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Guest Blogger Takes on Topic of Furniture Waste

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Our guest news blogger this week is Jon Strassner. He is the founder of Jon Strassner Consulting LLC.

I recently had the good fortune to present at HD Expo in Las Vegas. Along with my good friend and podcast partner, Verda Alexander, we wanted to dive into the idea of reusing furniture in hospitality. Verda and I produce a podcast together called Break Some Dishes, just now embarking on its fifth season. We find people out there doing extraordinary work, quietly, to impact the effects of climate change. The hospitality design industry has notoriously dragged its collective feet when it comes to sustainability, so we were excited yet skeptical, meaning we weren’t sure if anyone would show up.

And why does hospitality drag its feet? Is it because there’s nothing sexy about reused furniture, recycled furniture, or remanufactured furniture? It doesn’t sound very sexy, and it sounds like it might be a lot more work to find gently used furnishings as opposed to internet shopping for something new and shiny. But when we renovate rooms and public spaces so frequently, we really need to figure this out.

There are two big problems with our consumption of furniture today. Problem number one is something called Embodied Carbon. This is the carbon that has been emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in the manufacture, installation, and transport of these furnishings. The building industry represents about 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The embodied carbon of our furniture represents about 11 percent. Once we make these products, we really need to keep them out of landfills. This is what we refer to as the circular economy. Circular good, linear bad. Remember that. There’s a quiz later.

Landfills. That’s problem number two. We Americans dump about 12 million tons of furniture into landfills every year. Furniture takes up over 7 percent of our landfills. We really need to figure this out. Most designers like to show owners clean white boxes where they can imagine their vision playing out. We need to break this nasty habit. Designers need to walk owners thru spaces today and instead of saying “Just imagine what we can do with all this space!”, they can say “Let’s take a look around and see what kind of treasures we find.” It takes more design savvy to repurpose and reuse than it does to buy all new.

Verda and I found some great examples of this being done. The Ace Hotel has done a remarkable job of folding repurposed furnishings into their brand. The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs furnishes each of its 179 rooms with vintage pieces.

For larger hotels, there are services that come to your hotel and refurbish, remanufacture, and refinish furnishings room by room, barely disrupting the day-to-day operations of your hotel. One such company is The Refinishing Touch. They complete one room per day, and nobody has to ship broken obsolete furniture anywhere. It seems too easy.

There are things we can do. There are solutions out there. While we didn’t have standing room only, we had attendees who came to listen to us talk about repurposing in hospitality. So, there’s hope. We don’t want to preach to the choir so we know it will be a slow go. I urge all of you reading this to start looking closely at the impact we make by throwing furniture away. Let’s all start finding better solutions. Keep that furniture out of the garbage!

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