“’Green’ isn’t a buzzword here; it’s ingrained in our business model, and it’s something we take pride in locally and globally. I am proud of the fact that we have received numerous awards and recognition from various agencies and states regarding our work.”
—Farooq Kathwari, Chairman, President and CEO, Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.
In 1999, Ethan Allen created its Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) initiative. It is now what it was then: a passionate drive, from corporate offices to Design Centers to manufacturing facilities to supply chains—end to end and top to bottom—to build both environmental commitment and outstanding business performance through sustainable operations.
At first, we were guided by voluntary efforts. In 2010, we stepped up our commitment in a big way. We partnered with the American Home Furnishings Alliance to start our journey toward becoming a Sustainable by Design company.
The Sustainable by Design process provides a sound procedural framework for our environmental efforts, but make no mistake—sustainability is in our DNA. Ethan Allen has always made the extra effort to minimize our effect on the environment, and we did it when no one asked us to.
The first step toward our systemic environmental responsibility commitment was to register as an Enhancing Furniture’s Environmental Culture (EFEC) company. It meant implementing a comprehensive environmental management system that helped us learn how our processes, raw materials, and finished products affect the environment.
EFEC brought a new level of awareness to our EH&S efforts. It transformed the way we worked and the way we crafted our products. Every Ethan Allen manufacturing facility, distribution center, and service center, and all of our Design Centers, are now EFEC registered.
Across our company, we’ve revamped our processes to slash our carbon footprint. In both our Orleans, Vermont, manufacturing plant and our Beecher Falls, Vermont, plant and sawmill, we now use sawdust scraps in lieu of fossil fuels to power our boilers. In Beecher Falls, we also use steam from our boilers to heat our wood-drying kilns. When appropriate, the steam is used for true cogeneration of electricity.
In Beecher Falls and Orleans, Vermont; in Passaic, New Jersey; and in Old Fort and Maiden, North Carolina, our plants recycle or repurpose every resource they can, which has reduced our domestic manufacturing landfill waste. We’ve also established successful recycling programs in our global headquarters and in all our Design Centers. In fact, many of our distribution and service centers have achieved a negative carbon footprint profile due to establishing strong recycling and repurposing programs.
Ethan Allen’s recycling efforts in manufacturing have leveled off to a nine percent increase since 2010, suggesting both that less material is being recycled and that we’ve achieved tighter control over materials purchased. Still, this enables over 140,000 pounds of what would have gone into landfills to find new uses.
Spotlight on Newtown, CT
A service center has transformed itself into a recycling and sustainability powerhouse.
When you visit Ethan Allen’s Newtown service center, you’ll notice a warehouse full of people and finely crafted furniture. You’ll also see an enormous cardboard compactor and a machine that transforms polystyrene into long recyclable bricks.
Newtown is the company’s largest service center, and it’s distinguished by its exemplary commitment to recycling. Newtown’s cuts in CO2e alone offset the carbon footprint of every Design Center it supplies. According to manager J.J. Monteiro, Newtown’s polystyrene recycling efforts have earned over $100,000 in federal government rebates. And their waste management company doesn’t even charge them for hauling away plastic—because the quantity of plastic they get from Newtown earns them a net profit.
Monteiro credits corporate EH&S director Paul Kaminski for keeping sustainability front and center. He also credits assistant warehouse manager Dan Williams, who is the point person for Newtown’s EFEC program.
Starting on the day they join Ethan Allen and continuing through every day on the job, Newtown associates learn the why behind the recycling commitment— and they see it as a point of pride. The Newtown team isn’t done yet. They’re upgrading lighting systems next.
Ethan Allen’s future—in fact, the world’s future—depends on healthy, well-managed forests. In many cases, we satisfy our manufacturing requirements with hardwoods that regenerate naturally through seeding and sprouting. When we use a nonnative species like mahogany, we work to source it from properly managed forests. We also address Lacey Act compliance, maintaining transparency concerning the origins of plant species and plant products we use.
Our environmental commitment doesn’t end when our products roll off the factory floor. We work to ensure our products are safe in our customers’ homes through responsible use of chemicals and manufacturing substances.
- Safer packaging. We’ve eliminated the use of heavy metals and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) in all packaging components.
- Sensible fabrics and foams. Our mattresses and custom upholstery use only CertiPUR-US® certified foams, which are low-VOC polyurethanes made without harmful chemicals and substances—no formaldehyde, mercury, lead, heavy metals, PBDEs, ozone depleters, or prohibited phthalates.
- Superior finishes. By using low-HAP, low-VOC coatings, including some water-based finishes, we’re committed to improving air quality in our facilities.
Sustainable by Design
The second step of the AHFA Environmental Management System process extends our EFEC work throughout our supply chain. It requires us to quantify our supply chain’s environmental effects, our overall corporate environmental footprint, our global climate impact, and our social responsibility successes.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
Our Environmentally Preferable Purchasing initiative means that, in all aspects of our business, we consider sustainability factors before purchasing materials. Some of the environmental factors we weigh during the procurement process include:
- Recycled content
- Product disassembly potential
- Reconditioned or remanufactured
- Energy efficiency
- Water efficiency
We evaluate our purchasing options based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) equation:
Environment + Price + Performance = Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
We also incorporate risk assessment into every purchasing decision. This means thinking about the country in which items are produced and the standards governing how workers are treated. It also means evaluating how well producers control processes and whether they follow industry best practices. Being “Sustainable by Design” means not only protecting the environment but also preserving our reputation for quality.
Carbon Footprint Calculator
Our carbon footprint calculator assesses the environmental impact of each Ethan Allen location—and our combined global environmental impact. We established baseline readings at different locations, planned and implemented changes, and set annual target metrics for six key areas:
- Overall carbon footprint. We took baseline measurements, measured in tons of CO2e released per year, and implemented changes in our manufacturing facilities starting in 2010. In 2011, we added distribution centers to our initiative, and in 2016 we have expanded this method into our Retail Design Centers.
- Electricity. In our manufacturing operations, we burn sawdust and scrap wood to generate steam and, in some locations, we use that steam to cogenerate electricity. We’ve also implemented more energy-efficient lighting throughout the company. These measures help us lower the total kilowatt-hours we purchase from the grid.
- Water. We’re using fewer gallons of water than we once did thanks to initiatives like installing low-flow toilets, adding restrictors to certain water systems, and improving delivery efficiency.
- Landfill waste. From our corporate offices to every manufacturing, distribution, and retail location, we make it easy for employees to recycle as many items as possible, reducing our contribution to landfills.
- Greenhouse gas. In addition to cutting carbon, we’re working hard to release fewer pounds of other greenhouse gases that can increase the greenhouse effect.
- Biomass. Our manufacturing business uses wood products as raw material in much that we manufacture. When we combust wood leftovers from our manufacturing operations and burn them for steam generation, we not only cut energy costs but also get true cogeneration when the same steam for heating is used to dry lumber or make energy.