Manufacturing, Nonprofits, and Sustainability

Furniture maker partners with automaker on repurposing program

November 23, 2016
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Cody High School Detroit multi-purpose room
A look inside a multi-purpose room at Cody High School in Detroit with standard-issue furniture. Courtesy Herman Miller

A furniture maker in the region is partnering with an automaker to repurpose tens of thousands of pieces of office furniture and equipment.

Zeeland-based Herman Miller said this week it has teamed up with Detroit-based General Motors and the Toronto-based environmental firm Green Standards to repurpose the pieces into in-kind donations, which will benefit at least 100 Michigan-based community organizations.

Through the Herman Miller rePurpose program, GM will divert from landfills nearly all existing furniture, equipment and supplies resulting from renovations occurring at its Technical Center in Warren, Proving Ground in Milford and global headquarters in Detroit.

The sustainability initiative is valued at $1 million.

Up to 8.5 million tons of office assets end up in landfills in the U.S. annually, according to estimates based on EPA data.

The two-year program will be focused on benefiting community organizations in Detroit. The project has the potential to expand across the country.

Green Standards manages the rePurpose program for Herman Miller.

The program diverts no-longer-needed office furniture and supplies from landfills and transforms them into “valuable in-kind donations” to nonprofits.

Since Herman Miller launched the program in 2009, rePurpose has diverted more than 27,000 tons of product bound for landfills and generated $18 million in charitable in-kind donations.

The rePurpose program is able to divert 99 percent of product from landfills, according to Herman Miller.

Herman Miller said General Motors is the first metro Detroit-based automaker to partner with rePurpose on a “large scale, multi-site campus” decommission project.

To date, GM has diverted 550 tons of office material from the landfill through the rePurpose program, equal to “growing nearly 46,000 tree seedlings for 10 years” or “offsetting electricity use from nearly 250 homes for one year.”

Over its lifetime, the program is estimated to divert more than 2,000 tons of material.

“We view waste as just a resource out of place,” said David Tulauskas, sustainability director, GM.

Michael Ramirez, SVP of people, places, and administration at Herman Miller, said by partnering with companies like General Motors, “we create a better world by reducing our collective environmental footprint and positively impacting our communities.”

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