Sustainability Matters: Telling Your Story to Customers

According to Global Industry Analysts, the green image of wood flooring is driving demand in the wood flooring industry. Further, the National Association of Realtors named reclaimed wood floors as one of the biggest trends for 2016. And it has continued into 2017.

Homeowners, contractors, designers, and architects want to build stylish homes that are eco-friendly and help preserve our dwindling natural resources. Millennials just entering the housing market want rustic chic – a cross between traditional and contemporary. (Think modern, sleek lines with barn doors and reclaimed wood for warmth.) And they’re turning to wood flooring.

Sustainability is good business. Just ask the Horvaths, whose reclaimed wood stories resonate with customers.

Real Antique Wood…Giving New Life to Old Barn Wood
For Gary and Lisa Horvath, owners of New Jersey-based Real Antique Wood, sustainability isn’t just a “best practice,” it’s in their DNA. When Gary was buying reclaimed wood for his flooring business in the 1990s, he often asked his miller where it came from – but never got answers. Horvath suggested his supplier find out the wood’s history so he could pass it on to his customers who were curious. Gary believed the story was as important as the wood itself. Finally, growing tired of all the questions, the miller said, “If you think it’s such a good idea, why don’t you do it yourself?”

Thus, Real Antique Wood was born in 2011.

According to Lisa, “What makes our wood special is the story. Most customers really want to know the history of the wood. So we get the stories, and then sell them with the wood. From Civil War stories to clashes with original settlers, we’ve amassed an eclectic history of these barns, many of which have been around since our country’s origin.”

In keeping with their name, all of their wood is at least 100 years old. “A lot of our barns are from the 1800s. We’ve even reclaimed wood from a house built in 1747,” says Lisa.

The crew also salvages all the tools, crates, baskets, pulleys, lights, buckets, and metal gears they can find. “We keep all the original items from the barns and incorporate them into future designs,” explains Lisa. “We also use them to decorate the showroom. We made a light fixture using a hay trolley.” They also salvage structural beams, planks, tin roofing, door hardware, farm equipment, barn doors, and whatever else they find while “barnstorming.”

But their commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop there. “Our sawdust goes to a horse farm for bedding, and we burn scraps in our wood-burning stove. The leftover pieces are chopped up and used for mulch,” shares Lisa.

Because the Horvaths know sustainability is important to their target market, every communication reinforces this message. From their website content to pictures and videos on Facebook and Instagram to case studies on the blog – Real Antique Wood tells their story.

Appearing on CNBC’s “Billion Dollar Buyer” didn’t hurt either. The show stars Tilman Fertita, owner of Golden Nugget Casinos and Texas-based Landry’s restaurants. They left with a lot of great advice from Fertita and a nearly $610,000 order. (To learn more, visit realantiquewood.com/blog or watch Season 2, Episode 206, “Y’all Got a Problem,” at cnbc.com/billion-dollar-buyer.)

Another shining example of sustainability is Goodwin Heart Pine. George and Carol Goodwin didn’t start out reclaiming wood, but it has become the heart of their business.

Goodwin Heart Pine…Reclaiming the Past
In the early 1800s, longleaf pine and other species covered 90 million acres from Southeastern Virginia, south to Central Florida, and west to East Texas. Between the 1870s and 1940s, most was cut to feed the demands of the industrial revolution. As lumbermen rafted these logs down river, 12 to 15 percent of it – mostly the heavier, denser logs – sank to the bottom.

Fast forward to the 1970s. Master carpenter and homebuilder George Goodwin found some of these perfectly preserved longleaf pine logs while fishing in Florida’s Suwannee River. He recovered these “sinker” logs to use in his new home. That led to the opening of Goodwin Heart Pine Company in 1976, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But what makes Goodwin’s woods truly unique are the stories behind them. “People are looking for authenticity, and they’re quick to spot fluff,” explains marketing director Jeffrey Forbes.

For George Goodwin, it’s also about preserving history. “If sustainability is about reusing and recycling, it’s the ultimate accomplishment to update and maintain a building that has been part of our history,” he says. Goodwin has contributed to the restoration of the Naples Botanical Garden, the University of Florida’s Dansburg president’s house, and the Texas Governor’s Mansion.

Goodwin’s commitment extends beyond his business. He helped the Florida state legislature write into law the Deadhead Logging Permit which regulates archeological research, environmental practices, and which rivers can be worked by loggers.

George’s wife, Carol, founded the Reclaimed Wood Council, the Wood Floor Guild, and the Association for the Restoration of Longleaf Pine. For four years, she chaired the NWFA Environmental Committee, and currently serves as Programs Committee Chair for the U. S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Heart of Florida Chapter.

Goodwin’s River Recovered® heart pine and heart cypress qualify for significant LEED credits as well as an Innovation & Design Credit for “innovative performance in a green building category not specifically addressed in LEED.”

However, Goodwin’s environmental mission extends beyond their wood and the “green” processes they use to recover and manufacture their products. Recently, Goodwin applied for a joint biomass and solar project grant to build a plant to utilize their sawdust to power their dry kiln. Solar energy will power the sawmill, molder, and cabinet shop motors. These combined efforts will almost entirely power their operations.

Goodwin tells their sustainability story on their website and blog, in addition to multiple social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and their own YouTube Channel. Appearing on television shows including HGTV’s Dream Builders, ABC’s “Made In America,” and DIY’s Barnwood Builders has also allowed them to share their story. To read more, visit heartpine.com/goodwins-environmental-mission/.

5 Things You Can Do to Promote Your Company’s Sustainability

You don’t have to build your entire business around sustainability to be eco-friendly and to promote that fact to today’s conscientious homebuilders, homeowners, and remodelers. But here are five things you can do to promote sustainability in your company:

  1. Preach what you practice.
    If you buy recycled materials, recycle in your business, reuse materials, reduce waste or participate in other “green practices,” talk about it in your advertising, on your website, in your blog, and in all your communications.
  2. Get active.
    Join local, regional, or national organizations, associations, and committees that promote sustainability in your area or industry.
  3. Seek support and certification from third-party environmental groups.
    Working with materials from responsibly managed forests can show you’re using hardwood harvested from sustainable and renewable sources. Your affiliation with organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), NWFA’s Responsible Procurement Program (RPP) program, American Tree Farm System (ATFS), California Air Resources Board (CARB), Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program, and GREENGUARD Certification Program also demonstrate that you care about protecting the environment.
  4. Know your marks.
    If your flooring is sourced from the U.S. or Canada, it is coming from a forest that is managed responsibly through government regulation. However, there are many marks in the marketplace that demonstrate sustainability that are credible, and are not simple greenwashing attempts. LEED requires FSC product, but is really only a driver in the commercial market. Marks of responsible forestry include FSC, SFI, ATFS, and NWFA’s own RPP program. Also look for “no added urea-formaldehyde” (NAUF) if you’re working on a LEED project. LEED-friendly materials also include reclaimed wood, locally sourced, and recycled.
  5. Seek “green business” certification.
    Look for a nonprofit organization that helps companies adopt principles, policies, and practices that improve the quality of life for their customers, employees, communities, and the planet. Gain certification and promote it in your communications.

It’s Our Job to Educate Consumers
Homeowners have many flooring choices, and they may not immediately think of wood flooring as an option for reducing their carbon footprint. But members of the wood flooring industry know sustainability is not just about the materials, the manufacturing process, the use of natural resources and the impact on the environment. Sustainability is also about beautiful, high-quality wood floors that are built to last. Use the NWFA consumer website, woodfloors.org, as a credible verification to customers. Let’s spread the word.

Katrina Olson is a freelance writer and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. Reach her at katrina@katrinaolson.com.

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