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Environmental Concerns

In the trade publications that arrive here, there are articles about "green" and "sustainable."  Most of them relate to market trends, as in: "Consumers look for green products, so position your company accordingly."  The terms, "green" and "sustainable," lack rigor and allow for many angles and interpretations, but I believe we can claim them.  We don't want to waste material, abuse people, poison the ground, or take more than we give — as a matter of health, and of principle.

We support sustainable forestry, recycle, reuse, compost, filter air, and conserve water.  But the foundation of our effort is this:  We build durable furniture of classic design.  Our furniture will outlive many cycles of inferior furniture, thereby reducing the relative impacts of shipping, packaging, and other activities that cannot be reduced to zero.

Wood

When I worked in the woods and at the sawmill as a young man, the old men lamented, "good timber is dwindling away."  And I have seen the quality of timber and lumber decline drastically in my lifetime — not all that long in forest-time.

Contrary to common practice, it is possible to manage forestland so that a perpetual harvest of improving quality can be sustained.  This is the goal of the Forest Stewardship Council.  Almost all of the cherry, maple, and mahogany we buy comes from forests that are FSC certified to be well managed.

Waste

We recycle cardboard, paper, metal, glass,, and plastic, but some materials do go to the dumpster — not much for an operation like this one, but not zero.

We heat with wood scrap.  We compost shavings and dust in the chicken house or in piles on the ground. Our neighbors haul wood scrap, shavings, and dust for projects, fuel, or mulch, but some goes to the dumpster.

Wood scrap cut and stacked for kindling Dust and shavings to compost in eight weeks in the coop
Wood scrap cut and stacked for kindling Shavings to compost in eight weeks in the coop

Gary Weeks garden 6/08
Compost to vegetables

Pollutions

Our hand-rubbed oil finish and our tabletop varnish release Volatile Organic Compounds, VOC's — a category of air pollutants.  We have tested finishes with no, or low, VOC's, but none perform as well; we do use these products on request.  To reduce our exposure to VOC's and the emission of them to the atmosphere, we have built a scrubber.  We circulate the air of the finishing area through a bed of activated carbon.  Enclosing and air conditioning the finishing area, filtering the air every two minutes, and directing the flow of cleaned air over the oiling benches have transformed the work of finishing:  We maintain constant temperature and humidity; the finishes are better; we work in filtered air; there is no discharge to the atmosphere.

Charging the VOC scrubber with activated carbon
Charging the VOC scrubber with activated carbon.

Shipping and Packaging

We rely on shipping:  wood and supplies in, and furniture and byproducts out.  Some of these trips are long.  Diesel burned, carbon released.

Some shipping requires packing.  We recycle as much of the inbound packaging as we can.  To ship our furniture, we use as little packaging material as we can and still have excellent protection.  Some of this material is recycled by our patrons, sometimes rocker boxes become playhouses, but ultimately much does become trash.

There is little we can do to mitigate these activities.  We do order in as large a lot as we can; we ship in as large a lot as we can.

Crated chairs on their way to investors
Crated chairs on their way to investors

Land Use

We built these buildings on undeveloped land in 2000–2001.  We were awarded a Green Building Certificate by the city of Austin for several criteria including energy efficient design and construction, site planning, orientation to sun and breeze, low maintenance, sustainable materials, drainage, and landscaping.

We are landscaping the place by building terraces on the contours, encouraging native grass, scrubs and trees, and planting native and adaptive species.  The terraces stop erosion and hold water and soil for the plants.  We also capture rainwater in tanks for the landscaping.

This bed in a corner of the shop is watered from the tank
This bed in a corner of the shop is watered from the tank

We walk to work. Austin on the path to the shop


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