At Brook, we take sustainability seriously. Why? Because simply put, our industry is wasteful. Dangerously wasteful. According to the EPA, close to 10 million tons of furniture ends up in landfills every year. In 2018, furniture accounted for more than 6% of everything brought to landfills. (To put that into perspective, food waste accounted for 24%, and plastics came in at 18%. It’s a sizable chunk.) At one-third of a percent, the recycling rate for furniture is abysmal, to say the least.
And the trash just keeps piling up. The growth in furniture waste has far outpaced the country’s population growth in the last half-decade: In 1960, Americans threw away about 2 million tons for furniture... in 2018, they threw out more than 12 million. And it’s not like our need for furniture is going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, Fortune Business Insights projects the global furniture market to balloon from a $475.4 billion value in 2020 to $720.2 billion in 2028. So what’s a conscious consumer to do?
Answer: Think environRENTally friendly. When you choose furniture rental—versus, say, the instant gratification of cheaply made “fast furniture”—you're choosing to extend the life of furniture, keeping those big, bulky items out of the trash. (Our furniture items enjoy 4-6 lives, on average.) And at Brook, we invest in restoration and preservation processes that help us reduce consumption, cut down on material waste, and deliver beautiful, like-new pieces that are made to last.
At Brook Furniture Rental, we’re making a difference. Here’s how:
An EnvironRENTally Friendly Business Model
Furniture rental is sustainable by nature—let's jump in and learn why Brook's rental model is the eco-friendly choice.
1. Reducing Environmental Impact
To minimize the mileage, fuel consumption, and overall travel time of our delivery truck fleet, Brook has invested in transformative technology. Descartes Route Planner is a sophisticated solution to ensuring a truck is fully loaded. Route planning also needs to understand a driver’s hours of service, start times, and a housing development’s operating hours. It’s cognizant of average travel times, based on average traffic, by day of the week and time of day. Then, the route itself is optimized.
The routing solution studies the GPS coordinates of all the deliveries planned for the day and groups orders together to minimize the fleet’s mileage and travel time. Descartes Route Planner has, at a minimum, doubled the yield of Brook’s delivery trucks—double the number of stops per truck per day and double the number of pieces per truck—thereby reducing the number of trucks we have on the road by 100 percent to haul the same volume via increased efficiency.
2. Preserve and Restore
As with fast fashion, fast furniture is made by manufacturers relying on cheap materials and high-speed production to create trendy furnishings with a short lifespan. Typically, Brook’s furniture is reused 4-6 times. When it comes back to the warehouse, items are repaired, refurbished, cleaned, and sanitized. And, 40% of our reupholstered pieces are reused 8-12 times, doubling the rental life of these items.
We use lead-free, water-based paints and stains, low-volatile organic compound adhesives and finishes, and environmentally friendly textiles. All these processes and techniques are based on best sustainability practices from a variety of industries. We're not into fast furniture that won't last.
3. Conservation Consciousness
All Brook facilities employ conservation-friendly operating principles including smart-grid electrical systems as well as high-efficiency distribution equipment. We’ve converted all lights in our distribution centers to LED, thereby resulting in an annual reduction of over 100 metric tons of CO2 emissions. In 2023, Brook is beginning to add electric vehicles (EV) to our fleet, starting with an initial sprinter van.
Our distribution centers optimize workflows to minimize piece movement to reduce emissions. We also strategically schedule deliveries into more efficient groupings, when possible, to reduce the number of deliveries—and emissions as a result—to certain areas. Aside from distribution center workers, 100% of all eligible Brook employees work remotely, reducing commuting-related emissions.
4. Strive for Gold Industry Standards
It’s estimated that 80% of a product’s environmental impact is derived from how its materials are sourced and used. Brook is dedicated to sustainable sourcing, so we seek out partners that share those values. We require that the materials they use and their operating facilities meet or exceed Brook and global ecological operating standards. All suppliers must have an energy reduction plan and employ robust recycling programs for their raw materials and consumable items.
Why does sustainability matter? Aside from being vital for a greener, healthier future, it's essential to the success and survival of businesses.
- Sustainability trumps name recognition: 75% of Generation Z prefer sustainability over brand name, while 71% of Millennials, 73% of Generation X and 65% of Baby Boomers agree, according to a 2021 consumer spending survey.
- There is an expectation for brands to become more sustainable: And that’s across the board—Baby Boomers (73%), Gen X (77%), Millennials (79%), and Gen Z (76%) all expect retailers and brands to keep sustainability top of mind.
Brook's Commitment to Sustainability
The circular economy, which promotes the elimination of waste and the continual safe use of natural resources, could yield as much as $4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum. In business for more than 40 years, Brook Furniture Rental is continually committed to a circular economy for furniture rental, reducing the amount of waste and materials heading to landfills through preservation, refurbishment, recycling, and donation.