Regional Community Meeting – January 2019

Regional Community Meeting – January 2019

Took me much longer to post this amazing event, but no better time than today, when one of our discussion points (having an online bulletin board) has been launched here.

A Gathering of Furniture Banks

A little background, Bill Lemke and I have spoken at length about creating a sustainable community to support furniture banks around North America. So in January he kick-started a regional meeting of organizations that might all come together to share resources and observations. While a small group, it highlighted for me that gathering, sharing, and problem-solving together is an important role of a community. Attending the event:

  • Dunetchka Otero-Serrano, Executive Director, Community Warehouse Portland, OR
  • Megan Smith, Communication Director, Community Warehouse
  • Anna Kurnizki, Development Director, Community Warehouse
  • Joe Glode, Program Director, Community Warehouse
  • Dan Kershaw, Executive Director, Toronto Furniture Bank, Canada
  • Ray Piontek, Founder and Executive Director, Bay Area Furniture Bank, CA
  • Bill Lemke, Executive Director, NW Furniture Bank, WA
  • Jeremy Simler, Director of Development, NW Furniture Bank
  • Matt Hageness, Director of Operations, NW Furniture Bank

45 days later…

While we discussed getting a virtual community moving, I was fortunate to secure the corporate support from Furniture Link Inc. (where we are now as you read this) to get the ‘virtual community going’. So here we are – the beginnings of a community that permit members to:

  • Full member contact director
  • Furniture Bank Round Table forum – where conversations around different topics can occur privately with other furniture bank members.
  • Upload, download, share, comment and collaborate on documents and materials together
  • Share research on measurement and impact
  • Look at best practice examples from other communities to use in your own.
  • Connect with Furniture Link when there are ‘free goods’ opportunities in your community through Furniture Link’s project.
  • More to come as the community helps shape it.

So if you are a Furniture Bank in North America – please join – to get access. Its FREE for us, so no downside for us and our limited resources.

  1. See the Members Map – 
  2. Discuss at the Round Table –
  3. The North American Member List –
  4. Member Resource Center –

Anyway much more to come, but wanted to highlight for the furniture banks out there, we’ve got a virtual community started. Where it goes from here we will see together.

Thanks, Bill, Dunetchka, Ray and your teams for a great Community Event.

PS. Any of your FB team members that would LOVE to join me in curating and improving the community website – do let me know!


Dan Kershaw




If food waste can do it?

If food waste can do it?

Amazing to see business move into address waste.
Furniture Link is focused on waste in home furnishings and linking them to the thousands of organizations and their beneficiary families who cannot afford these goods as they recover from a crisis.

“Waste, at its heart, is an expense”

We completely agree with the sentiment, and it applies to furniture and household goods as well!

Read the full article here 

Big Money Joins Fight Against $1 Trillion in Wasted Food

Companies have raised more than $125 million in capital to improve the industry’s efficiency, but it’s proving hard to convince consumers not to throw away perfectly good food.
February 23, 2019, 8:00 AM EST
Illustration: Cathryn Virginia
There’s gold in keeping bananas yellow.
Companies fighting food waste in the U.S. attracted about $125 million in venture capital and private equity funding in the first 10 months of 2018, according to a report from ReFED, a coalition of nonprofits, businesses and government agencies. This amount is expected to rise.
Luring funding are products like smart tags that change color when milk goes bad, a mist to prolong the shelf life of fruit and software to help grocery stores order just the right amount of produce so they throw less away.
The solutions have skeptics, but the problem is generally acknowledged as an economic and ethical calamity. Every year, 1.4 billion tons of food—a third of global production—ends up in landfills. By some estimates, this adds up to nearly $1 trillion of annual squander and the production of about 8 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gases. At the same time, nearly 800 million people go hungry every day.

Business Opportunity

“Investors are seeing that food waste is a big business opportunity,” said Michelle Masek, head of marketing at Apeel Sciences Inc., which formed a partnership this month with a major European supplier of avocados that will use a water-based solution the company says extends the ripeness as many as four days.

63 Million Tons

That’s how much food the U.S. wastes per year, with consumer kitchens the worst offenders
Source: A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent, ReFED, 2016
The challenge is that individuals—not restaurants, supermarkets or farms—are among the main offenders. In the U.S., about 43 percent of all the waste happens at the end of the supply chain, in home kitchens, according to a 2016 ReFED report. A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council found 68 percent of what’s trashed is still edible.
People are aware of their shortcomings, according to a 2016 survey. They feel guilty, but not guilty enough to make a difference.
But not everyone is sold on the idea that the answer lies in more stuff.

Grocery Stores

“I worry about this food-tech, food-waste boom becoming a food-waste bust,” said Elizabeth Balkan, director of the NRDC’s food-waste program. If consumers want to throw away less food, what they have to do is plan better and store smarter, she said. It does “require lifestyle adjustments, but it shouldn’t be things that require a lot of costs and newfangled devices.”
The hope for serious change, and the greatest opportunity for investment, rests with grocery stores, where narrow margins and tough competition from Walmart Inc., Inc.’s Whole Foods Market and European transplants Aldi and Lidl provide bottom-line incentive. Not only is revenue lost from tomatoes gone mushy and expired cheddar, there’s the added expense of getting rid of it.
“When they started to realize the cost of food waste, we started to see a change,” said Anne Greven, global co-head of food and agriculture innovation at the Dutch lender Rabobank.

Imperfect Produce

Startups have stepped in. FoodMaven, which sells discounted surplus food and what it describes as “imperfect produce” to restaurants and commercial kitchens, announced $10 million of investment in January, from members of the Walton and Pritzker families, on top of $8.6 million from a first round of funding. Afresh Technologies, which taps machine learning to help retailers buy just enough to keep inventories in balance, followed a $1.7 million seed round in January 2018 with an undisclosed, but larger, funding round that closed in December.
Other companies include Bluapple, maker of a gas-absorbing device for refrigerators that claims to add a few more days to berries and greens, and Ovie, which says its Smarterware combines Tupperware and sensors to let you know how much time that leftover fruit salad or beef stir-fry has left. Companies like Copia and Goodr are making food donations easier.
Older companies, too, see the benefit of new products to address the problem. Newell Brand Inc.’s Rubbermaid advertises the containers in its Fresh Works line as capable of prolonging the life of items like strawberries and leafy greens.
Walmart “looks at food waste in a more holistic way,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director for the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. For example, the biggest U.S. retailer cut strawberry delivery time from farm to store by 50 percent, adding two to three days to the berries’ usable lives.
Through its Customer Value Program, Walmart reduces the price on items that will expire soon to increase the likelihood they’ll be purchased and created a standardized date label to lower the chances anything goes bad at home. Walmart donates to local food banks what doesn’t get sold.
“Waste, at its heart, is an expense,” said Laura Phillips, Walmart’s senior vice president for global sustainability.
Furniture is societies least-recycled household item!

Furniture is societies least-recycled household item!

EPA Reports 9.8 Million Tons Per Year in Furniture Waste

Very limited research occurs on societies least-recycled item in a household.
In 2009, U.S. EPA reported that furniture accounted for 9.8 million tons (4.1 percent) of household waste. Furniture is the number one least-recycled item in a household, and it was only up until 2008 that there was a recovery (materials used for recycling) greater than 0.05 percent since the 1960s – 0.1 percent. And by 2015, it is estimated that we will spend $121.7 billion to refurbish our homes with new furniture. As we are increasingly persuaded by TV shows to remodel our homes and to replace old furniture, we are also adding more to the landfill in record numbers.
Ikea moves forward with their circular business model

Ikea moves forward with their circular business model

One of the leaders in making a furniture company circular.
Furniture Link looks forward to expanding their reuse ideas to go beyond just leasing to the same customers.

What I found surprising is the US statistic that highlights that F-WASTE is not insignificant. Close to ‘Yard Waste’ values in the City of Toronto for instance.

Per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans discarded 9.8 million tons of home furnishings in 2009 — that’s roughly 4.1 percent of all household waste.

Reposted from: 

Would you lease an Ikea bookcase?

Company tests furniture leasing in its latest bid to curb waste.

In the last several months, IKEA has begun pivoting to a more e-commerce-focused business model. It is also exploring furniture leasing programs to help extend the lifespan of its products. (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)
The past several months for Ikea have been marked by transition and upheaval.
In September, Marcus Engman, head of design at the world’s largest home furnishings retailer, announced his departure after a game-changing, six-year run. Then, at the end of November, Ikea revealed plans to slash its global workforce by 7,500 employees as part of a large-scale shift away from the brick-and-mortar retail model that’s long worked well for the company, which operates over 300 stores in 38 countries and territories.
The restructuring, the largest in the privately held Swedish company’s history, will generate a significant number of new jobs and entail the opening of 30 urban-format “Ikea Planning Studio” locations in numerous cities, including an inaugural stateside outpost on the Upper East Side of Manhattan due to open later this year. (Focused on small space living solutions, these stand-alone showrooms will “give customers the opportunity to discover, select and order Ikea products for delivery to their home.” Just don’t go looking for meatballs.) Essentially, Ikea is putting a pause — in the U.S. at least — on erecting hulking big-box stores in the far-flung suburban outskirts of cities so it can better focus on urbanites and online shoppers.
But perhaps the most headline-grabbing news out of Ikea-land came early this month when it announced plans to test a leasing model through “scalable subscription services” in one of its European markets.
Yes, this means that some day you might be able to rent that Billy bookcase or the Hemnes bed frame that you aren’t 100 percent sold on.
Ikea has seen profits plunge as more and more shoppers go online. In response, the big box-y Swedish export is bolstering its e-commerce presence and delivery options. (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)
“We will work together with partners so you can actually lease your furniture. When that leasing period is over, you hand it back and you might lease something else,” Torbjörn Lööf, chief executive of Inter Ikea, explains to the Financial Times. “And instead of throwing those away, we refurbish them a little and we could sell them, prolonging the lifecycle of the products.”
The exploratory move, which is being piloted in Switzerland and for now only applies to office furnishings, is part of Ikea’s overall transformation into a more urban, delivery-centric retailer. But more than that, it plays into the company’s longstanding commitment to dramatically lower both its own environmental footprint and the collective environmental footprints of its customers.

A quest to keep armchairs and end tables in circulation

By giving shoppers an option to lease — instead of outright buy — home furnishings that will be rehabbed and leased out again, Ikea believes less waste will be generated and sent to landfills. As such, the leasing model envisioned by the company is part of a sharing-based circular economy in which a single piece of furniture can live multiple lives. A man who absolutely abhorred wastefulness, it’s likely that Ikea’s late and (in)famously thrifty founder, Ingvar Kamprad, would no doubt approve of a move to keep Ikea products in circulation for as long as possible.
Per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans discarded 9.8 million tons of home furnishings in 2009 — that’s roughly 4.1 percent of all household waste.
The first ‘Ikea Planning Studio’ opened on London’s Tottenham Court Road in 2018. Another location following the same concept is due to open in Manhattan this spring. (Photo: Ikea)
“We have an ambition to inspire and enable people to play an active role in making the circular economy a reality, which we can support by developing new ways for people to buy, care for and pass on products,” an Ikea spokesperson tells CNBC. “In certain markets, such as Switzerland, we’re exploring and testing potential solutions and have a pilot project to look into the leasing of furniture, but it’s still too early to confirm exactly what this will look like.”
Beyond leasing office furniture, Lööf tells the FT that Ikea is also looking into launching a spare parts business that would allow customers to buy screws, hinges and other lifespan-extending bits and bobs for furniture that’s been phased out from stores. This pivot to championing repair over replacement is major given that it comes from a build-it-yourself Scandinavian furniture emporium with offerings that have long been deemed reasonably priced, on-trend and, well, disposable — not exactly heirloom-quality stuff. (Those who have been watching Ikea over the past several years, however, probably saw this shift coming.)
And depending on how the office furniture leasing pilot pans out in Switzerland where Ikea operates nine stores, Lööf says rented kitchen components could potentially be next up to bat.
“You could say leasing is another way of financing a kitchen. When this circular model is up and running, we have a much bigger interest in not just selling a product but seeing what happens with it and that the consumer takes care of it,” he tells the FT.
From using more recycled materials in the manufacturing process to calling for a zero-emissions delivery fleet, Ikea’s list of environmental goals is long and commendable. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Buyback scheme a smash in Canada

While firm details surrounding Ikea’s office furniture leasing trial in Switzerland and the potential for it to be unrolled on a wider scale are, as mentioned, sparse, some consumers have already made up their minds … and they’re not too keen on the idea.
“I don’t want to rent everything I have to touch or see with my eyes on a daily basis,” writes Rhik Samadder for The Guardian. “It is the idea of having an ongoing relationship with a company that I kick against. I understand that I have to consume things to live. But I would prefer the transaction to be short, self-contained and an accepted source of shame, like going to the toilet.”
He adds: “If I take home a Tobias or a Fanbyn, I want to buy it, sit on it and be left alone.”
And Samadder, who claims not to have “any particular beef with Ikea,” likely isn’t alone with his sentiments.
But from a customer engagement perspective, such schemes can and do work.
Case in point is another planet-friendly Ikea initiative launched at Canadian stores in November. Dubbed the Sell-Back program, the scheme allows customers to trade in old and unwanted Ikea merchandise for in-store credit. These gently used dressers, dining room tables and whatnot are either donated or sold secondhand at Ikea stores for roughly 30 percent of what they’d sell for in brand-new condition.
In its first two months, 8,000 customers participated in Ikea Canada’s Sell-Back initiative — a surprise success. There is, however, legwork involved.
Outside of the leasing trial in Switzerland, IKEA Canada has launched a sell-back program that allows customers to unload their secondhand furnishings for store credit. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
As the National Post details, Ikea customers wishing to offload used furniture must first submit photos of the furniture in question along with a short online application. Based on the photos and application, their local store can either accept or decline the furniture, which must be in acceptable resale condition — that is, it must be structurally sound and free of any post-purchase modifications. If accepted, the customer must then transport it to Ikea, at which point store credit is given.
Similar buyback/resale programs have also been launched at Ikea stores in Scotland, Spain and Japan, per the World Economic Forum.
It’s admittedly a lot of hoops to jump through just to get store credit. But as Ikea Canada’s head of sustainability Brendan Seale relays, the process is well worth it for many of its customers (especially those who have been inspired by a certain Netflix series to take action) eager to be rewarded for cleaning house.
“At this time of year, we know many of our customers are decluttering their spaces and organizing their goods,” says Seale in a press release. “We are thrilled at the response to the Sell-Back program which enables us to establish a longer-term relationship with these customers, supporting them to live more sustainably, while adding convenience and value for their next shopping trip at Ikea.”