line uses existing clothing to create new pieces. This follows the current trend towards thrifted items. This is a move towards sustainable fashion, but Urban Outfitters can up-charge for items that would normally go for $3-10 at a thrift store. If Urban Outfitters thinks that sustainability is cutting an old flannel in half and raising the price five times over, then they are missing the mark. Urban Renewal does not even cover the entirety of the Urban Outfitters product scope. Most other Urban Outfitters products have no promise of sustainable sourcing. The Selene Bar Cart is obviously a new product, made without recycled materials. It does not fall under the small umbrella of Urban Outfitters’ commitment to “eco-conscious” decisions. It is impossible to figure out who makes this product and where it’s made.