From an early age, Harith Ridzuan has had a first-hand look at the running of his parents’ furniture factory, One Tech. “When I was younger, my friends would go on trips during school holidays and I would have to go to the factory everyday. I didn’t enjoy it at the time but now, I see how that simple exposure has changed my whole perspective,” he says.
Now, as a director of the family company and founder of Harith Green Carpenter (HGC), Harith has developed HGC’s core values, which include sustainability as its main priority. “Under HGC, our brand DNA is three-pronged: it needs to be sustainable, it needs to be heavy duty, and it needs to have a good design,” he says. Working with sustainable materials and processes requires a complete revamp of the company’s methods, which has fuelled his creativity and helped him create trendy and useful furniture.
HGC works with recycled wood to create unique pieces. Harith goes dumpster diving to retrieve wood pallets, old crates and other materials that can be repurposed. “A lot of people do recycled furniture but we focus more on a fine finish so we process recycled wood to look like new wood.” It is a labour-intensive process that includes disassembling pieces and making sure the wood is strong enough.
“People have this misconception that green furniture or furniture made from recycled materials should cost less but they don’t understand the work involved in making sure it is usable for a second life.” HGC’s furniture is also made with wood from certified sources as well as sustainable wood that includes bamboo and rubberwood.
He emphasises the importance of making quality products, “We want something that can last generations, which is why we choose strong materials.” Most of HGC’s products are based on the wants and needs of its clients. Although the majority of the furniture is made with functionality and toughness in mind, it also makes feature pieces that focus solely on aesthetic appeal. “We do make a few conversation pieces and find that our clients are very happy with them because whenever people visit, they will end up talking about the items, so it helps break the ice,” he says.
“My tagline is ‘Saving the world one piece at a time’. We notice that we can reach more people with smaller items than bigger items,” Harith observes. With that in mind, he started another brand called Dapo, specifically dedicated to environmentally friendly kitchen products. Inspired by his love for food and interest in the products’ niche market potential, Dapo currently sells a range of green serving trays and coasters. It also collaborates with cafes and chefs to create custom-made products. Showing me one of his new pieces, he points out, “We put ‘crafted in Malaysia’ on it, so that you see it is a piece of Malaysia. It’s made of balau wood, so the story is that it is a piece of our heritage because we use that wood to make kampung houses.”
Harith wants to pass on his eco-friendly message to the youth with HGC’s Green Hammer Initiative. “We go to universities and schools to engage with the younger generation. We want to change the policy, mentality and exposure.” HGC also has a Teaching Factory that allows skilled students and interns to learn how they can keep everything environmentally safe.
For Harith, taking a holistic approach towards being green means that all equipment and processes in creating his products are sustainable, and not just the materials. HGC even recycles all its scraps and saves sawdust to sell to other industries. “We are not a furniture company specialising in green products. We are a green company specialising in furniture,” he declares.
This article first appeared on Apr 23, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.