WallGoldfinger, a maker of high-end corporate furniture in Randolph, Vt., is turning waste products into profits for other Vermont businesses and further reducing its impact on the environment.
Call it recycling, upcycling, reusing or waste diversion. Whatever the title, the concept is simple. Products like pieces of plywood, medium density fiberboard (MDF) and veneer too small to use on WallGoldfinger’s expansive boardroom tables and other products are being set aside for woodworking-related companies or organizations rather than ending up in a landfill.
The program officially got its start in the fall of 2013 when Shipping/Receiving and Maintenance Supervisor John Crowne took the initiative to set aside wood products’ waste for ReSOURCE, a Burlington, Vt.-based non-profit focused on providing environmental services, poverty relief, and education and job skills training.
Last year the program diverted 16,531 pounds of waste from the landfill to ReSOURCE.
This year the program expanded to Atlantic Plywood Corp., a leading plywood and panel products supplier with a location in South Royalton, Vt..; and Green Mountain Drums, a maker of handcrafted wood hoop drums in Cambridge, Vt. The Vermont Woodworking School in Cambridge, Vt., has been a past beneficiary and is also part of the reinvigorated program.
“It’s Earth Day every day, that’s what I say,” notes Crowne, who enthusiastically pulls aside the materials on pallets for pick-up and keeps a large “thermometer” tracking his progress on the wall above his desk in the company’s shipping and receiving area.
ReSOURCE Development Director Curtis Ostler once worked at WallGoldfinger. He knew the type of waste woods generated by the factory, and what a good fit they would be for ReSOURCE. ReSOURCE operates a building materials store in Burlington. Raw materials from WallGoldfinger go to the store and are used by staff, volunteers and trainees to produce what the non-profit calls Waste-Not-Products sold in the store.
The program consequently has a three-fold benefit of reducing waste, helping provide materials for job skills training and supporting ReSOURCE through product sales, notes Ostler.
Green Mountain Drums will soon pick up its first pallet of plywood pieces. “We’re very big on upcycling. This is a great fit,” says Green Mountain Drums owner Bill Allen who will use the plywood pieces to build prototype molds for a new, high-end marching drum he is creating under the name Sterling Drums.
The Vermont Woodworking School teaches furniture-making and hosts Burlington College’s craftsmanship and design degree and certificate programs. The school receives veneer and MDF from WallGoldfinger. “We turn (the veneer) into very high end fine furniture pieces. (WallGoldfinger’s) waste is big enough for us to do full furniture pieces,” says Brian Bright, the school’s lead faculty member, site director and also a former WallGoldfinger employee.
MDF pieces are used for bending forms and jigs.
The program, notes Bright, not only keeps waste like MDF out of landfills but reduces furniture-making costs for students, who would otherwise have to buy these materials. Arthur Plant, a driver for Atlantic Plywood in Vermont, is picking up “bunkers” the company uses to ship plywood to WallGoldfinger. “Bunkers,” or skids, are pieces of wood that go under a bundle of plywood to allow a forklift access to lift the load.
Crowne sets aside the bunkers and Plant picks them up when he’s making a delivery.
“It’s been working good,” says Plant, who has initiated similar pick-ups at other companies to save Atlantic’s Vermont location from having to buy more. “It helps out both of us (Atlantic Plywood and WallGoldfinger) and the environment. It helps everybody.”
Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District General Manager Leesa Stewart praises WallGoldfinger’s program for not only diverting waste but providing training opportunities and resources, particularly for non-profits like ReSOURCE, where, she notes, trainees are no doubt gaining confidence in addition to job skills.
In addition to waste diversion, WallGoldfinger recycles the typical papers, plastic and more; is Forest Stewardship Council certified; uses high efficiency lighting; uses non-toxic materials, such as adhesives, as often as possible; has earned a Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention; and operates out of a factory heated with biomass woodchips. Scrap metal is also picked up by two young men who bring it to a dealer, further reducing WallGoldfinger’s waste.
“We are privileged to work in a beautiful, natural place,” says company Chief Executive Officer John Wall. “Programs like this one help keep our state beautiful for all to enjoy while also supporting educational opportunities for our future woodworkers and some remarkable niché businesses.”