Buying local can be hard. In a globalized economy, much of what we buy is made with imported raw materials. And still more of it is manufactured abroad by American companies.
Even though quality often suffers, the price is usually lower. And that globalizing trend isn’t going to stop anytime soon.
But from a sustainability perspective, and in terms of thriving local economies, the benefits of local sourcing support American businesses more than importing. It is by far the most conscious consumer choice.
The Cost Of Importing
The fact is, a lot of companies in the residence hall furniture market import their raw materials from Indochina. Think rubberwood. Some of them manufacture it there as well.
When it comes to sustainability, outsourcing your supply chain to the other side of the planet is problematic on many levels. It’s not good for our economy, it’s bad for the climate, and it sacrifices local jobs on the altar of cheap foreign labor.
And that’s just the beginning. In some cases, emerging economies will offer up their own natural resources—cutting down precious rainforests and planting rubberwood farms—for short-term profit.
By some estimates, furniture imports from Asia account for 70 percent of the American furniture market. According to an article from the Yale School of Forestry, the U.S. is Vietnam’s largest importer of furniture. Here’s why that’s important.
Since the mid-1990’s the fallout from our appetite for foreign furniture on Vietnam’s forests and biodiversity is hard to fathom.
Illegal logging and unchecked economic development are taking a devastating toll on the forests of Vietnam and neighboring countries, threatening areas of biodiversity so rich that 1,700 species have been discovered in the last 15 years alone.
At DCI, we keep our labor and our supply chain completely local. The benefits of local sourcing extend to local communities, wildlife, the planet, and our customers.
When you’re choosing residence hall furniture, you’re always going to be confronted with this choice.
Local or not?
Granted, it’s hard to visualize and connect to the consequences of that choice when its playing out halfway across the world.
But that’s the challenge.
So let’s break it down and look at why you should consider buying residence hall furniture that’s sourced and manufactured in the United States. Fortunately, it’s not just about stopping all the bad things. It’s also about supporting some really great things.
Here are 6 essential benefits of local sourcing.
1. Climate Change
A lot of schools are becoming savvy to how they can use their purchasing power to support sustainability. For example, one big way that colleges and universities can use their purchasing power to prevent climate change is to buy residence hall furniture that is sourced and manufactured here in the US.
At DCI, we make our furniture from solid hardwood and harvest our logs from within 100 miles of our own sawmill. Those logs then travel a short distance to our manufacturing facility.
If you compare this short supply chain to companies who import wood, plastics, and furniture from Asia, there’s no comparison in terms of the carbon footprint. Through our local supply chain, we eliminate a huge source of carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption.
This pairs well with our zero waste manufacturing facility which is powered almost completely by wood waste from our manufacturing process.
2. Labor Laws
US labor laws and regulations are more supportive than those in China—where workers don’t really have a voice yet—and less developed asian countries where many furniture companies source their materials.
Southeast Asia and China are some of the largest exporters of residence hall furniture.
At DCI, the people who make our furniture get paid competitive wages, and receive health insurance, paid vacation, and a 401k.
In China and Southeast Asia, these benefits don’t exist.
3. Supporting Local Economies
Sourcing from and manufacturing in Asia has other issues. For example, where does the money go? At DCI, it flows into the local small town communities in rural New Hampshire, where 200 local men and women build your furniture.
In Asia, international companies try and get the most for the least. They hire the cheapest labor they can find to get the most profit.
For example in China, which pays its labor more than its competitors in Southeast Asia, the average wage for manufacturing labor is just $1.74/hour.
And remember, those Chinese workers don’t have any bargaining power. There is only one union in China, it’s affiliated with the government, and the local branches are run by the companies.
In contrast, DCI inspires loyalty through caring for our employees and empowering them with competitive compensation.
Some of our employees have even worked here for 35 years. In some cases, we have two and three generations from one family working in the factory.
We aren’t exaggerating when we say that DCI is a family-run business. And when it comes to the benefits of local sourcing, supporting local communities in this way isn’t always obvious.
4. Worker Health and Safety
As an advanced industrial nation, the United States has developed progressive labor practices to safeguard worker health and safety.
Yes, the law mandates worker protections. But more importantly, we are committed to our staff, and we want them to stay with us. That emphasis on safety is a huge priority for us. In southeast Asia, these protections don’t exist.
5. Local Sourcing Saves Money
Because we source all our materials domestically in the United states, mostly within 180 miles of our facility, we save money not just on international shipping, but on taxes, duties, and logistics.
DCI passes those savings on to you.
It’s how we can keep our prices competitive while building much higher quality furniture than companies that import their furniture and materials.
6. Everyone Has A Name And A Face
The president and founder of DCI, Henry Kober, lives a few miles from the manufacturing plant. He knows every employee on the floor. When there’s a production crunch, you’ll find him out there helping with everyone else.
DCI is like a small town community. This is not a large faceless company or a small group of people importing foreign furniture and outsourcing every step of the supply chain.
At DCI, we own every step of the process, from harvesting timber to installing your furniture and everyone has a name, a familiar face, and a local address. The benefits of local sourcing look like these people.
It’s An Ethical Choice
These are just a few of the benefits of local sourcing and they illustrate why buying local residence hall furniture is so important.
If you want your students to know that their tuition dollars are supporting local U.S. economies, protecting worker rights, safeguarding wildlife habitat, and minimizing the carbon footprint of their furniture, then the choice is easy.
To date, DCI is the only vertically integrated American manufacturing company in the residence hall furniture market. That’s something we’re incredibly proud of and we want you to be too.