The Fact That Changed Everything: Rose Tourje and Anew Foundation The Fact That Changed Everything: Rose Tourje and Anew Foundation

The Fact That Changed Everything: Rose Tourje and Anew Foundation

by Carren Jao Jessica De Jesus

September 16, 2012

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One day in May 2005, it rained furniture in downtown Los Angeles. From a fifth-story office window on Main Street, desks, drawers, bookcases, and every variety of office equipment were dumped unceremoniously down to the pavement below. Behind a chain link fence, Rose Tourje, then a senior associate at architecture firm Daniel Mann Johnson and Mendenhall, watched and was appalled at the waste. “It went on for a few days. All sorts of furniture you could imagine just came tumbling out the window.”

Every year, about four billion pounds of furniture, carpet and construction waste gets dumped into landfills across the United States, estimates Tourje. Many of it is in good working condition. “[In corporate interior design,] we were informed that materials were in abundance. There was a thrust for building bigger, better, but not for efficiencies and focusing in on a more holistic type of practice.”

It wasn’t until a year into the effort that she found a partner in Bentley Prince Street, her first longterm sponsor and one of the largest carpet manufacturers in the western U.S. “As soon as he heard my story, he motioned to his assistant and there was a very large check to help me underwrite what it was that I was going to do,” recounts Tourje of her meeting with Bentley Prince Street president Anthony Minute, who has since then become ANEW’s Chairman of the Board. One of the carpet manufacturer’s warehouses in the City of Industry now holds ANEW’s stash of donated furniture and fixtures.

In its seven years of operations, ANEW has helped more than 500 organizations in 13 countries around the world with a team of just four people and riding on office relocator InstallNET’s logistics arm. Tourje estimates that ANEW diverts about 9 million pounds of furniture from landfill every year. It is a drop in the bucket to be sure, but Tourje says, “I don’t look at those numbers. I look at the people. I look at the faces and I see the impact we’re doing and I’m encouraged to keep doing it.”

Last year, ANEW and icnonic furniture giant Knoll rolled out Full Circle, a comprehensive program that helps Knoll clients liquidate furniture sustainably by selling, re-purposing or recycling leftover furniture. What ANEW and Knoll can’t save using these three options gets turned into renewable energy using Covanta’s Energy from Waste facilities. ANEW is also working with Kaiser Permanente and HSBC Bank of New York, advising them on sustainable liquidation practices.

Starting from almost nothing, ANEW has built for itself an enviable network of stalwart supporters. This year, they’re looking to build it up even more by working on a series of educational films meant to capture their recipients’ stories and increase awareness. Tourje calls it harnessing the power of one more—one more drop in what she hopes could someday be a tidal wave of sustainability.

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The Fact That Changed Everything: Rose Tourje and Anew Foundation