Rerouting Furniture From Landfill

As part of its facilities projects, General Motors donated a plethora of its office furniture to local schools.

Contributed by Green Standards
From the October 2021 Issue

This is the project story of how General Motors avoided landfill, helped non-profits, and saved money in a giant workplace transformation. Green Standards’ partnership with General Motors has diverted 5,000+ tons of surplus furniture from landfill while making in-kind donations of more than $900,000 to nearly 100 non-profits through the sustainable decommission of multiple corporate campuses in Michigan spanning millions of square feet.

furniture reuse

Green Standards is a specialized environmental firm that works with corporations and government organizations to responsibly redistribute surplus office furniture, equipment and supplies. Inspired by the principles of the circular economy, Green Standards was founded in 2009 to solve the growing problem of office furniture waste.

GM Project Beneficiary

The recipient of this GM project was Cody High School in Detroit, MI. The school received furniture donations and a three-room makeover. Cody High School is just one of dozens of schools that have received furniture donations through Green Standards’ work with General Motors in Michigan.

William Coleman, CFO, Detroit Community School, said, “Our schools very much needed the items that were so generously donated as it will enable us to focus more on programming. Thank you for your donation!”

The Objective. General Motors is in the process of transforming their corporate campuses and work environments to enable more collaboration among employees. They partnered with Green Standards to repurpose tens of thousands of pieces of office furniture and equipment that would no longer have a home at their headquarters, campuses, and facilities. The goal was to keep these surplus items in use through in-kind donation, to the benefit of 100 Michigan-based community organizations.

furniture reuse

furniture reuse
With planned renovations at General Motors’ Technical Center in Warren, MI; the Proving Ground in Milford, MI; and Global Headquarters in Detroit, GM required a turnkey solution provider that would expedite the decommissioning process at several locations simultaneously. (Photos: Green Standards)

The Challenge. With planned renovations at General Motors’ Technical Center in Warren; the Proving Ground in Milford; and Global Headquarters in Detroit, GM required a turnkey solution provider that would expedite the decommissioning process at several locations simultaneously.

This required the coordination with multiple stakeholders on project sites, while identifying and facilitating suitable beneficiary partners for workplace office assets that wouldn’t be resold.

“This is a project that we have a lot of passion around,” said Candice Messing, program manager, General Motors. “This is an awesome opportunity for us to make sure that we are not only benefitting the Tech Center but we’re also benefitting General Motors and strengthening the outside communities in which we operate.”

The Solution. Green Standards managed the entire process, including the dismantling, removal, and relocation of each item, and coordinating between the movers, buyers, local non-profits, and specialized recyclers. The company also provided documentation and in-depth environmental and social impact reporting to help GM capture and review the outcome of the sustainable office decommissioning projects.

The Results. Through the Green Standards program, General Motors kept 5,999 tons of surplus office furniture and equipment in use, with a landfill diversion rate of 99.9% across all project phases. To date, Green Standards has facilitated in-kind donations worth $911,920 to 89 non-profits and charitable organizations in Michigan.

With more projects ongoing with General Motors, Green Standards expect to reach and surpass its cumulative goal of $1,000,000 worth of in-kind donations to 100 non-profit beneficiaries in the coming weeks and months.

Johnathon Matthews, Principal, Cody Academy of Public Leadership, said, “General Motors and Green Standards have partnered with us to look at spaces on the campus that can be re-visualized and to see that it has a better purpose to serve the needs of our students today. In many cases, because of budget constraints we’re not able to do those beautification projects and when we are able to get these types of support systems, they fill in the gap that many times is never met.”

Learn more about General Motors’ sustainability programs here. Find out more about Green Standards at

The Green (Furniture) Hierarchy

Compiled by Facility Executive Staff

Not all office furniture is made equal. The following glossary is from Davies Office, a leader and pioneer in the office furniture remanufacturing field. As the company highlights here: The sustainability hierarchy of office furniture offers comparisons between the levels of sustainable office furniture options, and shows in order of the most sustainable to the least.

As-is/Re-use: Re-use is the pinnacle of sustainable office furniture solutions. Taking an existing product, cleaning it, making minor repairs, and re-using it the way it is. This solution gives products a new life, with minimal use of resources. There is no solution out there that is more green.

Remanufactured/Re-use blend: This option is similar to remanufacturing, only better. Like remanufacturing, most products are stripped to their core. The difference is that some of the original components are still like new and can be reused, without any processing other than a good cleaning. Those re-used components will be blended with the remanufactured products to create a truly green solution.

Remanufacturing: Remanufacturing is a very environmentally friendly option. Here’s why: products are taken back and a simple but complete “re-build” process occurs. This process involves the dismantling of cores, surface preparation, repair, re-finishing, reupholstering, and re-lamination. The customer selects their desired finishes and gets “like-new” product, saves money, and saves the environment.

The key here is that remanufacturing is a re-build process which involves far fewer steps and much less energy than full recycling processes such as with plastic, and paper goods which are basically converted back into natural materials for manufacturing.

Where does the core material come from? From your office and others like it! Old workstations are exchanged for remanufactured product from Davies inventory, saving our customer’s money when compared to new furniture, and diverting waste from landfills. You even save the disposal costs for roll-off while helping to solve our solid waste dilemma.

Remanufactured/New blend: This blended solution combines all of the benefits of remanufacturing with new enhancement components. The workstations are completely remanufactured and new components, such as, glass stack-ons, ergonomic retrofits, and computer support products that are added to them. This is till a very green solution.

Recycling: Recycling entails breaking products down to basic materials, melting down steel, recycling glass and plastic, and reusing those materials to create new products. Recycling does save natural resources but the amount of energy and other resources required to complete the process is not much better than the original manufacturing process.

What happens to your existing furniture? It will almost certainly end up in a landfill, contributing to the build-up of solid waste and inevitably an increase in harmful emissions. Choosing remanufactured office furniture extends the life cycle of perfectly good products and keeps them out of the dump, making remanufactured a green, and cost-effective, office furniture option.

Headquartered in Albany, NY, Davies Office was founded in 1948 and is a nationally recognized leader in green remanufacturing and sustainable office solutions, with distribution and services throughout the continental United States and Canada. Davies Office has partnered with numerous Fortune 500 companies to deliver greater value and flexibility in office solutions.

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