Practical Environmentalism: Our Commitment to Sustainability
8 minutes January 31, 2022
Learn about Watson's commitment to 'Practical Environmentalism,' which is our practice of taking responsibility for our environment, and the measures we take to support its health.
Our Commitment to Sustainability
Many environmental awards sound impressive, but are often 'pay to play' certifications that don't translate to a significant impact for our planet. At Watson, we go beyond signing up for a badge. We passionately believe in protecting the environment by manufacturing quality products with the future of the earth in mind. This belief is embedded in our culture, built into our furniture, and we’re committed to continuing to take action that ensures the health of our planet for generations to come.
What We Stand For
To Watson, ‘Practical Environmentalism,’ –prioritizing measurable action at each level of our operation– is our way of contributing to a better, healthier planet. We understand there’s always room for improvement, and continue to reevaluate our processes as we continue to responsibly grow as a company. Little by little, the actions we take make a real difference. We prioritize doing environmental good over just feeling good about our environmentalism. We locally source the materials used in our furniture as much as possible to reduce our carbon footprint. Currently 94% of our waste is recycled, but we aim to grow that number each year.
Our Rule of Three
Our respect for materials, processes, and the planet forms the cornerstone of our environmental philosophy. Everything we produce and everything we embody emerges from these intertwined commitments.
Rule #1 The Materials We Use
It all starts with the materials we use to manufacture our furniture. We look for materials that are recycled or recyclable, that don’t off-gas toxins, and that will last. We monitor how the materials landscape is evolving - innovative options can appear at any time - which keeps us in a constant search for ways to improve what we use to build our furniture. Below is a list of materials that we have carefully chosen which are both environmentally sustainable and achieve a timeless aesthetic.
PVC-Free Edge Banding
The care we take in selecting edge banding for our furniture doesn’t end with its stylish appearance. We ensure that it is made from safe, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly polypropylene, which is 100% PVC-free. PVC production, use, and disposal creates toxic and environmentally harmful chemicals, and it continuously leaches toxins throughout its lifecycle.
Never compromising on quality or sustainability, our GREENGUARD-certified laminates contain 22% recycled content, and are made of phenolic resin, melamine resin, and kraft paper.
As an alternative to standard plastic impregnated laminates, we offer a biodegradable surface finish made from linseed oil, natural pine rosin, wood flour, and color pigments.
The NAF (no added formaldehyde) substrate used in our desks and storage components are 92% recycled industrial by-product, which cuts down on the need for harvested lumber.
With color options to compliment any office color scheme, our privacy and pin mobile screens are upholstered in 100% recycled polyester fabric made from reclaimed plastic bottles.
The steel used in all our products contains both post-consumer and post-industrial recycled content. In keeping with our commitment to sustainability, all our steel is 100% recyclable.
Our bond with the natural world is as strong as the bonding agents we use for our products. Our adhesives are nontoxic, water-based and emit low to no VOCs.
Rule #2 Our Manufacturing Facilities and Processes
The methods we use to manufacture our products take environmental factors into consideration at every step. Each stage in our production process is designed to maximize our ability to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Our nesting algorithms help minimize the number of resources we need which creates less waste. We reclaim and repurpose powder, sawdust, and water, and rethink each piece of scrap to determine if it can be recycled meaning the absolute minimum goes to a landfill. We see ourselves as stewards of the earth and not just the beautiful corner of the Pacific Northwest that we call home. We think globally but act locally, which is why we implemented the following processes to help ensure that this region and others like it remain healthy and viable for generations to come.
Rather than discard byproduct materials from our manufacturing process, each year roughly 650,000 pounds of sawdust that would otherwise end up in a landfill is compressed into briquettes and used for biofuel.
Powder Coating Line
Powder coating doesn’t rely on solvents to adhere to a surface. This is unlike wet painting techniques, which use solvents to maintain the coating. Using these chemicals can emit hazardous air pollutants and volatile organic compounds that not only harm the environment, but can be dangerous to the individuals working with them. In 2020, we installed a new automated powder coating booth, which reclaims and recycles any excess powder, creating almost no waste through the process.
We use a no-discharge metal wash process that relies on reclaimed, filtered, and recycled water. This significantly reduces our water usage compared to standard continuous-flow dip tanks, and enables us to go from using approximately 2,000 gallons of water a week to 2,000 gallons every 6 months. This totals to about 100,000 gallons saved each year.
We use a septic system instead of the municipal sewer system utilized by most manufacturers. By not flushing waste off to the regional treatment facility it gives us a different perspective on what can go down the drain, because it all returns to the local water tables.
To mitigate runoff, to maintain a healthy watershed, and to protect the natural wetlands surrounding our facility—affectionately called The Orchard—we don’t water or fertilize the acreage surrounding our building. Instead, we field-mow the groundcover only twice a year.
Rule #3 Ensuring a Livable Planet
At Watson, our commitment to sustainability and to building a greener planet doesn’t end at our front door. In addition to being mindful of the materials and processes we use to manufacture our products, we’re actively looking for ways to leave the world a better place than we found it. One of our goals is to partner with the nonprofit One Tree Planted - who focuses on global reforestation - and plant one tree for every desk that we sell. By joining forces with an organization devoted to direct action and change, we hope to ensure there will be clean air, safe drinking water, and an abundance of healthy forests and waterways for everyone to enjoy for years to come.