I haven’t bought a single piece of furniture this year

When my husband and I moved into our apartment in Brooklyn, the 266-unit building had everything we were looking for: a balcony, a washer-dryer, and a small gym (but don’t ask me how many times I’ve been). However, the building’s most precious resource was revealed a little later: an online bulletin board brimming with neighborly advice, dog walker recommendations — and quality second-hand furniture up for grabs.

The first piece we bought was an office chair. Then came a desk, then a desk, a round mirror, a rustic wood dresser, a paper shade floor lamp, a 50-inch TV, and my most prized acquisition—and only real purchase—an upright digital piano for just $300. And to avoid thinking of us as freebooters, you should know that in return we parted ways with a smaller dresser, a giant ottoman, another desk and several dog toys.

Neighborhood swaps like Nextdoor have been around for years, as have grassroots moves like Freecycle or the Buy Nothing Project. But bulletin boards like the one in my building are arguably one of the most underrated, most durable second-hand furniture platforms out there. Just as heirlooms used to be passed down from generation to generation, I’ve found it crystallized the importance of furniture as close to home as possible.

Americans throw away more than 12 million tons of furniture every year. This is perpetuated by the fast-paced furniture industry, which continues to produce cheap, low-quality products that don’t last and end up in landfills. Many of these pieces also travel thousands of miles before arriving at your doorstep: Vietnam shipped more than $7.4 billion worth of furniture to the United States in 2020 alone.

Building forums could alleviate some of that pressure. My building’s forum is managed by a property management software company called BuildingLink. Founded in 1999, it introduced the bulletin board feature about a year later as a way to foster community and facilitate communication, said Zachary Kestenbaum, CEO of BuildingLink.

Today, Kestenbaum sees more than 2,500 posts a week related to furniture and home furnishings, and another 2,000 posts for other items like gym equipment, bicycles, electronics, and clothing — and the trend extends far beyond New York City. He says residents of some 3,000 buildings use the bulletin board to post about furniture, from San Diego and Pittsburgh to Toronto and Sydney.

Craigslist was the only major player in the second-hand furniture market for a while, but in recent years a slew of furniture startups, from Chairish to Apartment Therapy to Kaiyo, have jumped on the bandwagon. Meanwhile, more and more companies, from Ikea to Sabai, have launched buy-back programs for customers looking to sell their old Billy bookcase or buy a refurbished sofa. The company has become so successful that the furniture resale market is expected to reach $16.6 billion by 2025, a 70% increase from 2018.

By offering an alternative to cheap disposable items, these companies remove furniture from the waste stream, but the transport issue remains. In 2019, CO2 emissions from marine furniture accounted for 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions that year. In comparison, when I saw my upstairs neighbor give away his desk chair, all I had to do was take a lift to get it. This saved me up to 72 kilograms of CO2 making and shipping a seat — or the equivalent of 279 miles driven by a gas-powered car.

And no, I can’t tell if every piece of furniture I’ve bought from my building is made from sustainable wood. But I know I get to choose what goes into my house – and it really doesn’t have to travel 30,000 miles to get here.

This post I haven’t bought a single piece of furniture this year was original published at “https://www.fastcompany.com/90750400/i-havent-bought-a-single-piece-of-furniture-this-year-heres-how?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss”

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