According to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale Project on Climate Change, “Many American consumers, even in the face of economic uncertainty, express a willingness to pay more for environmentally friendly products.” These days, just about every business you can think of is going green – from cosmetics manufacturers to sports stadiums to oil companies. Home builders such as David Weekley are beginning to accommodate customers who have their hearts and minds set on outfitting their homes with environmentally responsible options.
Interview with David Richmond
Sustainability and eco-friendliness are currently all the rage and consumers are starting to think greener thoughts when it comes to kitchen cabinet selection. So as a dealer, what should you know about these cabinets before offering them to your customers? To find out we asked David Richmond of Timberlake Cabinetry. Timberlake is one manufacturer who is currently leading the pack for more environmentally sound cabinetry options.
Breakfront: When considering different cabinet lines, there’s a whole slew of different certifications. How can dealers determine the true benchmarks of eco-friendliness within the cabinet industry?
David Richmond (DR): Make sure manufacturer uses independent 3rd party testing or evaluation that uses an established standard. The sources and results of the testing/evaluations need to be reported and available to the public. If you’re in the US make sure the agency recognizes the US Forestry Service reports on sustainable forestry practices in North America.
The certifying agency needs to provide a system for products (cabinetry) to be evaluated, not just projects. Also, the benchmarks that an agency sets for “green-ness” need to be economically viable.
Breakfront: What steps do environmentally responsible manufacturers take to maintain a low carbon footprint year after year?
DR: They harvest or buy their raw materials locally to minimize fossil fuel consumption in transportation, etc. They utilize solid wood in their products that sequester carbon vs. petroleum based materials. They practice lean manufacturing and use the by-products of cabinet manufacturing (chips, scrap, sawdust) in other processes and products.
Breakfront: Many consumers are under the impression that sustainable wood sources are enough to constitute an eco-friendly cabinet. From a manufacturing perspective, how much of a role does distribution and the manufacturing process impact the overall “green-ness” of the end product?
DR: A great deal; and I would add “source” as another role. I have heard third party stories of well-intentioned green organizations in developing countries that came in with lofty goals and dreams, imposed strict regulations without considering the local economy and social impact, only to fail miserably. Nothing and no one gains in this scenario and the environmentally initiative is seriously hurt.
Breakfront: Not all cabinet manufactures have as big of a commitment to protecting the environment as Timberlake. What are the consequences of environmentally unsound cabinet manufacturing that have happened over the years?
DR: I’m sure the cabinet manufacturing industry has much to be proud of along with a few embarrassments. I’m not sure we are ready for this accolade; in the big picture we have just dipped our toe in the water. We are all faced with the challenge of making a living while moving toward a greener way of doing things. It’s the right thing to do.