This is not just about furniture but also clothing, books, soft toys domestic fixtures
and fittings and in fact as large a portion of one's possessions as possible.
Two halves to this idea really. The first half is a standard of manufacture for
certain things, such as chipboard, MDF, wooden furniture,
textiles, stuffing and so forth, that materials used in its manufacture are either
non-toxic or have positive nutritional value. So for example, nicking the banana
chip idea from spaceship design, make certain pieces of furniture and non-
supporting walls out of granulated edible flours, "glass" for windows and
glassware out of sugar, plasticky stuff out of gluten-free pasta, dyes and inks
from brightly-coloured micronutrients and so on. However, also protect it from
degradation by sealing it in packages, taking advantage of osmotic gradients and
the like. All these products are clearly labelled as such.
The other half involves a machine with a big hopper. Once an item reaches the
end of its useful or reparable life, make it biodegradable by people, also known
as edible. Load it into a miniature domestic materials recovery facility, separating
the likes of cellulose, wood, wool, leather, silk, metal and plastic. This shreds the
materials, sterilises them and digests them chemically, breaking sulphydryl
linkages in the protein, separating phenol from the leather, separating the beta-
1,4 linkages in the cellulose and rearranging them into alpha-1,4, leaving some
for roughage, grinding up the metal, dissolving it and turning it into mineral
supplements, then manufacturing specific food items to order at the other end.
A few rather inexpert examples of what i mean:
* Silk, keratin and leather are all proteinaceous and high in sulphur-containing
amino acids. Breaking the groups and rearranging them into other forms should
provide edible protein in one form or another. This could be applied to wool,
other animal hair based fabrics, feathers, horn or anything made from animal
hides, provided of course that it hasn't been processed in such a way that it will
contain, for instance, formaldehyde or chromium salts.
* Cellulose and lignin. These seem to be the big ones. Cellulose is a vast
untapped source of calories. There's a one hundred kilo futon cushion behind me
which is almost all cellulose and would provide enough food energy in the form of
glucose for several months, and yet all we do is sit on it. Most of the lignin,
unfortunately, would probably have little nutritional value, but since this would be
in wood, the cellulose in that would be quite high, and we clearly do tolerate
some lignin in our diets. Glue MDF together with something edible.
* Plasticky stuff. Some kind of protein again, perhaps with polysaccharides,
coated in something waterproof which, however, dissolves easily in another low-
toxicity solvent such as ethanol. I would go for gluten were that not rather unfair
* Glasses. Coated with something transparent and waterproof such as cellulose
acetate, but made of sucrose. Once shattered, this would dissolve easily in water
and the cellulose acetate can then simply be filtered out.
* Dyes, inks and pigments. Been here before, i think. The likes of carotenoids,
anthocyanins, flavonoids, chlorophyll and other brightly coloured nutrients. There
are plenty of those.
* Metals. Steer clear of alloys high in arsenic, copper or other nasties and
instead use iron, zinc and other straightforwardly nutritious trace and not-so trace
elements. Dissolve them and add them to the mix, or simply put them in water
and water crops with them.
Ultimately, you would end up with a substantially edible house and contents.
You would be able to eat furniture, cases for electronic equipment, clothes,
books, carpets, wallpaper, paint, non-supporting walls, maybe even wiring and