Sometimes a company's most effective advertising campaign simply reflects its philosophy.
That's very true of Mountain Lumber of Boone, N.C. Four years ago, founder Dwight Simmons embraced green building and began revamping the company to promote that viewpoint. "From construction techniques to daily business practices, all signs lead to sustainability," the company says.
The lumberyard's award-winning "Build Smart, Source Local" campaign promotes green initiatives without getting into the more contentious parts of the movement. Mountain Lumber does that by offering customers an opportunity to buy North Carolina-made building products. And by doing so, it encourages customers and potential customers to support a local company that offers those products.
As Mountain Lumber puts it: "We believe that if you live in the mountains, build in the mountains, love the mountains, shouldn't your house be of these mountains?"
In fact, through local sourcing, Mountain Lumber's customers can be even greener in the eyes of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) than if they had bought wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). That's because using wood sources from forests fewer than 500 miles from a project site is worth two points in USGBC's LEED program, while buying FSC-certified wood only brings one point.
This year, 77% of the yard's material purchases have been for products either made in the Tar Heel state or produced within 500 miles of Boone, "We have made a commitment to our lumber products, it IS going to come from North Carolina," says Autumn Simmons, Dwight's daughter-in-law, who handled the dealer's "Build Smart. Source Local" ad campaign. For instance, Mountain Lumber says it's the first dealer in the country to sell 100 million board feet of North Carolina grown and harvested Weyerhaeuser Framer Series lumber.
Focusing so heavily on sustainability also gave the dealer a way to distinguish itself from its competition, Autumn says. The campaign's focus on buying local is the easier side of green for the yard's customers to swallow, especially when the price point is the same or only marginally higher than a similar, non-locally made commodity.
"So OK, even if you don't want to save the world, you can at least buy local," says Autumn with good-humored practicality. "We started looking for products we could find locally and regionally–why would you need to go to China or overseas? This resonated more with our builders than the truly environmental concerns."
When the recession hit, contractors' interest in green issues waned a bit. But the dealer's "Build Smart, Source Local" campaign, with its community-oriented message, has hit a nerve. "If we can become a resource and a support system, and a part of this community that can help them source a product, then we'll be OK," Autumn says.
So strong is Mountain Lumber's commitment to sustainability that four staffers have LEED accreditation. Once they did that, the dealer had to add the products that were appropriate for LEED-certified building, Autumn says.
"Our customers are signing onto sustainability," she says, and while they don't adopt all the products available or incorporate all the green building standards in the homes they build, "we'll work with whatever slice of green they want to use."
It's a learning process for both dealer and customer, but as Mountain Lumber wrote in its entry, "Survival for the independent dealer lies in innovation."