By Barbara Wood | Special to the Almanac
Nancy Reyering and six other volunteers from Woodside and Portola Valley made a delivery to the Restoration Hardware store in Palo Alto on Wednesday that they hope might send a message to the home furnishings store's corporate headquarters.
They brought nearly 2,000 pounds of catalogs the company recently shipped to local residents, who say they are upset about the waste the unwanted catalogs represent. Each resident had received a huge bundle of as many as 13 large catalogs, wrapped in plastic and weighing up to 17 pounds.
With the catalogs Reyering included a letter asking the corporation to "consider taking a stand as the first truly 'green' retailer by eliminating the printing and mailing of any catalogs."
Reyering, who in 2013 was named an "Environmental Champion" by Woodside's Sustainability and Conservation Committee, wrote that "the most environmentally friendly approach, by far, is not to create and ship these unnecessary, unwanted, and wasteful catalogs."
She also has sent the company a spread sheet with the names of 120 people who want to be taken off Restoration Hardware's mailing list.
After the volunteers began bringing stacks of catalogs through the store's front entrance on hand trucks, store employees quickly asked the volunteers to drop the rest of their delivery at the store's back door. At least four employees with handcarts quickly hustled the stacks of catalogs out of sight.
Employees handed out fliers with what appears to be the company's pre-printed response to complaints about the environmental effect of the catalog deliveries.
"Heavier load = lighter carbon footprint," the fliers read. "Our 13 source books now come to you just once a year, all together in one package. Combined with our carbon-neutral shipping practices and our responsibly sourced paper, that adds up to a significantly reduced impact on the environment."
Reyering and the other volunteers, who included Peter Marsden, Lauren Mang, Erin Broderick and Seldy Nelson from Woodside and Brad Peyton and Laura Stec from Portola Valley, were not buying the explanation.
"They're counting on people having really busy lives and not really thinking about it," said Reyering, who is on Woodside's Architectural and Site Review Board and the Open Space Committee.
"I think this is crazy," said Broderick, a high school student. "Grocery stores aren't allowed to give us paper bags!"
Broderick said that her neighborhood appears to be just receiving the Restoration Hardware deliveries and she will volunteer to return them to the store for her neighbors.
"What if every business did the same type of marketing?" Laura Stec asked.
Restoration Hardware store employees said they were not allowed to comment to the press, and had no phone number for public affairs at corporate headquarters. When contacted via email, a company representative simply emailed the same flier and a link to the company's website and ignored questions about the delivery.
After receiving a 15-pound delivery of catalogs at the end of May, Reyering posted on a community website that she would collect unwanted catalogs and return them to the store.
The response was a bit intimidating, as local residents brought to her home nearly 2,000 pounds of catalogs, with 120 of them in unopened packages and others as loose catalogs. Scores of others contacted Reyering and told her they had already recycled the catalogs or returned them to the store on their own.
"Having to take the time away from (a new baby) to get rid of that stupid catalog was really annoying," one person wrote to her. "I am not sure RH realizes how much they have wasted people's time in addition to wasting the Earth's resources."
Others refused the delivery and had the package of catalogs returned to the store.
Reyering said people continued to bring her more catalogs each day. She said her UPS deliveryman told her he had made 85 deliveries of the catalog packages in one day and that several residents had refused the deliveries. She said 20 people volunteered to help deliver the catalogs back to the local Restoration Hardware store.
One explanation for the chain's sending out so many catalogs may be that it pays off in sales. An article on the Motley Fool website, which writes about investments, reads: "As the catalog shipments from Restoration Hardware have grown larger over the years, the retailer's revenue has risen dramatically as well."
The article says that Restoration Hardware has received complaints in the past about the size and number of its catalogs, but the deliveries "did succeed in getting the retailer the attention and the customers it wanted." Last year the company's revenues increased by 33 percent, the website reads.
Here is a link to a Restoration Hardware page where you can cancel delivery of the catalogs, which the company calls "source books."