The furniture industry generates about 10 million tons of waste that ends up in U.S. landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While it doesn't get the type of attention that fast fashion does, fast furniture is just as harmful to the environment.
California-based startup Fernish is trying to mitigate that by marketing furniture rentals to a higher-end, professional consumer. Fernish allows its customers to either rent to own, or return the pieces when they're done with them. While furniture rental isn't new, it's often used by consumers who can't afford to buy.
With younger generations more mobile than ever, Fernish's co-founder, Michael Barlow, said the problem was right in front of him.
"After walking by many, many, I'd say, nuclear bombs or furniture on the side of streets in urban metros where I lived or some of our other employees lived, we came up with the idea of reuse, refurbish and recycle," said Barlow.
Barlow said 90% of his customers hadn't heard of furniture rental before finding Fernish. The company's pieces are of higher quality than typical rental companies and therefore easier to refurbish and re-use.
Veronica Droulia and her roommates were recently moving out of small apartments and into a larger townhome in Washington, D.C. They didn't have enough furniture, so they went looking online.
"I really, really, valued the sustainability that Fernish has, and I also just wanted something that felt like a forever piece. As a 25-year-old, I don't know where I'm gonna be next. I don't know where I'm going to move to," she said.
Droulia is a social media influencer, so she made a deal with Fernish to promote the 18 pieces she chose, rather than pay rent on them. If she paid, the bill would be about $900 a month.
Fernish's backers include Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff, former Amazon worldwide consumer CEO Jeff Wilkie, Intuit co-founder Scott Cook, and Khosla Ventures, TechStarts and RET Ventures. Total funding so far: $75 million.