Earth Day Reminds Us of What’s At Stake
As we approach Earth Day and the reminder to “Invest in Our Planet,” I find myself reflecting on the investment we’ve made at Installnet to develop, launch and scale Ecoserv, our furniture decommission program.
It started more than a decade ago when one of our clients asked if we could find a way to keep the old furniture we removed from their offices out of landfills. Always willing to please our customers, I quickly agreed. That began an unexpected, often challenging, but immensely rewarding journey.
The more I learned, the more invested I became. More than 146 million tons of solid waste a year is going to landfills – generating greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. According to the EPA, 9.6 million tons of that waste is furniture.
Since 2012, Ecoserv has completed more than 5,600 decommission jobs. In all, we have diverted a staggering 38.7 million pounds of waste from landfills. That’s the equivalent weight of ALL the 415,000 African elephants left in the world (according to the WWF), more than SEVEN TIMES OVER! And we’re just getting started.
We could never have accomplished all that we have without the support of our employees, our network of 350 independent service providers or help from other pioneers in circularity, including MillerKnoll, Humanscale and 3Form.
To keep waste out of landfills, the Ecoserv team resells, recycles, relocates, or donates our customers’ assets. We have more than 3,200 non-profits and community groups in our network who take donations. Our goal is to be a catalyst for the circular economy – keeping furniture in circulation as long as possible.
Furniture decommissioning is often overlooked by the commercial real estate market. As dramatic changes in workspaces and work styles prompted by the pandemic became more permanent and interest in ESG grew, demand for Ecoserv has grown. By sharing credible impact reports detailing how much waste was diverted and where it went, we’re changing the way our industry has traditionally thought about office decommissions.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of challenges that will require us to think differently and work across sectors to solve problems together.
The pandemic and resulting move to hybrid work has saturated the resale market and donor pool, making it more difficult and time consuming to find homes for furniture. There are also items that are very difficult to reuse or recycle, including furniture with chemically treated wood and laminated particle board. Finally, there is a need for more detailed data systems to understand the impact of timing, location, type of project, product manufacturer, age and condition on outcomes.
It won’t be easy, but together, we’re getting zero done™. Join us.