Located in McConnellsville, NY, Harden Furniture is a name long synonymous with quality and fine-crafted furniture. It also has a well-deserved reputation for sustainable practices.

“Harden was founded in 1844 by Charles Harden,” says current President and CEO Greg Harden, “and we are the oldest manufacturer of home furnishings in North America.” The family’s interest in the logging and sawmill business extends even longer, he adds. “We own 10,000 acres of timber property and we have lived in this small community for six or seven generations, so we tend to appreciate the environment and the aesthetics.

“I like to say we were green before green was cool, but it is true. A lot of our manufacturing practices were already environmentally friendly, so it was a natural to formalize the commitment and get the credit we deserved.”

Harden Furniture has been certifying its hardwoods under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) since 2001 and was the first company to achieve Silver Exemplary status from the Sustainable Furniture Council. To qualify for Silver Exemplary status, Harden met the following criteria: 15 to 25 percent of wood products must be FSC-certified or equivalent; 1 to 25 percent of products other than wood are made from recycled or bio-based materials; the completion of a carbon footprint report, reviewing a detailed analysis of energy output in operations; and demonstrating a positive impact on supply chain improvements as a result of its efforts.

In addition to its line of residential upholstered furniture and case goods, Harden Furniture also manufactures lines of contract and hospitality furniture.

Culture and opportunities
“The decision to go green was partially motivated by the marketing opportunity and partially the result of our culture,” Harden says. However, he adds, “The customer demand part of it has been the most disappointing — consumers talk a big game when they are asked if they prefer green products, but they tend to be motivated more by price.”

While Harden admits there can be extra costs associated with the added documentation requirements and costs for certified supplies, the company also has seen numerous areas for savings.

“Primarily by applying some common sense, we were able to reduce our electrical energy use by 1 million Kilowatt hours last year. Recycling, reducing waste and reducing energy consumption all reduce cost. The SFI program appeared to be an added cost, but when we completed our certification it was obvious that the improvements we made in managing our properties more than offset the cost of certification.

“As we move forward — beyond the low-hanging fruit — there will be more situations where we have to apply some rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Water-based lacquers are the obvious example. The technology does not exist yet which would allow us to achieve the depth and clarity we require. There will almost certainly be a need to invest in changes to our finishing facility, and our projection is that there will be higher labor costs,” he says.

At Harden Furniture, the general rule for return on investment is a one-year payback period. However, Harden says, “A one-year ROI will not be possible with some of the projects that lie ahead, such as water-based lacquers, combustion controls on our wood-fired boilers and improved insulation on steam pipes. A slightly longer payback period is justified if we are confident in the analysis.”

Savings and benefits
From its thousands of acres of managed timberland, the company provides itself with an ample quantity of quality domestic wood species. It also keeps firm control over its other supply, production and delivery costs.

For generations, the company has maintained its own nationwide fleet of trucks. “By delivering directly to our dealers, we minimize the chance of damage during shipment by controlling all aspects of transportation, from the forest to your door,” Harden says.

The company’s commitment to environmental stewardship does not stop there. An advocate for educating others on the benefits of going green, Harden recently presented a seminar at the Las Vegas Furniture Market which covered: definitions and terminology (i.e., green vs. sustainable), market opportunities, and strategies for educating consumers on the advantages of buying sustainable furniture products.

Next on the agenda for Harden Furniture are further reductions in emissions and energy use. “Carbon emissions are the biggest priority, and we will continue to focus on electrical energy use, as it also has the most significant and predictable payback. We don’t use any fossil fuels for heating, as we rely on boilers fired by waste wood. Enhancing their efficiency will be part of our future plans as well,” Harden says.

“We are 100 percent committed to moving ahead, but the recession has stretched out some of our projects and our capital investments will depend on cash flow.”

About the Company
Located in upstate New York, Harden Furniture was founded in 1844 by Charles Harden and is considered to be the oldest manufacturer of home furnishings in North America.
Today, the five-generation, family-owned company employs 400 people. At its plant in McConnellsville, Harden Furniture produces residential furniture and case goods, as well as contract and hospitality furniture, for sale throughout the United States and Canada, and is expanding into international markets.

The company is renowned for its craftsmanship, including authentic hand-carved details, dovetail joinery, floating panel construction, and a multi-step finishing process that includes hand sanding and more than 30 standard, distressed and decorative finishes, with custom color-matching available. The upholstery features 10-way hand-tied springs, options for cushion construction, four-skirt treatment options and a stock fabric selection of more than 800 materials, plus customized fabric applications and combinations. Harden Furniture also offers seven variations of nail head trim treatment, also with custom options available.

Harden is renowned for the fine craftsmanship, including hand-carved details, in its sustainably manufactured furniture.

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