September 18th, 2023
Traditionally, commercial furniture is discarded and sent to waste following office renovations, relocations, and demolitions largely due to a lack of efficient systems.
GreenChair™ is tackling this waste by transferring commercial furniture from Australian businesses to Not-for-Profits (NFPs), charities and community groups at no cost for the receiving organisations.
Over the past three years, GreenChair™ have saved 321,985 kilograms of waste, resulting in total savings of $8,049,625 directed towards community groups.
Largely due to a lack of incentives and systems for reuse, commercial furniture often gets discarded and sent to waste following office renovations, relocations, and demolitions.
Despite organisations wanting to avoid landfilling furniture, incentives to do so have remained low and finding suitable demand for unwanted furniture can be a time-consuming and challenging task for project teams. GreenChair™, an innovative program founded by Bateup Consulting Pty Ltd, is breathing new life into the discarded and promoting a circular economy for furniture by repurposing second-hand pieces from businesses and redirecting them to nonprofits, charities, and community groups.
We spoke to Breanne Carmody, Operations Manager at Bateup Consulting, about their journey so far.
“GreenChair™ reduces the amount of furniture from businesses ending up in landfill and provides positive social and economic outcomes for NFPs, charities, and community groups. We help bridge this gap by collaborating with both public and private sector businesses.”
“Through GreenChair™, charitable groups gain access to high-quality commercial furniture they otherwise would not have been able to afford enabling them to create vibrant and inspiring workspaces, enhancing productivity and overall impact.”
“Many of the items we repurpose have a real value, but to find a home for them is often put into the ‘too hard basket’ and therefore the items are thrown away. We're driven by the social dimension of circularity and cost savings for non-profits and charities. By collaborating with social partners, it allows us to amplify our impact and contribute meaningfully to our community.”
“GreenChair™ addresses the pressing problem of inefficient disposal of corporate furniture in the construction and fit-out industry. Bateup Consulting, led by Gordon Bateup, recognized that a significant portion of waste sent to landfills (44-48%) comes from construction and demolition activities. The traditional approach of discarding unwanted commercial furniture during office renovations, relocations, and demolitions was found to be problematic. We acknowledged the dominance of private companies in this sector, where recovered office furniture often ended up stored in containers and salvage yards, with minimal exposure to external markets, leading to further furniture damage and hindered potential to repurpose.”
“Despite organisations wanting to do the right thing, the lack of an efficient system, minimal incentives and time made it difficult to find solutions. Additionally, NFPs, charities and community groups operating on tight budgets faced furniture affordability constraints.”
“GreenChair™ was established in April 2020 as an innovative waste and sustainability furniture repurposing program, to address the problem of inefficient disposal of corporate furniture in the construction and fitout industry. We facilitated the transfer of unwanted furniture from businesses in Western Australia to non-profit organisations, charities, and community groups in need.”
“We do not warehouse and/or sell items, like other businesses in this space. We operate in a real-time environment and ‘gift’ all items to recipients. The objective is to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill while helping NFPs allocate their funds towards service delivery and other core services. Our program also creates positive social and economic impact for nonprofits, charities, and community groups, reflecting the circular economy's principle of equitable resource distribution.”
Many of the items we repurpose have a real value, but to find a home for them is often put into the ‘too hard basket’ and therefore the items are thrown away. We're driven by the social dimension of circularity and cost savings for non-profits and charities. By collaborating with social partners, it allows us to amplify our impact and contribute meaningfully to our community.
“We established our pilot program in 2020 trialing a four-step process: Audit, Allocation, Collection, Results. This was rolled out collaboratively with an identified demolition project, working with the building management, client and key charitable organisations to ‘test’ the process and provide feedback for system improvement. After a successful program, this led to the establishment of the GreenChair™ model, the first of its kind in Australia garnering recognition within the WA property and construction industry, with a potential for scalability and expansion into regional areas and at a national scale.”
“Internally, we’ve received valuable support from Bateup Consulting Pty Ltd.'s business management support services as well as from personnel with technical expertise, who are also currently working on a web-based platform with streamlined automated operations. We also work externally with volunteers who contribute their time and skills to various aspects of the initiative, supporting the operational and administrative functions of the organization.”
“GreenChair™ seeks to establish partnerships with various stakeholders, including property developers, construction companies and facility management firms to access a wider customer base and increase market penetration.”
“As we identify trends in relation to furniture that is easily repurposed vs not easily repurposed, we share this information with design teams for consideration for future design planning. Over time the model has shifted from being predominantly an “allocation” based program to being a “one-stop-shop” for businesses that require audits of furniture all the way through to rehoming of items.”
“One significant barrier was the initial scepticism from some commercial organisations about the efficacy of our furniture repurposing initiative. To address this, we engaged the organisations with transparent data and case studies showcasing the tangible waste reduction achieved through GreenChair™. Increased participation and quantification of results led to enhanced sustainability credentials, which sparked conversations about the importance of sustainability, creating a ripple effect of interest. These stories along with the ABC interview on GreenChair’s founder Gordon Bateup gained interest from both furniture providers and recipients.”
“From the beginning GreenChair™ has been adamant that the NFPs, charities and community groups in need will not be charged for the furniture, as they have limited budgets and don’t need to pay for items that would otherwise be sent to landfill.”
“In the first year alone, GreenChair™ prevented over 75,000 kilograms of waste from ending up in landfill. It is estimated that, on average, every kilogram of waste avoided translates to a saving of $25. Based on the 75,000-kilogram reduction achieved in the first year, GreenChair™ delivered a total value of $1,875,000 to participating NFPs.”
“Over the past three years, GreenChair™ has continued its impact. To date, we have saved 321,985 kilograms of waste, resulting in total savings of $8,049,625 directed towards community groups.”
“Our most notable achievement thus far has been the expansion and recognition of GreenChair™ Australia-wide, after beginning locally in Western Australia. Beyond expansion, our ability to bridge the gap between organisations seeking to dispose of unwanted furniture and other items stands out as a significant achievement.”
“Looking ahead, firstly, we aim to expand our geographical reach to new regions and communities. This expansion will not only increase our waste diversion efforts but also enable us to create positive social and economic impacts in a wider array of areas.”
“We aspire to deepen our engagement with stakeholders, forming partnerships and sponsorships with businesses, corporations, and organisations that share our mission and values. Our goal is to become a catalyst for sustainable change by facilitating connections and collaborative efforts that go beyond furniture repurposing, contributing to a more circular and interconnected society. We hope to set a precedent for sustainable business practices and influence the broader industry to consider the environmental, social, and economic implications of their operations.”
“Whether you're a business looking to responsibly dispose of unwanted furniture or a non-profit, charity, or community group in need of furnishings, GreenChair™ offers a unique solution. By repurposing and redirecting furniture and goods, we're not only reducing waste and carbon emissions but also transforming workspaces for groups that need it most. Be a part of the circular economy movement and contribute to positive change.
To learn more and get involved, contact us at GreenChair™”.