Step 1: Focus

With your client and project team, choose areas of sustainability to prioritize on the project, leading with low-waste (see below for strategies including increased diversion through recycling/redistribution, specifying secondhand or low-waste products, etc.) Other sustainability areas to consider: healthy materials (natural and nontoxic), low carbon (electrification or offsetting embodied carbon), avoiding plastic (also lower carbon). Don’t know where to start? Visit the GFDA Toolkit online to find consultants, services, and apps that can help you along the way.

Step 2: Budget

Discuss how sustainability could impact the budget early on so that your client can fully understand the impact of their decisions. There are likely sustainable choices will have little-to-no impact on the budget, ones that will impact it slightly, and ones that will increase the price point. Based on your client’s interest and budget, decide together the project’s tolerance for price increases associated with sustainability (perhaps a percentage), and a process (for example, identifying at least x number of sustainable options per decision).

Step 3: Timeline

Discuss the impact sustainability will have on the timeline. Help the client understand that it’s quicker (and more affordable) to incorporate sustainable design decisions early on in the process, and that some sustainable decisions could increase timeline, like choosing ground shipping instead of air to reduce carbon emissions, or researching and procuring more sustainable options.

Step 4: Deconstruction and diversion

Assess what you can keep restore, or redistribute to reduce your landfill waste: furniture, appliances, cabinetry, structural, architectural, decorative, as well as fixtures or furniture. See the Deconstruction section below or Toolkit Redistribution Resources.

Design, and Documentation: Educate your clients so that they can see the value in choosing low-waste options.

Step 5: Source secondhand

Sourcing vintage, antique, and from salvage yards is a great way to reduce your contribution to landfill. Check out our list of vintage, antique, and salvage vendors here and check out the GFDA marketplace.

Step 6: Restore

Refinishing and reupholstering versus buying new can significantly decrease your waste profile. Does your client or a consignment marketplace have a set of chairs with good bones? Refurbish away!

Step 7: Specify low waste & sustainable

Cut your waste by sourcing from vendors who adhere to low-waste practices. We’ve created this Bay Area approved vendor list to make your search for low-waste partnerships easy, with more national resources to be added as we open additional chapters.

Contact vendors to make sure they don’t use styrofoam, packing peanuts, non-recyclable or non-compostable materials in their packaging. Ideally, packaging is plastic free.

Choose moving companies and vendors that use reusable containers and protections i.e. blankets.

Source locally to minimize packaging waste, plus energy and likely carbon emissions associated with transportation.
Minimize your ordering overage. That goes for tiles, textiles, flooring, paint, etc.

Step 8: Divert

For items you aren’t keeping but are still in good condition (furniture, rugs, textiles, etc.), make plans to redistribute, resell, and recycle. See our redistribution contact list here.

Send back samples or recycle them. We have a list of folks who take scrap here. Or, join Material Bank to get material samples on loan with the option of keeping ones you like.

Return materials you don’t use, donate them to a salvage/building resources yard, or protect and store unused product in a well-maintained condition for future projects.

Step 9: At the office and on-site

Set up a three-bin system for recycling, compost, and landfill. Establish a point per- son to ensure items get sorted properly.