Renting All Your Furniture Means Never Discarding Another Sofa

Plastic-wrapped foam mattresses, dilapidated plastic shelving units, three-legged Ikea chairs—Jay Reno calls this “end-of-life” furniture. And it’s accumulating by the dumpster-full in landfills.

Rather than buying furniture—which comes with the clumsy task of eventually throwing it away—Reno suggests that consumers simply rent it, ideally from his company, Feather.

Feather partners with furniture companies including West Elm, Floyd, Herman Miller, and carries a line of its own pieces designed in-house. Unlike the Rent-a-Center depots that lease overstuffed leather recliners and hefty media consoles, Feather caters specifically to the strata of urbane, young-ish professionals who tend to live in apartments and therefore prefer sleeker, more compact furniture. If one of these pieces breaks, or you move, Feather picks up the furniture, refurbishes it, and rents it to a new home—no need for 1-800-JUNK trucks or bulky item trash collection. The business model, Reno says, is “in harmony with both generating revenue and keeping furniture out of landfills.”

Americans sent nearly 9.7 million tons of furniture to landfills in 2018, up from more than 6.5 million tons in 2000 and equivalent to 80% of all furniture manufactured that year, according to the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA’s report doesn’t wade into the story behind the numbers. But over the last decade, shopping for the home changed dramatically. Wayfair launched in 2011, making affordable, on-trend home furnishings available online. In 2013, Ikea reported that it used 1% of the world’s commercial lumber in its cheap, flat-pack furniture. And Walmart and Amazon are in an arms race to achieve overnight delivery, making it easier than ever for consumers to buy home goods without having seen said goods in person.

These retailers all sell “fast furniture,” which typically requires assembly, but is rarely designed to withstand disassembly and reassembly when its owners move. Legs break, plywood splinters, and veneer cracks. “Then the consumer throws it away,” Reno says. “That’s what we do when something is inconvenient, and we’re done with it.”