- Tons of office furniture ends up in landfills, and it's getting worse as workplaces go remote.
- Companies like Green Standards and Reseat sell, recycle, or donate the unwanted furniture instead.
- Green Standards helps offices downsize sustainably, and Reseat is a used furniture marketplace.
- This article is part of a series called "Partners for a Sustainable Future," profiling innovative alliances that are driving real progress in sustainability.
Almost 10 million tons of furniture and furnishings end up in landfills each year, according to 2018 data from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Experts told Insider a large portion of that is office furniture and predict the problem will get worse as more companies rethink their workspaces post-pandemic.
Nearly 90% of executives plan to shift their office real-estate strategies in the next year as they go fully or partially remote, according to a recent PwC survey. This includes consolidating office space and opening smaller locations.
"It's going to have an impact on the amount of furniture coming out of buildings because companies are making decisions that are going to change the layouts of their workplaces," Trevor Langdon, president of Green Standards, told Insider.
Green Standards works with businesses across the globe to donate, resell, and recycle office furniture. Similar companies, like preowned office furniture marketplace Reseat, are helping companies buy and sell used furniture and keep it out of landfills. Here's a look at how exactly they partner with outside organizations to reduce waste and promote sustainability.
Green Standards shows the impact of furniture resale and donations on the environment
Green Standards, which has worked with General Motors, United Airlines, and Expedia Group, uses an assessment to decide whether reselling or donating an office's items is the best fit. It then facilitates donations by identifying nonprofits, such as schools or charities, that could use the items and handles the removal and delivery of the furniture.
Social-media management company Hootsuite recently redesigned its workspaces in Vancouver, London, and Bucharest, replacing rows of desks and large conference tables with standing desks and comfortable, upholstered seating to offer work-from-home employees a place to collaborate. Instead of throwing away unused items, Hootsuite donated about 80% of the leftover furniture to community organizations through a partnership with Green Standards.
"We had an opportunity to have all this perfectly good office furniture that just didn't meet our needs anymore go to somebody who could use it," Carol Waldmann, Hootsuite's director of global facilities and real estate, told Insider. "It just made sense to try to find a new home for it rather than throwing it in the trash."
Though he wouldn't provide exact figures, Langdon said the cost of Green Standards' services is the same or less than hiring liquidators to remove furniture, most of which gets dumped in a landfill. He said his company has a 99% landfill diversion rate for the furniture they encounter and has arranged more than $32 million in donations.
Green Standards also provides companies with a report that shows how much office furniture they diverted from a landfill and how it reduced their carbon footprint. For example, Waldmann said Hootsuite's project equated to reducing gas consumption by 7,200 gallons and offset electricity use for nine homes for a year.
"I would love more organizations to look at how they can support communities that they're in and just try to find ways to reduce their impact on the environment," she said. "It's a powerful tool for all of us to help reduce the impact of climate change as much as we can."
Reseat turns 'waste' into profit for businesses
Brandi Susewitz founded Reseat (formerly Clear Office) last year to help companies buy and sell used office furniture. She's worked in the office furniture industry for more than 20 years and saw the need for a solution to its waste problem.
Reseat has worked with organizations like Uber, Oracle, and GoDaddy, as well as with real-estate brokers, interior designers, architects, and company leaders to furnish a space with pre-owned items. Susewitz said the company is growing and will close its first year with about $3 million in revenue. Recently, it also added Reseat ID, a "second life-cycle passport" that will be issued with each purchase and include a company's furniture drawings, specifications, layouts, fabrics, and quantities to help them later resell the items more efficiently.
Companies can handle the resale process – including uploading photos and delivering items – themselves and keep 70% of profits, or let Reseat handle everything for them and take a 70% cut of the sales.
Susewitz said the problem of office furniture waste is at its worst. She hopes her platform will make it easier for organizations to be proactive in reducing waste.
When designing its first office in San Francisco recently, Modern Treasury, a payment-operations software company, worked with Reseat to purchase about 100 sitting and standing desks, as well as sideboards, tables, and soft seating, Rachel Pike, Modern Treasury's chief growth officer, told Insider. With recent supply-chain issues, she said pre-owned furniture can often be obtained more quickly.
"There's just no reason to buy something new when you have exactly the same thing that's perfect and ready to go," she said.