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TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jon Blumenauer has been the CEO of The Joinery since 2013. The company specializes in furniture made from sustainable sources.Upcycling vintage furniture is all the rage on crafting sites like Pinterest and Etsy, which highlight DIY projects that crafters sell from their homes or garages.


But if brand new is your style, Portland carpentry companies offer upscale furniture built with sustainable lumber practices so you can have the smallest environmental impact.

One of the best-known is The Joinery, an artisan furniture company in Southeast Portland.

A Certified B Corporation that recently was nominated for the third year to the B Corp’s Best for the Environment list, The Joinery seeks out Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood and salvaged lumber.

Each piece of furniture is crafted by an individual carpenter who signs his work, a source of pride for the artisans.

“Our target demographic is people who are in a higher-level economic class and are willing to make an investment in our people and the (sustainable) process,” says Jon Blumenauer, CEO since November 2013.

The Joinery has been known for its sustainable practices since its founding in 1982. It has solar panels on the roof, a community garden in the backyard of the carpentry shop, and it uses a machine to churn sawdust into briquettes — up to 60,000 pounds annually. Its delivery trucks run on biodiesel.

The Joinery creates furniture with a lifespan of 50 to 75 years.

“You take something out of here, it can be with you for the rest of your life,” Blumenauer says. “We get warranty calls from people who bought in the ‘90s.”

Blumenauer and his team members are in the midst of the Northwest Earth Institute discussion program. On paid time, all 32 of his employees read a series of articles on sustainability issues and discuss them in small groups of eight.

Blumenauer is tackling the problem of invasive juniper trees in Eastern Oregon, using the gnarled wood to create The Joinery’s first line of outdoor furniture. Juniper trees deplete groundwater, endangering native Oregonian species.

The Joinery is in the process of opening a new downtown location in the old Finnigan’s Toy Store location at Southwest Yamhill Street and 9th Avenue. The company hopes its new downtown showroom will attract more customers in their 30s and 40s, Blumenauer says.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Material is cut down to size in the workshop at The Joinery.The Joinery is working as its own subcontractor on its new Westside location, building out the internal architecture with collaboration from the design and sales teams. Part of the reconstruction will include renovating 100-year-old axe-cut beams salvaged from the original building.

Other small furniture businesses in Portland are raising the sustainability bar, like Etsy shops Branched Furniture and A + R Busch. Branched Furniture also sells through a Wordpress blog, using reclaimed, salvaged or vintage material to make furniture. A + R Busch uses environmentally friendly material to combine metal and wood into modern furniture.

There’s also EcoPDX, a three-person brick-and-mortar store on North Interstate Avenue. All the lumber EcoPDX buys is salvaged or storm-damaged wood, almost entirely locally sourced except for the Tropical Salvage line imported from Indonesia.

EcoPDX buys fewer than 10 boards at a time and designs each one into an individual piece of furniture. This means a smaller range of choice in the type of wood. EcoPDX brings in about $30,000 a month. They never say no to anybody’s offering of storm-damaged, salvaged lumber, always creating something useful and beautiful.

“This business model probably wouldn’t work in other places besides Portland,” admits Brian Kelly, partner and co-owner. “It’s a little more expensive to use salvaged, but we hide it in the cost of the furniture.” Their prices range from $200 for side tables and chairs to $1,690 for large dining tables.

The Joinery and EcoPDX buy supplies from Sustainable Northwest Wood, an inner Southeast Portland lumber shop that stocks many varieties of Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood.

Both EcoPDX and The Joinery use sustainable, eco-friendly finishes without harsh chemicals. EcoPDX uses a soft, eco-friendly wax, while The Joinery’s finish includes oils of tung, linseed, soybean and citrus.

The Joinery will be finishing its course with Northwest Earth Institute soon, coming up with more ideas to improve the sustainability of the company and the community. Its Yamhill Street grand opening is scheduled for mid-May.

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