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Spotlight On...
The Furniture Trust's Eco-Carpentry Challenge

May 11, 2017 by Meghan O'Connor

Each year, The Furniture Trust challenges students from local high schools to compete in their annual Eco-Carpentry Challenge. The Furniture Trust is a nonprofit organization serving the Greater Boston area that seeks to relocate discarded office furniture, with the intent making a positive community impact by donating items to local schools and nonprofits, and decreasing the amount of waste in landfills. Since 2008, they have connected over $11,750,000 worth of office furniture with more than 600 organizations, among them Horizons for Homeless Children and The Boys & Girls Clubs. Their Eco-Carpentry Challenge provides students from various participating high schools 18 weeks to repurpose a package of used office furniture into functional items. The reconstruction process takes place in the schools’ woodworking spaces, and all work is performed by the students themselves. Columbia’s Project Managers Jared Crowley and Neal Swain acted as mentors for two different teams, meeting with the students periodically to provide guidance, feedback, and ideas.


Students from Hopedale High School had a plan in mind for their submission before they even received the materials. The class met with their school’s special education teacher to collaborate on an idea that would be useful and beneficial to students in the special education program. With the help of mentor Jared Crowley, they were extremely successful in creating their vision of a coffee shop that the students in the special education program could manage. The final products consists of three separate pieces: a stationary coffee bar and high-top table for a classroom coffee shop, and a mobile coffee cart featuring a cooler, cash register, and storage for cups. This coffee shop provides the students with a great opportunity to interact with other students and build career skills, not to mention providing a convenient place for students to get their afternoon energy boost!

The submission from Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School was a true team effort. Students from the woodworking and metal fabrication shops collaborated with students in the collision shop, who were responsible for painting an IKEA inspired child’s bedroom set with lots of storage. The set consists of a lofted bed with an additional bed placed perpendicularly underneath it, as well as stairs to the top bed that double as drawers, and a game table and chair. The lower bed also features drawers underneath for added storage. Mentor Neal Swain noted how impressed he was with the craftsmanship, patience, and attention to detail that the students showed throughout the endeavor. The team succeeded in utilizing a CNC router to create a press together table and chair that did not need any tools for assembly. Their hard work will certainly be appreciated, as they are planning to donate the full bedroom set to a family in their community that recently suffered a house fire.


At the showcase event, held at District Hall in Boston, all participating teams’ submissions were judged by a panel of five respected members of the construction industry. Each and every submission was impressive in its own right, but it was Hopedale High School that took home the grand prize for their coffee shop creation! They were given bragging rights for the year as well as a $2,000 check for their school. If you are interested in donating to The Furniture Trust in order to support the Eco-Carpentry Challenge or donate office furnishings, please click here. Great job to all teams involved, and congratulations to Hopedale High School!

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