One morning I arrived at work to discover a gurt-big shipping container-sized skip next to the bike shed. A short while later there was a racket outside, and when I looked out my office window I saw workmen destroying dozens of desks and chucking them in the skip. Tables too. All perfectly good furniture just chucked away.
Being opposed to needless waste, I went to our estates office to ask what was happening, only to be told that yes, lots of furniture was considered surplus to requirements and would be headed straight to landfill. Once they had finished with the desks and tables, they'd be starting with chairs. The current tables and chairs did not reflect the university's new branding colour scheme and corporate identity.
I was horrified. I grew up with the motto 'make do and mend', and destroying unbroken furniture merely because they did not meet the corporate colour scheme seemed a huge waste. Especially as there hadn't even been an attempt to donate the furniture to charity or ask staff members if they'd like the furniture for non-public facing offices or their homes. Anything would be better than binning.
In these days of austerity there are several young families in need of good furniture for their homes. I remember when I was newly married – the furniture we had in our lounge were inflatable armchairs we got free by saving up tokens on boxes of breakfast cereal1.
The chairs they were chucking would have been ideal for anyone wanting to be able to sit down. So I asked the Estates department that, as everything was being chucked, would there be any objection to me having a couple of items. I took a close look at some of the over 100 chairs they were chucking. The preparing to bin pile would have been understandable if the chairs were ripped, torn, dented, scratched, stained, distorted, dirty, held together by parcel tape or otherwise broken, but no – they were all fine, fully functional chairs and in very good condition. So in actions that resulted in me being nicknamed 'the Oscar Schindler of furniture' (although the situations aren't really comparable) I rescued a selection of swivel chairs and comfortable cushion chairs and brought them back to my office, which is a backwater room where no-one ever goes. I'd even been able to get away with having Christmas decorations on my desk that did not comply to the university's official Christmas colour scheme of only red and white.
So since yesterday in my office we have an office ratio of five chairs per person. Now all I have to decide is which chair to have as my Monchair, Tueschair, Wedneschair, Thurschair and Frichair…