Landfills Provide the Source Material for One Innovative Nonprofit
Every year, about four billion pounds of furniture, carpet, and construction waste gets tossed into landfills . Much of it is still in good working condition, according to a recent report in GOOD.
After witnessing the waste first-hand, Rose Tourje, a Los Angeles-based architect, decided to do something about it. She quit her job and founded the Asset Network for Education Worldwide (ANEW), a company that diverts corporate furniture from landfills and redistributes it to nonprofits, charities, and police and fire departments.
Tourje says that after witnessing truckloads of perfectly good office furniture being tossed into a local landfill, she realized that there was a gaping hole in her own industry’s plan to create green, sustainable business practices. While her profession may have been focused on making the production side of the industry more green, it was ignoring the other part of the equation― how to do the same with asset liquidation.
Tourje reports to GOOD that her decision to start ANEW was not met with enthusiasm. “It caused a commotion. Rumors were flying around not just at the office but in the industry. People were worried. They’d heard I was hanging out at landfills.”
Nonetheless, she forged ahead, creating a business model that’s beneficial for all parties involved. By participating in ANEW, donors lower their ecological footprint and become eligible for tax deductions, while beneficiaries receive good furniture at cheap prices.
Since 2005, ANEW has helped more than 500 charities in 13 countries. According to Tourje’s estimates, she diverts about 9 million pounds of furniture from landfills every year, and does so with a skeleton crew of four employees.
But Tourje isn't done growing her business. ANEW's latest big venture has been a partnership with the furniture company Knoll. Together, they created a program called Full Circle, which allows Knoll customers to liquidate furniture they no longer want or need using ANEW’s resources. Leftover materials that can’t be repurposed are turned into renewable energy using Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste facilities.
What kind of waste do you see in your own occupation that you wish would be addressed through greener practices? Let us know in the Comments.