‘I wasn’t done’: Former office furniture salesman is now finding new life for discarded furniture

Jim Hardaway was a prosperous salesman for a lot more than 3 decades. He marketed business office furniture to authorities and Fortune 500 customers. But when he stepped down from his position in 2019, he disliked retirement, so he got a new gig: He aids keep aged business office furnishings out of landfills.

It was not prepared, but Hardaway, 65, discovered a round nature to his job he appears to be far more than very pleased of. What is far more, he states, he’s nowhere around close to done doing the job.

Hardaway’s job began in 1984 for one particular of the leading place of work home furniture models close to, Herman Miller. The organization, who’s title is basically synonymous with the strategy of superior-stop, fashionable household furniture style, used designers like George Nelson, who served as guide designer at Herman Miller for a time, as perfectly as the incomparable Charles and Ray Eames—yes, that Eames.

For approximately 35 decades, Hardaway, having on unique roles listed here and there whilst moving up the ranks, was tasked with filling workplaces with the selection of products Herman Miller peddled.

“Herman Miller’s model was so effectively regarded that it opened up a ton of doorways. I’m not gonna say that the products marketed alone, as no product or service ever does,” Hardaway tells Fortune. “I was calling on architects and designers, I was calling on heads of real estate, facility managers, people today like that persons that built conclusions about commercial office environment furnishings for these corporations.”

The office—and what companies have been drawn to as they tried to manifest efficiency or collaboration—changed dramatically more than the decades Hardaway was in the business enterprise. He bought place of work household furniture to the IRS, Social Security Administration, and assisted furnish places of work in the judicial and executive branches. He experienced Fortune 500 clientele like United Airways, and even held the report for the largest account shut at Herman Miller, he claims, which was a $125 million-furthermore contract to outfit an full company’s corporate campus.

Hardaway noticed the office environment go from the rat-maze-like cubicles of the ’80s, to reduced walls meant to foster collaboration, to open up designs, and then to a range of unique spaces meant for different kinds of function in the course of the day. All the whilst, Herman Miller supplied every thing from the cubicle walls and workstations to the now-legendary Aeron workplace chair.

But as the workforce and the needs of corporations continued to power workplace design and style to adjust, a lot of the furniture and goods Hardaway marketed was thrown out.

Workplace furniture—the primary source of furniture squander in landfills—accounts for around 8.5 million tons of the some 10 million tons of home furniture that sits in squander each individual year.

All through his time at Herman Miller, Hardaway and his team took wonderful pains to outfit the workplaces of their purchasers just so. There was an whole design method, he says, to assure they experienced each individual issue they required and wanted to suit the tradition of the firm.

“Culture doesn’t often happen in the business,” Hardaway claims, “but furniture can be a catalyst for that.”

But at the conclude of the day, corporations merged, or folded, or moved on, or improved with the periods, and who was there to decide on up the business chairs no one required any longer? “What we were doing? We were being promoting options. And what we remaining powering was furniture.”

After making the most of retirement for about six months in 2019, through which he and his wife journeyed down the Nile in Egypt, Hardaway started off his personal consulting enterprise. Then the pandemic hit, and he was forced to pivot once more. He was thinking of new opportunities when the CEO of environmental advocate and place of work decommissioning enterprise Inexperienced Benchmarks arrived contacting.

Hardaway was acquainted with the corporation from his times at Herman Miller. In Inexperienced Standards’ 12 a long time as an organization, it touts it has so considerably kept 100,000 tons of workplace furnishings from landfills and diverted far more than 240,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Green Criteria operates with corporations like Google, Microsoft and United Airways to create procedures to resell, recycle, and donate office home furnishings that businesses no longer have use for.

Hardaway by no means envisioned he’d discover himself doing work on the reverse stop of an market the place he had dedicated the bulk of his qualified lifestyle. It was during the pandemic, he says, that he understood he needed to devote the latter part of his job performing anything intent-pushed.

His so called “aha” minute arrived in his early times at Environmentally friendly Criteria whilst seeing a situation research they’d finished with his aged customer, United Airways. The research was accomplished whilst United was moving into new places of work, and Hardaway was however at Herman Miller at the time, doing the job with the airline to offer them business office home furnishings for the new space.

“I was operating on the new project, Green Requirements is using out the products that I marketed in 1998… That is when it strike me, I have come full circle, and I can make a big difference,” he suggests. “In gross sales, our achievements was always based mostly on hitting your target, appropriate? I offered $10 million this yr, or I did this or I did that. Now, I define success as building a change. And it is like I stated, I’m not completed. That’s why I unsuccessful retirement far too, since I was not completed.”

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