An Exclusive Interview with Levin Furniture President Robert Levin
by Mia Bencivenga
May 5, 2022
Many business owners are asking themselves the question: what can I do to make my business greener and more sustainable?
After all, consumers are growing increasingly wary about where their products come from and how they’re made. And if you’re a new business — or at least a business that’s new to green practices — the process to get started can feel overwhelming.
That’s why I wanted to take some time to talk to Robert Levin from Levin Furniture. Robert is the president of Levin Furniture and has pioneered many groundbreaking green energy and recycling programs for his business. Based on our conversation, the sustainable practices he puts in place at Levin’s can be an excellent guide for businesses everywhere who want to go green.
My first question was what made Robert want to incorporate sustainability into his business in the first place since it’s not always top-of-mind for business owners.
“Well, I’ve always been interested in environmental issues, and before I was president of Levin I worked with environmental groups,” Robert explained. “I brought this interest into the business and looked into ways to make Levin’s more environmentally sensitive.”
This sheds light on the fact that Levin Furniture began using solar panels in 2004 — years before it became a hot-button issue — or before there were incentives to adopt these practices. In addition to solar panels, Robert mentioned that “LED lighting has saved us an enormous amount of energy. We also have automated light systems — so when a picking machine is achieving product, the light will only come on for the row the machine enters.”
Now, Levin Furniture has completed five rooftop solar projects including their most recent one-megawatt (1000 kilowatt) project at their Westmoreland County distribution facility, which is, to date, the largest retail solar power installation in western Pennsylvania.
But perhaps the most impressive way Robert has made Levin Furniture into a green business is how they treat their packaging materials and old furniture.
“We discovered that we can recycle and resell nearly everything.” And according to Rob, this isn’t just an eco-friendly practice — it’s also highly economical. “I’d recommend businesses look into the market and see if there’s a demand for certain products,” Robert adds. “Most years we can resell wood, glass metal, and recycle electronics and batteries.
Perhaps the most innovative recycling practice at Levin Furniture is the way it recycles Styrofoam. For anyone who has ever bought furniture, you’ll know that most pieces come tightly packed with Styrofoam, as it is a cheap, effective way of protecting products. The bad news is that Styrofoam is, like most things, made of plastic.
That’s where Levin’s Styrofoam densifier comes into play. The Styrofoam goes into a shoot, gets shredded, and then compressed until it becomes a super-dense brick.
“People don’t realize that the Styrofoam bricks are sellable,” Robert explained. “And that’s how we’ve been able to recycle tons and tons of Styrofoam over the years.”
Another way to make a business eco-friendlier is to look for new innovative products that use recycled or sustainable materials. For example, Levin Furniture has turned to a groundbreaking new mattress made by Beautyrest Company that uses recycled ocean plastic waste in its construction. The mattress features recycled ocean plastic as part of the construction. Through the efforts of Beautyrest and the retailers that sell it, Levin Furniture has been able to salvage and reuse 20,000 tons of ocean plastic since the inception of the program.
Of course, the product you sell is one thing, but how the product gets to customers is another big sustainability hurdle for many businesses. Levin Furniture has significantly reduced its carbon footprint by deploying a fleet of hybrid vehicles for its management team and instituting a no-idling rule for delivery trucks. According to Robert, “Basically, when deliveries are made, the car must be shut off to not waste gas. Not only does this help reduce pollution, but it also has the added benefit of saving a lot of money.”
Although Levin Furniture has made a positive impact by adopting these sustainable measures, Robert Levin acknowledges that there’s still a lot he wants to do. “Another big step for us is looking at additional solar power installations.”
Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Robert what other benefits business owners can expect from implementing green practices.
“People like to see companies being involved in environmental, community, and charitable issues,” he said.
“There are many opportunities for business owners to implement green initiatives.” And from Robert’s perspective, it’s certainly been worth it.
“It’s good for morale, the environment, and the business.”