Quarantine Series: Recycled Repurposed Reused

At The Barn we like to be as environmentally friendly as possible. We posted an article about the Springwater Woodcraft products we carry. How everything is made of white pine from sustainably managed forests. And how they only use water based paints and stains. More recently we posted an article on the reclaimed wood furniture we carry and how all the wood used has been recycled. But we thought it was time to write about the most environmentally friendly thing we do, antiques!

If you want to help out the planet, figure out a way to get people to stop buying disposable furniture at Ikea and get them to buy antiques instead. Style is the enemy of the environment, not price or quality. Most people want the “in” style, and most new furniture stores carry what’s in style at the moment. The problem is that what’s in style is always changing, and so furniture becomes disposable.

Truth be told, I’ve only been inside an Ikea twice in my life. Just out of curiosity I googled Ikea chairs. What came up was a page of chairs made of plastic and tube metal ranging in price from $69 to $129. These chairs obviously won’t last, they are not built to last. At The Barn over 80% of the chairs we sell are under $100. Most of our dinning chairs sell for $45 to $65 per chair. They are solid wood and most will be around long after we are all gone. Why anyone buys plastic from Ikea when they can buy solid wood for a lower price is beyond me.

Most of the antique pieces we sell are used as is, but many are repurposed. We have a customer who turns old trunks into coffee tables. We have another customer who buys old pieces of wood to make musical instruments. Customers buy pieces all the time to use as bathroom vanities, and they are a lot less expensive than particle board vanities bought at Home Depot. I don’t just pick on Ikea. We even have two customers who buy old flatware to make jewelry.

We sell lots of old wooden stumps that customers use as outdoor stools or for displays. We get the wood from local arborists who cutdown dead or damaged trees. That’s how we get the wood we burn in the fireplace at The Barn. We spit it ourselves behind The Barn. No trees are needlessly cut down for our firewood.

We try to keep everything out of landfill that we possibly can. We make regular trips to donation centers to drop off the items we acquire that we don’t want to or can’t sell. We give away pieces that aren’t particularly valuable, but are still useful all the time.

Our film and television production partners come in handy in this regard. We give them stuff all the time just to keep it out of landfill. This has become more common in recent years with all the post apocalyptic movies and tv shows. They will often take furniture that is missing parts, or bundles of old newspapers or magazines, or even old blankets. One of the Anne of Green Gables shows even took the ashes out of our fireplace.

When you buy something small at The Barn you will usually get it in a recycle plastic bag or cardboard box. The packing materials we use are recycled from recent shipments we’ve received. We don’t buy boxes or packing supplies, we just recycle them.

If you don’t like brown furniture, well it’s amazing what you can do with a can of paint. Or just take a piece apart and create something new. You can’t go to the lumber yard and buy the wood contained in many of the antique pieces we sell for the price we sell them for these days.

We get calls and emails all the time from people wanting to sell good quality items that don’t have a lot of resale value. After we tell them we are not interested in their items many of these people often say to us, “well I just didn’t want to throw it away”. Please don’t, there are lots of charitable organizations willing to take your donations. And that means more recycling and less waste.

Too many pieces that are out of style windup in landfill. It is a tremendous waste. In the 1980’s we couldn’t even donate mid-century modern furniture. Thrift stores wouldn’t take it, they couldn’t sell it. It was out of fashion, how times have changed. Much of it went to landfill back then, now its in high demand.

So if you are out of fashion, good for you. You are doing your part for the environment. Thank you!