The most eco-friendly piece of furniture is the one you don’t buy – but what does this look like in practice at UEA?

Chairs thrown away as waste

Last year UEA threw away around 40 tonnes of furniture, directly costing around £8,000 plus staff time. At the same time, UEA also spent £184,000 on new furniture.

Any reduction of these figures is good business sense, as well having environmental and resource benefits. UEA Estates is leading the way on reducing how many still-useable items are disposed of each year, with Rachel Brown (Head of Space Planning Coordinator) taking the lead.

“UEA’s Estates teams have been involved in some really exciting new trials recently. One project in teaching spaces last summer also saw us relocate or replace 588 chairs and 254 tables. This saved around £74,000, compared to buying new.” — Rachel Brown, Space Planning Coordinator

Upcycled furniture, taking unwanted furniture and making fire safe and new-looking with nettle and hemp eco fabrics

Several stacks of chairs in UEA storage were unable to be used on campus because they were not fire retardant. Rachel said, “If you have tired, worn, or potentially unsafe furniture, we can look at recovering or repairing it — with a choice of fabric. Both save money as well as the waiting time for new furniture.” A local upholsterer has upcycled chairs for The Enterprise Centre and offices in LSB, with nettle and hemp fabric ranges increasing the eco credentials of these items even further (top left).

Costs are approximately 50% of buying a new chair, and the service can be requested by any member of staff for old, broken, dirty or damaged furniture.

Beyond refurbishing tired or broken fabric furniture, UEA is a member of the WARPit resource sharing platform. From chairs to DVD players, hanging files to bookcases and coffee tables, it is free and open to all UEA staff. Items are for use on campus only, and it is a great way to pass on unwanted University assets. All of the items in the bottom section to the left were available at the time of writing.

Key links

Selection of items available through WARPit