Green Cabinets Win for Remodeler

The Neil Kelly Co. in Portland, Ore., has taken the lead on being environmentally conscious.

February 10, 2000
Rod Sutton's Editorial Archives

The Neil Kelly Co. in Portland, Ore., has taken the lead on being environmentally conscious. The company looks for environmentally friendly materials and does job site recycling. The real boost for the company, says president Tom Kelly, was three years ago when he met up with The Natural Step, a nonprofit environmental education organization.

"We’ve always been progressive on the environment," he says. "We’ve felt that we as businesspeople--not just as remodelers--need to do our part to be responsible on issues regarding the environment."

Kelly’s involvement with The Natural Step "hit a chord with me," he says. "It made sense about how a company can be responsible, be a good corporate citizen, and at the same time position itself as an environmental company and make money.

"What better way is there than to be a business person and do things you believe in personally?" The long-term corporate goal, which he admits is an "Impossible Dream," is to be a totally sustainable company. "It’s unattainable," he says, "but we can get close to it."

Neil Kelly’s most notable efforts have been on the cabinet side, with its Neil Kelly Cabinets division. The company has run a cabinet shop for 30 years, until recently just supplying custom cabinets for Kelly jobs. About 10 years ago, the company turned the division into a profit center which now has its own dealer network.

It’s here that the environmental philosophy took hold hard and fast. The relationship with The Natural Step, in fact, inspired Tom Kelly to manufacture a cabinet that was environmentally friendly. The resulting line was the Naturals Collection.

The Naturals Collection was developed as an environmentally compatible cabinet line distinguished by its use of certified woods and environmentally friendly finishes. Since developing the line, Neil Kelly Cabinets has expanded the environmental attributes to its other lines as well. Options for all of the cabinet lines include doors, panels and moldings available in certified wood, recycled woods and nonlumber products such as bamboo. Low-toxic, low-VOC clear finishes, water-based, and natural wax and oil finishes are standard. Neil Kelly Cabinets also recently made wheatboard--a formaldehyde-free, straw-based panel product--the standard substrate for all of its cabinets.

The Naturals Collection recently won first place in the semi-custom cabinets category of Kitchen & Bath Business magazine’s Product Innovator Awards. Kelly, who says the company routinely enters any and all awards programs, says this one was unexpected. "We didn’t seek this out," he says. "They came to us."

Rod Sutton is the Editor-in-Chief for Professional Remodler. Please email him with any comments or questions regarding his column.

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