‘Editor’s Notebook’ with Diana Mosher: Let the Model Unit Tell Your Green Story

Eco-friendly building materials and green operatio...

Eco-friendly building materials and green operations are key to winning over the renter demographic interested in healthier and more sustainable living environments (pretty soon that will be all of us). But are you really conveying your company’s commitment to green in a clear and meaningful way?

Consider outfitting a model unit with environmentally friendly furniture and finishes, and provide an attractive marketing take-away that describes the green story behind each of the selections. You not only position your team as the eco-experts in the area, you also tap into a fantastic opportunity to partner with national suppliers and/or local businesses devoted to sustainable living, since those who pass through the model will be tempted to recreate the vignette in their own apartments.

All the choices will be important assets for telling your green story, but the furniture will likely become the focal point as prospects tour the space. What makes a piece of furniture “sustainable”? UrbanGreen, based in Brooklyn, NY, provides this explanation on its welcome page: “Locally sourced solid wood and select veneers are crafted and finished by our Brooklyn artisans employing durable materials and finishes without toxins and allergens. Our commitment to organic, sustainable principles is evident in our products and practices which contribute to healthier indoor air at home and at the workplace.” An appealing mid-century modern coffee table from UrbanGreen, which can be ordered in a range of colors from unfinished maple to fuschia, will cost close to $400.

Circle Furniture, a founding member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, incorporates “eco-upholstery” made in the USA. Soy-based cushions and frames are made from responsibly harvested hardwoods certified sustainable. Seat cushions are wrapped and back cushions and throw pillows are filled with 100 percent post-consumer regenerated fibers which keeps approximately 500 drink bottles from the landfill with each sofa purchase.

Don’t be concerned if the budget doesn’t allow for every piece of furniture in the model unit to be sustainable. Pick several important pieces to focus on and mention these in your marketing materials. Once you embark on the environmental journey you’ll find it’s more about progress than perfection.

urbangreen’s Midcentury Modern Coffee Table is built without formaldehyde glues

The walls are another good place to get started. All the major paint suppliers including Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams have been offering low-VOC products for years. And maybe you’ve already incorporated them into your maintenance program. But do your residents and prospects know about this commitment to their indoor air quality?

Carnegie’s Xorel can add texture and visual interest to your green model unit.

An accent wall can also help tell the story in a very visual way. Go with a natural grasscloth or be edgy. Carnegie’s Xorel is a woven textile that is also extremely durable for high-traffic areas. Xorel has been fully vetted by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) and has achieved MBDC’s Cradle to Cradle Silver Certification as well as Gold Indoor Air Certification from SCS Global Services.

You get the idea… dive into the research and incorporate as many truly sustainable materials and finishes as possible. Linoleum (made from several natural ingredients including linseed oil) , bamboo, cork and reclaimed wood are excellent flooring choices. But remember, before ordering the greenest product of them all, that if it required a lot of energy to travel around the world to get to your model unit, it might not be the best choice. Keeping it local might be better.

Do you think that showing a green model unit to attract a more eco-conscious demographic would help the leasing effort? Would this only work in luxury buildings?