Hospitality: Go green to save green

October 17th, 2014 by TRT Blog

We hear this a lot: “Going green is too costly”. It’s a damaging misconception – damaging to the environment, and damaging to bottom lines. Because the truth is, sustainable practices, products and initiatives more often than not can reduce budgets.

TRT_Hotel imageLast month, the Los Angeles Times’ Hugo Martin, delved into how hoteliers can save some green by going green, citing three studies done by Cornell University professors. While the majority of guests may not spend more money to stay at an environmentally-responsible hotel, establishments with impressive LEED ratings are less expensive to operate, thus generating higher profits.

Sustainable initiatives can stretch to all aspects of hotel operations and maintenance. Energy efficiency cuts costs dramatically, while guest-focused programs such as linen reuse encourage loyalty. It’s also important for hoteliers to remain eco-conscious on big decisions.

As brands evaluate new PIPs and move towards renovation, alternatives to buying new should be considered. By instead choosing furniture asset management – the refinishing, reupholstery or remanufacturing of existing pieces – carbon emissions are dramatically reduced, harmful landfill waste is eradicated and costs are cut.

Take the Doubletree Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina for example. For its specific project scope, new furniture would have cost $403,599.18. Instead, it chose refinishing. Its total cost ended up being only $55,359.00. That’s a 71% cost saving the location was able to reallocate to other needs. And through the use of low-VOC lacquers and on-site work, the project protected the environment.

To learn more about the Cornell studies, please click here. Get in touch with us on Twitter at @RefinishTouch

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Take Our Survey

October 17th, 2014 by admin

How important to you is it to be green in your home or office?

a. I like to be as green as possible
b. I incorporate sustainability whenever I remember
c. Never

Changing the face of procurement – New university policies make campuses greener

October 14th, 2014 by TRT Blog

The higher education industry has evolved in many ways, but to us one of the most important is its embrace of sustainability. Lyn Meany of recently took a deep dive into all of the ways campuses across the United States are getting greener – and the numbers are impressive.

commgreenThere are many reasons for the change, but perhaps not surprisingly, one of the most prominent is competition. As today’s youth becomes more informed on environmental issues, it becomes a larger factor in their decision making – and universities are competing for a smaller student pool than ever.

As providers of sustainable renovation options to colleges and universities, we’re particularly pleased to see the change in procurement policies. The National Association of Educational Procurement and SciQuest found that 65 percent of procurement officials are now required to explore green options before making a purchasing decision.

The Refinishing Touch team provides on-site, eco-friendly refinishing, reupholstery and remanufacturing services to eliminate harmful carbon emissions and unnecessary landfill waste – but it also cuts costs. This is the factor that turns many establishments away from sustainable objects – the misconception that it will raise costs. Through improved procurement policies, colleges and universities are discovering  how untrue this is, and are finally making the right, environmentally responsible decisions.

To learn more from Lyn, please see the full article here. To learn more about furniture asset management, please get in touch today at

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AASHE switches it up: Conference to encompass multiple Portland campuses

October 10th, 2014 by TRT Blog

As regular attendees of industry tradeshows, it’s refreshing to see new ways to add to the visitor experience. One event doing just that is this month’s annual Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference which is being co-hosted by three universities that excel in eco-friendly living.

Sustainability is becoming a deciding factor when choosing a college to attendIn line with the theme: ‘Innovation of Sustainable Economies and Communities’, Lewis & Clark College, Portland Community College and Portland State University will give tours of their campuses to attendees eager to learn more about incorporating sustainable practices.

Lewis & Clark College makes educating today’s youth a priority. Its facilities boast many sustainable products and processes, but it also offers a variety of degrees in the field including an Environmental Studies major, Environmental and Natural Resources Law program and a Ecopsychology in Counseling certificate program.

Down the road at Portland Community College (PCC), AASHE members and public attendees will see the PCC Sustainability program in action. Initiatives such as the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day, the PCC EcoChallenge Team and the Green Initiative Fund have come together to transform the campus into  a living laboratory for environmentalism – and make a major dent in carbon emissions, landfill waste, and to protect the earth’s future.

Portland State University combines research, education and action to instill eco-awareness. Its Sustainability Leadership Center allows students and staff to volunteer, educate, learn and make a lasting difference on the campus, community and environment. Just prior to the AASHE conference, the school will even be hosting its own sustainability day.

Each of these schools will offer unique and actionable insights into sustainability in practice and in education to AASHE attendees. We are looking forward to all that Portland has to offer, and all of the changes we’ll see in higher education as a result.

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Take Our Survey

October 7th, 2014 by admin

As a college student, would you be willing to pay more to live in an environmentally friendly dorm?

a. Yes
b. No
c. It depends on how much more

Defense Communities: We share our views on the budgetary and environmental case for furniture asset management

October 7th, 2014 by TRT Blog

We’re pleased to announce that this month’s issue of Defense Communities ran an article by our founder and president, Mario Insenga.

Refinish and saveIf you’re not familiar with Defense Communities, it’s the ‘go-to’ communication link for military housing professionals and defense facilities managers worldwide, published by the Professional Housing Management Association (PHMA).

The article: ‘Refinish and Save: Making the budgetary and environmental case for furniture asset management’ shares some of our experience gained from working in defense and military projects for over 35 years. Penned by Mario, it gives insight into protecting existing investments and resources when furnishing legislative or congressional offices, military housing units, or the Department of Defense with furniture asset management.

An example of furniture asset management in action shared in the article was the refinishing project at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. It needed 3,000-plus pieces of furniture to be replaced, which had an estimated cost of $1.1 million. Instead, we refurnished and reupholstered those pieces onsite reducing the cost to $268,000 – a savings of 74 percent.

This innovative way of thinking about furniture assets in government facilities goes hand-in-hand with a best practices policy, which is beneficial in any industry. This includes establishing furniture maintenance guidelines, robust inventory tracking, and clear documentation of cost savings over time.

To read the full article, you can subscribe to Defense Communities here. If you have any questions about furniture asset management then email us at

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University challenge: What role should government funding play?

October 3rd, 2014 by TRT Blog

After 35 years of working in the education sector, we understand the juggling act that campus facilities can face around budgets and funding. Sometimes university management needs to innovate its approach when it comes to fund sourcing.

One unfolding story we’ve been keeping our eye on, for example, is the University of Minnesota’s attempts to secure state funding for building maintenance. The university needs to repair 37 buildings. And while no one is arguing about the need to fix and preserve these historic structures, the university’s approach — requesting additional funding from the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Renovation (HEAPR) fund — is a plan that has sparked debate.

The university has proposed an additional $5 million for two years, with the suggestion that the university will then lower its fund requests to HEAPR by the same amount for the following years.

The University of Minnesota has 29 million square feet split over its campuses in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Morris, Crookston and Rochester. A quarter of its buildings are more than 70 years old; the need for repairs is very real. One report from the university’s facilities and operations committee in fall 2014 found that almost a sixth of the buildings on campus are in “‘critical condition”. We know from the hundreds of client education projects we have had a hand in that many universities and colleges face increasing financial demands for building maintenance each and every year.

There’s an interesting political and legal backdrop to the discussion about what proportion of state funding should be given to education, and the ‘fairness’ of additional funding.  Government funds are tight, and legislators need to ensure that they are representing a state’s interests outside education. The chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, Rep. Alice Hausman, acknowledged that passing bonding bills is challenging. These bills need to be passed to clear HEAPR funds.  She also shared the need to balance spend across sectors: “Some people worry we have overbuilt higher education in the state,” she said, speaking to the Minnesota Daily.

The larger question: how will already-stretched university budgets be able to depend on government-based funding, such as HEAPR funds?  Mike Berthelsen, associate vice president of facilities management for the University of Minnesota, noted that building maintenance, on the other hand, is constant: “While past HEAPR requests have been sporadic, the aging of facilities is predictable.”

We think the whole story of the University of Minnesota triggers a relevant discussion point around financial resources and how much universities can rely on government funds such as HEAPR. The other question — shared in Hausman’s interview — is how can states more efficiently use the buildings they have?

Both questions are important. Having completed hundreds of education and university projects, we know that budgets are challenging. We agree that buildings are not used efficiently; in fact, our recent analysis of government buildings included figures on that very topic.

Meanwhile, education administrators are under pressure to freeze or lower student fees in the face of rising costs. Government funding can be irregular, scattered.  Yet we also see unnecessary budget spend and asset waste in education, and the need to change ideas and practices. We work with institutions such as California State, Duke, Cornell and Eastern Michigan universities and help them make the most of existing budgets by introducing best practices in furniture asset management — a substantial line item.  We help universities establish a process to review existing furniture assets and view them as just that —assets — rather than disposable commodities.  Our customers — university facility and operation managers — save an average of 80 percent on costs when compared to purchasing new furniture, allowing for re-allocation of that (much-needed) money within the budget.  We know the preservation of assets is an important lesson for many universities.

Want to know more about how we help universities and education? Please email us at

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Take Our Survey

September 30th, 2014 by admin

As a hotelier, how green would you say your hotel is?

a. Very
b. Somewhat, but it could be improved
c. Not at all

Sustainable spotlight: Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability (NBIS)

September 30th, 2014 by TRT Blog

One of the best parts about working to make the world a greener place is the opportunity to learn from others that share our vision. This week, we spoke with Mary Rose and Karl Ostrom – executive directors at the Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability (NBIS) of Seattle, Washington – about its latest ventures in sustainability.

Mary and Karl founded NBIS in 2003 with a mission of guiding regional businesses, across sectors and industries, towards best practices that create healthy ecosystems and prosperous communities through the power of business. Over the past year alone, NBIS has made a significant difference.

NBIS’ By-Product Synergy NW, is a long-running initiative bringing companies together to reuse and repurpose waste into new products. In conjunction with this, NBIS has developed an online portal, the Materials Innovation Exchange, which provides users an outlet to sell, buy, trade or donate a variety of products ranging from heavy-duty industrial equipment and chemicals to fabrics, plastic and wood. The Materials Innovation Exchange helps turn waste to revenue by showcasing innovative reuse strategies for unneeded materials.

Mary Rose, co-director, NBIS:

Mary Rose, co-director, NBIS:

“We’ve been working with business leaders on new strategies for accelerating sustainability to reduce impact,” said Mary.  A recent whitepaper by Karl, New Challenges Reshaping Corporate Social Responsibility, highlights the importance of this work and urges all businesses to incorporate visionary benchmarks of environmentally and socially responsible business performance into their frameworks.

“The goal is to illustrate the need for more aggressive sustainability leadership to move beyond incrementalism. We aren’t going fast enough and we’re not having the impact that the planet needs,” Mary continued.

Leading responsible businesses doesn’t come without its challenges. Mary stated the need for collective and collaborative strategies to break down common barriers, such as the: “race to the bottom – the pressure for lower prices, lower wages, and all the pressures that keep companies from taking full responsibility for their impacts.”

Karl shed light on the damaging anti-regulatory mindset of many companies, “They need regulation to level the playing field when it comes to getting rid of toxic chemicals or lowering carbon footprints in supply chains. They really need to learn to work together to lobby government for policies that make sustainability the profitable thing to do. Instead of rewarding the people that externalize environmental and social impacts, the marketplace uniformly needs to allow everybody to do the right thing without reducing their own competitive advantage. Everybody can win, but it requires a different mindset.”

NBIS advice? Build strong relationships, learn from each other and showcase sustainable success. Developing business coalitions to address challenges collectively is the foundation for innovative, win-win solutions.

To learn more about NBIS, please visit their website here. To be featured on our blog, get in touch today!

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Blog poll result: Getting real with government

September 26th, 2014 by TRT Blog

Our weekly blog polls allow us to share and get feedback on what’s been on our minds – and recently that’s been local government. We think that governmental entities and public figures, as the decision makers for communities across North America, need to take a stance on environment protection and sustainability.

For more than 35 years, we’ve worked with all levels of government to reinforce best practice  furniture asset management solutions. Our proven, long-trusted services protect budget spend, reduce landfill waste and drastically reduce carbon emissions. But, it’s not all about furniture. It’s about advocacy.

So we asked you a few questions. First – does your local government enforce recycling? 75% of respondents said that it is not enforced, but is an option.  25% that there are no available resources allowing them to recycle. None of you reported that recycling is strictly enforced in your hometown.

Second – are sustainable efforts in your local government buildings prevalent? 50% of you felt that the government’s proactive nature depended upon a specific season or event, such as Earth Day, while the remaining half of respondents said no – sustainability never takes center stage.

Last but not least, we asked if you feel the government sector in general incorporates environmental principles into core objectives. The answer was unanimous – they could be doing more.

Do you agree with these responses? Let us know what you think on Twitter at @RefinishTouch and be sure to check back for more blog polls. 

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