With the new decade now here, the Natural Pod team is in both a reflective and forward thinking mindset. One of our recent recurring conversations has been how incredible the commitment from the world’s youth has been in standing up and using their voice over this past year in regards to the climate crisis. Although no significant change seems to have taken place so far, we are hopeful that world leaders will take action in the face of such powerful conviction. And when we say youth, really we’re talking about students, students who are spending the majority of their time in education and therefore in education environments.
At Natural Pod, our intention is always to create better, sustainable learning environments that result in better learning outcomes, and our aim is to support students, educators and educational organizations in achieving these outcomes, starting with the learning environment. We share a lot of information and research around why and how learning environments are so important, in terms of learning, engagement, collaboration, problem solving and all the other skills that are essential for students to thrive in this century and the next. There are plenty of solutions available when it comes to flexible learning environments, but many are not sustainable.
Recently we’ve seen some alarming sustainability statistics around furniture and landfills that we feel should be shared to illustrate, and hopefully to mitigate, the irony between students’ fight for the health of their planet and the amount of school furniture that ends up in landfills, including toxic paint and plastics that will take thousands of years to break down.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of furniture and furnishings taken to a landfill rose from 7.6 million tons in 2005 to 9.69 million tons in 2015, and the rate of increase is accelerating. There isn’t unfortunately any data for school furniture directly, but when you think there’s about 56.6 million students attending elementary and secondary schools in the US alone, that is a huge amount of desks, tables, chairs, and benches that are ending up somewhere. And replacement of education furniture tends to happen every 5-12 years. Recycling and reuse programs exist; Herman Miller has a great one called the RePurpose Program, yet they say “currently, our research shows that when organizations [all, not just schools] replace furniture, three-quarters of it is disposed of and one-quarter is reused. Of the three-quarters that is disposed, 67 percent ends up in landfills.”
One of our main aims is for zero school furniture, or any furniture for that matter, to end up in landfills. Therefore, ideally it should be reusable, and if not, 100% recyclable. We’ve seen all kinds of flexible classroom furniture solutions being designed over the last few years, and many do the job of providing engaging learning environments well, but if they are not environmentally sustainable, they are not sustainable for learning objectives either. If we are to support our students and young people in their fight for climate action, we should not be surrounding them with learning furniture that’s detrimental to their health and the health of the planet.
Let’s make our choices wisely, and wherever possible include students and educators in the decision making process. We are in this together and as we look ahead to this new decade we need to collectively be making decisions that benefit everyone’s wellbeing and the wellbeing of the planet.
Making sensible, sustainable choices does not necessarily mean making more expensive, or less convenient ones. As a company Natural Pod works very hard to create exceptional, sustainable learning environments that are actually obtainable, and that means not only within budget, but also by making the best use of your financial resources.
For any of you reading this that have worked with us, you know how dedicated our team is in partnering with and working together, to make your learning environment come to life: providing beautiful, flexible, engaging spaces where everyone can thrive, sustainable for learning objectives, and sustainable for the health of students, educators and the planet.
Let’s keep furniture out of landfills, and make schools sustainable for all future generations.