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Building A Sustainable World By Dismantling Fast Furniture With Michael Barlow

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In today’s world of rapid movement, fast furniture is a real problem in almost every home. When people change addresses, they often discard a huge chunk of their furniture, only to buy new ones upon arriving at their next place. This only leads to tons of trash, and Michael Barlow is here to put an end to the dangers of fast furniture. Joining Corinna Bellizzi, he shares how they bring furniture into the service economy through Fernish, giving people the freedom to rent, swap, or rent-to-buy depending on their needs. He explains how this business model can help push the reuse economy forward and finally get rid of the IKEA culture. Michael also discusses how they minimize their carbon footprint by keeping a localized team and sourcing from local communities.

 

About Michael Barlow

CMBB 140 | Fast Furniture

Michael Barlow is the co-founder and CEO of Fernish and sets the vision and strategy as the company changes the way people create and relate to their homes. After completing his fifth move in eight years, Michael co-founded Fernish in 2017, a furniture-as-a service business designed to bring furniture into the service economy and give people the freedom to rent, swap, rent-to-buy, buy or return furniture as their life and living situations change.

Prior to starting Fernish, Michael was Vice President of Atom Tickets and started his career at J.P. Morgan where he focused on mergers, acquisitions and leveraged finance (which was also the first time he had to carry a sofa up a four floor walk-up).

 

Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/fernish

Guest Website: https://fernish.com

Guest Social: https://www.instagram.com/fernish, https://www.facebook.com/fernishliving, https://www.tiktok.com/@fernishliving

 

Show Notes

00:00 – Introduction

02:29 – Michael’s motivation

04:15 – Furnish

07:56 – Trade shows

10:24 – Sustainable sourcing

14:37 – How Furnish’s service works

21:48 – Community partnerships

26:54 – Working with localized regions and dealing with the post-pandemic world

29:04 –  Building a reuse economy

35:02 – Plans for future

36:06 – Final Words

 

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Building A Sustainable World By Dismantling Fast Furniture With Michael Barlow

If you’re all like me, you probably try to buy everything you can locally and often use so you’re not contributing to the world of over-consumption, wasteful emissions and more. What about the way that you furnish your home? I’ve managed to get my past two couches on the used marketplace but let me tell you, that was a chore. I ended up buying something that wasn’t quite right for my aesthetic. As a result, it stands out in a way that I wish it wouldn’t.

This problem could be a thing of the past as one man seeks to solve this problem. Michael Barlow is the Cofounder and CEO of Fernish. He set his vision on changing the way people create and relate to their homes after completing his fifth move in eight years. How many of you have experienced something like that? That’s the reason I no longer have a record collection.

At any rate, he founded this company back in 2017. Fernish is a furniture-as-a-service business designed to bring furniture into the service economy and give people the freedom to rent, swap, rent-to-buy or buy-and-return furniture as their life and living situations can change. Prior to starting Fernish, Michael was Vice President of Atom Tickets. He started his career at JPMorgan where he focused on mergers and acquisitions and leveraged finance skills that I’m sure he utilizes in his role at Fernish. Michael Barlow, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me, Corinna. I love the personal story and touchpoints about moving and buying sofas. I imagine everyone has those stories.

It’s hard to find something that you love in a color you love. That came from the reality of going couch shopping and not seeing anything locally that I liked. I was able to find something that did the job but wasn’t what I wanted. I bought it. How many of us do that? You select something that’s okay for now and then that for now ends up being ten years. You’re looking at the eyesore. You have an easy way to solve it.

Yeah, especially if you’re renting an apartment with roommates, which is our core use case from our customer cohorts. It is where you don’t know how long you’re going to be in a certain place with a certain set of living companions, job or city, especially if you’re a Millennial or Gen Z demographic. Why should you buy, own, move, sell, store and then dispose of or find a way to resell furniture? Talk about headaches and hassle costs. It is everything you’re going through and these generations that say, “Mine,” and later are feeling acutely every day.

Let’s get started with a deeper understanding of what motivated you to do this. 7 moves in 5 years, was that it? Was it 5 moves in 7 years? It sounds the same to me. They’re both hell.

After death, you’re most scared of moving. You’re even more scared of that than taxes. My experience after finishing undergrad in New York was not dissimilar from pretty much everyone in my or our peer group. You’re living with roommates in a dense urban area, whether that be Atlanta, DC, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles or Seattle. That list of top fifteen cities is pretty much like the set for an urban young professional with an underground degree. You’re moving every 1 or 2 years. Sometimes, every 3 years, depending.

With the rise of remote work, mobility has continued to shift upwards for the younger demographics. How are you furnishing your space? That’s the problem and pain point we set out to solve with Fernish. It’s built on an acute personal pain point. It is me having to go to IKEA and assemble products and then leave them in the apartment or on the side of the road because it was going to cost more to move them from the Upper Eastside down to Greenwich Village.

[bctt tweet=”With the rise of remote work, mobility has continued to shift upwards for the younger demographics.” via=”no”]

We talked for a moment about the IKEA culture of college and early grad life or even as you’re getting started and the frustration that people can have to build their furniture. It feels like you need a PhD to assemble a cabinet in a way. You’re doing something unique with Fernish where you have a little bit of a white-glove service. Why don’t you talk about that?

I also want to understand or comment on the fact that when people buy quality, it may not be the cheapest or an IKEA price point. What can they expect to pay for, let’s say, one of your most popular units? How do you think that compares to the lifecycle of the product? I’d like to touch on those two things as we get started.

That is something that we, as a business and business model, have thought deeply about. In terms of sourcing quality products, we have a bar not just around style and design, which we like to be attractive and fashion-forward to a generation of folks who want to be proud of the space they’re living in but it comes down to durability, modularity and refurbish ability of that product.

That ultimately drives the useful life of a product from something that you’re not willing to move 100 city blocks, let alone to a new city and pay a couple of hundred dollars to movers so you leave it on the side of the road. It is something that you want to potentially resell or feel good about returning to the manufacturer, à la Fernish and our business model’s case or bringing with you as opposed to constantly buying this fast fashion meets furniture trend. It is environmentally damaging and bad for one’s psyche anyway, let alone all the hassles and pains and costs in there. We focused on a combination of durability and style for our products.

CMBB 140 | Fast Furniture
Fast Furniture: Fernish turns furniture that are willing to leave on the side of the road into something you want to potentially resell or feel very good about.

 

The other bucket you asked about is the price point. From that perspective, you think, “What do some of the comparable brands in retail furniture sell their products for?” We like to compare ourselves to two brands that speak to our demographic. CB2 is one of them. West Elm is the other. We’ve been inspired by a lot of those products and the quality of those products. Although ours, I would say without a doubt, are more durable and purpose-built for the rental and circular economy.

The price points are also similar that would retail at $2,000. At West Elm, we might have a comparable sofa that is $60 a month and you pay for as long as you need it. If you fall in love with that sofa, you can buy it out with the difference between what you’ve paid already and the stated MSRP of that product on our website. You pay the difference so you are building equity over time.

That whole business model, we were shocked when it didn’t exist. It’s a no-brainer for myself, my cofounder in this business and everyone we talked to. We got 900 data points before feeling confident enough to launch this business from people that were living in ten different cities. This isn’t just New York and LA. This is Atlanta, Phoenix, Denver, Miami, Nashville, Dallas and Seattle. In this whole list of cities, people are feeling the same pain points so we built a solution directly to solve that. That’s more of the business model side of it. Our eyes were opened to the huge amount of waste this industry created as we got deeper into the category in general.

I’ll give you a couple of instances that come from the world of trade shows. They can supply people with an idea of what some of these programs can look like. There are furniture rental companies that have made their business to service things like trade shows and hotel-related events. You will go to those events and might pay half the price of the item to rent it for a couple of days. You return it and feel like, “I’ve wasted a bunch of money.”

I know people who do tours and education that go around the country and they say, “I go to the town, go to the store, buy it new and then resell it on Facebook,” or something like that because it would be too much money to rent it. There has been a rental model for these things, like business events. That’s more what you think of. There is even for, let’s say, short-term rental apartments and things like that. Generally speaking, neither of these are known for their quality.

What stood out for me when I looked at your specific site is that the designs look like they’re made from wood. They’re current because they’re on trend with this love for mid-century modern. That fits with my aesthetic and the sorts of things that I’m liking. I either like super classic furniture. By super classic, I mean heavy hardwood, durable and old-fashioned or this mid-century modern. You’re on point there.

You speak about trade shows. That is a very interesting business model where you can make a lot of money. We are not in that business that’s a certain type of product, like rental for weddings and general events. I remember our wedding. We got married in a vineyard in California. We rented everything from the tent to the chairs. I feel like we paid more than the retail costs to rent them for two days than we would otherwise. That’s the industry and people are used to paying for that.

That’s not where we are now because honestly, it doesn’t tie into our mission. The mission of our business, which we like to start every conversation with, is to make it effortless to create your home. An event rental business is not what we’re inspired to create. It’s not solving the pain point that unites our team and our customers. It doesn’t drive us every single day forward and gets us excited.

CMBB 140 | Fast Furniture
Fast Furniture: The mission of Fernish is to help every individual to make it effortless to create their homes.

 

Let’s talk about your sourcing. You mentioned some brands that people might know of but they’re likely furniture pieces that are constructed in faraway places. How is your sourcing perhaps different? What is different about your model that you think helps you to serve people in a more sustainable fashion to make this not only an affordable option but also one that’s better for the planet?

We’ve built our business model around exactly what you’re saying, like flexibility, convenience, affordability and sustainability. All of these aspects and value props are important to our customers. We’re able to market and message those. We feel great about that unified business model across a number of vectors. Sourcing is key to a lot of those factors. Our model is about durability, modularity and refurbishment ability.

You have to hit certain criteria whether it be hard line case goods, whether that be a desk, a chair, a dresser, upholstery, a sofa, a sectional or an accent chair. We have certain standards there that meet what we’ll call our purpose-built for the circular economy or circular-ready approach. We source that product. A majority of our design and manufactured product is coming from Mexico, Canada and the US so North America broadly.

We started making that transition in 2019 when we continue to push more of our supply chain into a nearshore model as opposed to shipping it over from Asia. That’s a decision we’ve made. We think we have more control over timing and highly variable shipping rates for containers. You also have a very consistent story around CO2 emissions and trying to lessen that footprint and make that a more consistent brand message. If we were shipping everything from Asia, shipping from Asia is 17% of carbon emissions for the world every year, that corridor from Asia to North America. Anything we can do to dampen that impact on the environment is a big win for us and a big focus area too.

As far as these sustainability efforts come into play, you mentioned 17% emissions. That’s a big chunk to cut down from. I imagine you aren’t getting to zero but when you’re talking about from Mexico to Canada to the States, that’s critical. You also said that you have individuals working on more regional bases. Can we talk for a moment about that? I’d like our audience to understand that.

Similar to your approach, we are a very local business model. We have our fulfillment footprint and facilities on a local basis. If you’re in Dallas, we have people on the ground there operationally, delivery, assembly and refurbishment folks that are able to service a certain mile radius directly. That’s how our business works. It’s the same thing in New York, DC, Southern California and Pacific Northwest. That enables us to have a local touch and control the customer experience as well as to understand localized product trends.

Our most popular skews in Manhattan are very different from Dallas. One could imagine that, given the cost of living and space constraints that one market has over the other. That’s an important part for us. What we do from what we’ll call an asset management perspective, assets being the furniture, we keep everything localized. We’re never transporting inventory from New York to Los Angeles to Seattle. That wouldn’t be cost-effective. It also wouldn’t necessarily play into the environmental story or the footprint reduction story that we have been able to message consistently to our customers.

[bctt tweet=”By keeping everything localized, a business can reduce costs and reduce carbon footprint.” via=”no”]

We’re moving inventory only on a local basis. You might pick it up from one ZIP code in Southern California, deliver it back to the refurbishment center and do another ZIP code in Southern California in two days. Everything’s local for us, which is an important aspect of our operational profile. It is also important for our messaging and inventory management sourcing plan.

Let’s say I chose a dresser on your site that I fell in love with. There was a couple that was made nicely of some real wood. I was perusing there. Let’s say I chose this item and I decided to rent it but then my toddler put a giant gouge in the side of it. What happens then?

With a hammer or a flamethrower? Tell me more. My toddler does these things.

I have a piece of furniture in my living room. It’s a beautiful cherry wood and mahogany-stained piece I’ve had. He took a crystal rock and scratched the whole surface so I know these things happen. It happened in my house. The surface of it is pitted. We joke that we’ll replace it when the kids are out of the house but I’m not willing to live with this for another fifteen years. I want to know what you think about something like this and how the company handles it.

It’s a varying degree of normal wear and tear versus destruction. This is some reason why we don’t rent to colleges. I remember myself as an undergrad and I didn’t respect the furniture in my dorm or otherwise. For us, normal wear and tear can go to some pretty heavy use cases. We’re able to do that because we can swap out a veneer top. Our most popular desk is called the Pilson. We take off the top and put a new top on. It’s plastic so even that’s recyclable. The rest of the desk looks brand new. You polish the steel on the legs. That’s one example of something that we’ve developed expertise around and is part of space replenishment of how our whole operational structure works.

You’d be amazed from a woodworking perspective what we can give some of our materials experts in our refurbishment centers. You’re like, “This is beat up. There’s no way they’re going to be able to make this look like new.” You can come back in an hour and that product looks like new with a combination of sanding, new varnish and sometimes Bondo wood glue. We then get it back out as quickly as possible in a like-new state.

CMBB 140 | Fast Furniture
Fast Furniture: Fernish’s amazing woodwork and refurbishment process can make even the most beat-up furniture look like new in just a few hours.

 

The second a product can’t meet this like-new condition and maybe what you’re talking about is where your toddler takes a crystal rock and gouges the side of a bookshelf or the side of a dresser. That could fall into the camp of not normal wear and tear. In which case, a customer of ours would pay the incremental cost or we’d offer them to buy it out at a discount.

You can’t set our furniture on fire either. When there are cigarette butts on the side of a cushion, what we do is replace a cushion. We’ll charge you for a cushion or replace the cover of a cushion. This is the whole aspect of modularity. It is important for our sourcing and supply chain strategies, which are very different from a typical retailer.

It sounds like you’re talking about harnessing the power of a repair economy at the same time. That’s what I wanted to get at with this because so often, we’ve entered this world of disposability. That’s what the IKEA model and fast fashion model is built on. Frankly, that’s what the mobile phone world is ultimately getting to the point of being built on. You have to go through a new phone every three years.

I have this workhorse here. I’m still keeping it as my second functional phone. I’ve had it for several years. It’s an Android. I love it. It’s the one that I will take with me on a run. If I drop it, it still survives. If my toddler hugs it across the room, eventually, it’s going to stop working but it’s going to be this one as opposed to the more current one. I happen to keep them both for the reason that I’m also a mother and I have to be reachable. I’ve had the instance where suddenly, it stopped working. What do you do then?

This gives me some peace of mind too. One is the phone that people have that number and the other phone is more of my private line. I’m able to balance my life a little better. I’m not advocating for everybody to go out there and get two pieces of furniture. I’m using it as an example of how if we have something that we can have faith in, that’s more durable and can stand the test of time. For me, that’s why I’m on Android as opposed to iPhone. You want to have some modularity.

I went out of space on this. I can insert a chip. It’s got the ability to grow with me, which is something that a lot of phones have planned obsolescence around. Frankly, that’s how we’ve built our furniture, like planned obsolescence. You’re talking about returning us to more of a quality to having a piece of furniture serviced in a way that’s going to make it durable with time.

I’m going to speak to my home here. I have a rather expensive couch upstairs and I love it. This is the one that I love. I have a South-facing window. Every couch I’ve put in that area has gotten sun-bleached pretty quickly. This is a very saturated color so I know it’s only going to look good for maybe 3 years or possibly 4 if I’m lucky. Are there elements that you even have in space for this to say, “We’ll re-upholster the whole thing because otherwise, it’s great?”

It’s a curious use case. We like to give our furniture a second, a third and a fourth life. At the end of the day, if you can’t stand behind a promise of like-new for a customer, then you have to find a different disposition channel. We have a couple of those. If we use something for three years and it comes back sun-bleached, we could re-upholster it. It’s going to be a cost-benefit analysis of the cost of re-upholstering the product versus the revenue that specific product has made us in excess of the cost to manufacture that product in the first place.

You then make a very informed data-driven decision, which is managed by our in-house ERP system. It is an Android-based system that we’ve built to manage our layer of asset management and inventory management. We’re able to go through a number of disposition channels, whether they be branded marketplace models where we can sell products in bulk at scale at a pretty good margin.

What we like to do in terms of giving back at least once a year for our various localized efforts is to work with a local nonprofit. Sometimes, it’s a homeless shelter. We’ve done a variety of donations across our different markets. It speaks to this localized decision-making and the impact that we’re driving as a local business in our markets because we’re local employers. It ties nicely into how it sounds you like to consume, which is why we’re very aligned on speaking here.

CMBB 140 | Fast Furniture
Fast Furniture: Fernish gives back at least once a year for their various localized efforts with a local nonprofit.

 

You spoke for a moment about these partnerships. What can you tell me about these Holos Communities partnerships as an example of that? 

Holos Communities is a partner that is what we call a non-holiday or off-cycle donation folks that we’ve worked with and known in the Southern California community, which is our home base. We are proudly based as well as our companies in Los Angeles. It’s a more transient living shelter. We spent a good amount of time with that management team. We wanted folks who were staying there to feel proud of where they were staying, not to have some low budget, rundown products in terms of furniture that is counting on a small budget that this nonprofit had to go out and procure furniture.

We set up a good part of a building for them in downtown Los Angeles. It was well-appreciated. People walk in not necessarily in the best situation economically for a variety of reasons. It’s hard to get there and a hard place to be. If you’re able to provide a little bit of joy and grace through a partnership with an organization like that, that’s exactly what we stand for as a business. That’s something we’ve done specifically. I’m glad you brought it up because it’s something our team is excited about in our hometown of LA.

If you’re looking for collaborations like that up in the Santa Cruz County area, I know a few quite well. We’ve donated a lot to the Grey Bears Organization. They are in Santa Cruz. What they do is help older adults. They both help to employ older adults who may not want to work a full-time job anymore but also provide furniture or housewares to the aging community. They call it Grey Bears.

Another one is the Santa Cruz Women’s Center. I helped to support the creation of the Shannon Collins Memorial Garden there. I have a few friends that are on the board. What they do is help women who are displaced or in need of a new space of their own. They are often who have been victims of domestic abuse and who are looking for that next start in life. They’re active in the Santa Cruz community. They are single women, often mothers, looking for the leg up that they might need.

That’s amazing from a donation perspective. It’s the right thing to do if we’re in a position to do it and you’re in a position to do it. That’s also where the local insight and local teams make these decisions and why it’s so important. We can’t be dictating it a donation in New York City if we’re all living in Southern California. How do we know what matters to our customers, constituents and stakeholders?

I like to mention this as an idea for people because often, they say, “I donate to Goodwill Industries.” It’s easy. They know where they are and their donation centers are potentially easy to access. If you have personal things that you’re looking to get rid of, often, you can find a facility that will put them directly into the hands of someone who needs them and might not even be able to afford one of that stuff. It’s nice to get a little bit more engaged with your local community so that your funds and also the goods that you might donate can put the best into the world. We’ve talked a lot about what makes Fernish different but is there anything that you feel we’ve missed? What do you feel is the sweet spot where you do an effective and great job and are seeking to build that better future?

One thing I’d say there and is something that unites our team and customers is the circularity of our business model in general. There’s a lot of innovation that’s been done on the apparel side for marrying the circular economy with reuse, recycling and resale. Public companies like thredUP or Rent the Runway have made a big impact there.

We are similarly blazing that trail in the furniture category, which is also a nine-figure category. It is North of $100 billion a year. Much of that product ends up in a landfill after a single use. What we’re very proud to be able to share is that we’ve refurbished and reused over two million pounds of furniture in the past few years since we started this business. That means we put it in circulation. We get the product back, refurbish and refinish it and get it back out again. We give it a second life, a third life and a fourth life. That’s the nature of our business model.

We can talk about other sustainability efforts in terms of sourcing and supply chain that many other retailers are focused on but at the core of our business is this notion of circularity, which is so distinct from everyone else in this category of furniture. It’s super exciting for us. It’s great to be able to share that message and story because we’ve built our business on the foundation of sustainability. It’s the core of our DNA. We’re not trying to go find a message that may or may not be genuine out there as a legacy brand. We built the brand with this in mind.

There’s one more point I wanted to get to because we touched on this a little bit. When you have people come with their white-glove service and help people put their furniture together and everything else, you’re working with localized regions around the United States in these cases. What about other people? What about the rest of your workforce? Where do they live, work and play? Are you going remote? How have you dealt with this pandemic world?

You want to say a post-pandemic world but it’s not a post-pandemic world. It’s the world. The rest of our team, we’re about 100 people. About half are corporate. Half are more in the field and localized operations. They’re operational experts and associates. The corporate staff is spread largely in the markets where we operate. Our core metro is across East Coast and West Coast in Texas but half of the full team ops plus HQ staff is in Los Angeles. That is something that people have moved, for sure.

2021 and 2022 were the years when people jetted all over. Some people might come back to Los Angeles and some might not. We’ve been able to build what I’ll call remote muscles in terms of how to manage a team and build a culture and the right mechanisms to check in and nurture that. It’s not perfect at all but no company is perfect. It’s always a journey to be better or a journey to care more and be better, dare I say. That’s something that we, like every other business, especially every other startup over the past couple of years, have been focused on.

It sounds like you’ve put a good heart at the center of your team building. Ultimately, you’re building a better future for furniture. I hadn’t thought about furniture as a service, which I have to be frank, until we connected and then I’m like, “What is this business model? Why didn’t it exist before?” That is something that you should be proud of. I was hoping that you could share with our audience before we prepare to wrap here what your hope is for a greener and more sustainable future. What is the picture you would like to paint for people?

It’s a big question. Day-to-day, there is a real impact we can have on elevating consumer consciousness and behavior around the home furnishing category. I ultimately think that we’re not the only category of consumption at all. It could be autos or apparel. It could be wherever you’re spending your money today and tomorrow. There needs to be more circular economy or retail. We could talk about regenerative practices. We could talk about more sustainable use and recycling. There needs to be more circularity, broadly speaking, in pretty much every asset class.

Sustainability has a real meaning. Can it be sustained? In perpetuity, no. We’re a growing population of humans on a planet with finite resources. By definition, there needs to be more reuse to keep up any level of consumption with a growing population when resources are limited unless we’re colonizing Mars with Elon. In which case, we could have new resources or we couldn’t because I don’t know if we’re ever going to get there.

Everything we know about that equation that I mentioned makes us feel like we need to go in that direction of reuse and circularity for every asset class. Furniture, for us, was where we felt passionate. It was where we thought there was a great opportunity to solve a real pain point with the mission that resonated with a lot of folks, including ourselves. That’s how I’d answer your question. It’s a combination of thinking small but also thinking big. Hopefully, what we can do is inspire another generation of founders to take on and tackle a similar business model in a different category because that needs to happen. It needs to happen over the next few decades for a lot of very good reasons.

You’ve summed that up beautifully. I do want to comment that we can get to that space more quickly if we follow models around the globe. I’ll give you an instance. You go to visit Germany and the local grocery store. If you pick up a few bottles of sparkling water, you don’t put them in the recycle bin after. You take them back to the store and they’re refilled. It’s like we used to do with Coke bottles and milk bottles back in the day. Why can’t we go back to that flash of a pan as opposed to waiting for all of these manufacturers to catch on?

I have transitioned to when I buy milk, I buy in a glass bottle. Locally here, we have Strauss Farms. They’re pretty readily available even at Nob Hill or a Raley’s store. We can also go to the local health food store and they’ll have an option or two like that too. You don’t have that for nut milk yet and a lot of people have transitioned to nut milk. You’ve got these Xela Pack things. I’m talking about consumer products. You throw it away or you try to recycle it.

These tetra packs, even though I’m in Santa Cruz County and this is a recycle-conscious area, they’re not recyclable in my local community. I have to then subscribe to a service that sends me a box to break these down, put them in a brick and send them away using inefficient transport. You’re sure when you send something USPS or UPS, those are gas-powered vehicles so you’re creating more emissions along the way to get to some point where it can be recycled, repurposed or reused.

Why can’t we get back quicker and transition to these reuse economies? I’ve stopped drinking as much wine. It’s because I’m looking at my waistline and my health but partially because these bottles go to the recycle bins. I’ve seen even videos that showcase how much of that glass descends up on landfill. Even though it’s inert, it’s not being recycled. The blue bin does not mean my conscience can be free.

That’s a misconception for consumers. They’re like, “I recycled it.” It doesn’t mean that it successfully gets into a recycling marketplace. I could put a sofa in a recycling bin and there’s no way for sixteen different reasons. Furniture’s an unrecyclable good even if I put it in a blue trashcan.

They call it wish cycling.

There’s an interesting business called Loop in New Jersey.

They’ve done projects with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

They’ve done projects with Procter & Gamble and other brands. I like what they’re doing in terms of CPG packaging. It’s something that is a model for other industries where you don’t need to throw away a toothpaste tube. You honestly get a refill of a container. You wash a container and get a refill constantly or not constantly. You tell them how often you want to refill a product. That doesn’t change the logistics component. Although, you can move to electric vehicles or natural gas-powered vehicles, which are ten times cleaner burning than usual fuel. There are paths to get there across every category. We’re doing our best to make a meaningful impact on one of the categories and be a model for others.

Talking about it is key. Thinking about how you can make a difference is key. I do like what you’re doing. I want to thank you for the work of Fernish. I’ll keep you on my list of companies that I support. I ultimately hope to see you continue to succeed. What markets are you looking to penetrate next?

We’re looking, like many startups, to get profitable in our markets before expanding aggressively elsewhere. There is a nice expansion plan for 2025. In the meantime, it’s all about driving efficiency while improving growth for us. I’m sure you hear that from every other startup.

You have to be a business. I know. I was thinking, “Is he going to Canada next? Is he going to stay in North America? Are you going to go to Europe and do something interesting there?”

There’s a lot of opportunity. It is what’s the right path and measure for that. It’s a good question. It’s very top of mind here as well.

Thank you so much for joining me. Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?

I’m happy to be here. I’m excited about the work you’re doing and the megaphone you’re giving founders, entrepreneurs and folks in the social justice arena like myself who are trying to do things that make the world a better place.

Thank you so much for joining me.

Thanks, Corinna.

To learn more about Michael’s work and Fernish, visit Fernish.com. While you are visiting Care More Be Better, please sign up for our newsletter. Subscribers receive a welcome gift. This is free of charge. It’s simply our five-step guide to help you get organized, inspire your activism or even serve as a project management tool.

If you have feedback or you want to suggest a future show topic or guest, please send me an email or leave me a voicemail directly from the site too. Click Contact or you can tap on that microphone icon in the bottom right-hand corner and leave me a message. I’d love to hear your voice. Thank you, now and always, for being a part of this community. Together, we can do so much more. We can even design more responsible living spaces that fit with our aesthetic so we can be happier at home and also more mindful of our long-term sustainability. Thank you.

 

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