Hilary Young
Nov 23, 2017 · 4 min read
First Third lounge chairs and Robert Sukrachand coffee tables at Etsy HQ. [Photo Credit: Emily Andrews]

“The building is a physical manifestation of Etsy’s commitment to seek out new solutions to operate in healthier, more sustainable ways.” — James Ossman, Director of Workplace and Strategic Sourcing, Etsy

In May 2016, Etsy moved into our new Brooklyn headquarters: a creative workspace that meets some of the world’s most rigorous standards for regenerative buildings. Regenerative design goes beyond sustainability — it understands that a building is part of a larger ecosystem, from the materials and furnishings in a space to the food people eat and the air they breathe.

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is organized into seven performance areas, or Petals — like a flower, each Petal gives back more than it takes. In March 2017, Etsy achieved LBC Petal Certification for Materials, Health and Happiness, Beauty, and Place in its Brooklyn headquarters. At the time of certification, Etsy’s headquarters was the largest LBC Petal Certified project in the world — and the only one outfitted almost entirely with handmade and micro-manufactured furniture by Etsy sellers and local artists.

“Etsy has been there for me though some really pivotal moments in my life. I loved the Living Building Challenge and Etsy’s initiative to be sustainable. It goes well with our brand’s ethics and values.” — Ashira Israel, IN.SEK DESIGN, Brooklyn, NY

In.Sek Design light fixtures at Etsy HQ. [Photo Credit: Emily Andrews]

Like Etsy, Ashira Israel of In.Sek Design cares about people and the planet. Her studio is in a LEED-certified, solar-powered building, and Ashira uses responsibly-sourced wood in her products. We hired Brooklyn-based In.Sek to create 50 office tables, 60 reclaimed wood planters, and 100 concrete and wood light fixtures. “Etsy was the first big job that I got when I went out on my own,” Ashira says. “With Etsy and the Living Building Challenge, our company got to be true to our own values. Working with FSC-certified and reclaimed wood or, in some cases fallen wood, is our standard method of operating. Working with non-toxic ingredients, materials, and finishes is also our general protocol.”

As part of the construction process, Etsy team members vetted more than 1,500 items in the space for use of nontoxic materials and supported small and micro-businesses in meeting LBC standards. LBC Petal Certification requires that no object in the building contain toxic “red list” materials or chemicals, and materials must be local and responsibly sourced with reclaimed or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications for wood and Natural Stone Council (NSC) standards for stone.

“Etsy’s commitment to sustainability led the planning and development of our new building, and we chose to pursue LBC certification because it aligned with ourgoals and set a high bar,” says Hilary Young, Sustainability Manager at Etsy. For example, Etsy’s plans included living walls and greenery throughout the building. Working with our design partner, Gensler, the team saw the opportunity to create a cistern that would collect rainwater to feed the plants. We designed a 3,400-gallon roof cistern with direct piping to feed our living walls, and we installed taps on each floor so the people who care for our plants could access the collected rainwater.

While the 200,000-square-foot headquarters was Etsy’s largest building project to date, it’s the sum of a million small moments, from choosing which local Etsy sellers to work with, to picking VOC-free paints, to sourcing LED lights. Every decision helped to create a healthy building that supports our employees, our business, and the community.

Highlights from the seven petals:

o Materials

  • 1500+ unique items vetted to avoid harmful chemicals
  • Handmade and custom furniture from local artists and Etsy sellers
  • Reclaimed, invasive species or FSC-certified wood throughout the project

o Water

  • Rainwater collection cistern feeds the building’s greenery
  • Low-flow fixtures
  • Built-in filtered water dispensers

o Energy

  • On-site solar generated by panels on the roof
  • Smart LED lighting and plug load management on timers
  • Lighting sensors to maximize natural daylight
  • Smart software for data and metering

o Health and happiness

  • Access to daylight for every workstation
  • Green library and greenery throughout the building
  • Breathing room for meditation and yoga
  • Advanced air quality monitoring systems
  • EPA Safer Choice cleaning supplies

o Beauty

  • 500+ Etsy sellers and local makers represented
  • Art galleries in the lobby and Etsytorium
  • Multiple outdoor spaces
  • Roof garden

o Place

  • Renovation and reuse of existing buildings
  • Easy access to public transit
  • Bike storage areas and showers for carbon-neutral commuting
  • Public spaces: Etsy Labs, Etsytorium, ground-floor art gallery

o Equity

  • Gender-inclusive restrooms
  • Thoughtful, accessible parents’ rooms

Etsy Impact

Chronicling Etsy’s efforts to keep commerce human by having a positive impact on our community, our environment, and the global economy.

Hilary Young

Written by

Hilary Young is a senior sustainability manager at Etsy. Before joining Etsy, she worked as a consultant, advising companies on their sustainability strategies.

Etsy Impact

Chronicling Etsy’s efforts to keep commerce human by having a positive impact on our community, our environment, and the global economy.

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