Episode 149: Fresh and Functional Eco Furniture with Cisco Bros

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GreenTalk Radio host Sean Daily talks with Cisco Pinedo, owner of Cisco Brothers Corporation, a furniture manufacturer in Los Angeles, California, who is producing an entirely clean and healthy line of sustainable furniture in fresh designs.

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Sean Daily: Hi and welcome to Green Talk, a podcast series from GreenLivingIdeas.com.  Green Talk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world.  We discussed the critical issues facing the global environment today as well as the technologies, products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.

Sean Daily: Hey everybody, this is Sean Daily, welcome to Green Talk Radio from GreenLivingIdeas.com and PersonalLifeMedia and today we’re going to be talking about sustainable living and specifically in regards to furniture and my guest to talk with me about that is a furniture designer and the owner and founder of a furniture, a sustainable furniture company, and his name is Cisco Pinedo, he is  the Founder and Principal of Cisco Brothers.  And, Cisco welcome to the program.

Cisco Pinedo: Thank you Sean.

Sean Daily: Hey so, I understand you got a -- you have a pretty interesting story you -- your family immigrated from Mexico to the United States to the LA area in mid 70s, I think when you were 13 and you got into upholstery manufacturing and then really, you know became a -- today you’re considered a leading designer of a furniture.  Tell us about that story and how you got into -- well, first of all the journey of getting to -- into the industry and then also into making and turning into sustainable design.

Cisco Pinedo: Well, you know when I came to -- into the State, I actually landed in South Central, which is the -- the people that is I’m familiar with -- with LA is kind of a southwest of that town.  And, you know I was 13 years old and kind of a trying to learn the language and I try to adapt the new culture.  And, I bumped into this little upholstery shop that’s needed somebody to kind of a work after school, kind of carrying furniture apart, so the craftsmen can put it back together.  And, you know so I did that for little age, I was 14, into kind of a, you know into high school.  And, that was kind of my introduction to the industry and one of the things that I think and made such a big impact, it was and get me so interested and focused on furniture was that you know, I was -- it was really a challenging for me to when I came in and trying to learn the language and working in the little shop that was -- it was very, it was like -- it’s very rewarding to be able to do something that I can see the result much better than I was seeing result and my -- and my learning is -- an English so it was -- it was a good -- it was a good way to keep things focused and you know the neighborhood was a little bit of tough neighborhood, so it was ---

Sean Daily: South Central does have that reputation as to being ---

Cisco Pinedo: And for -- and for shortly they have a reputation to be top and I think, you know it is -- it is a challenging for the town but nevertheless the people that is -- in that neighborhood is wonderful people but when you’re a teenager you are dealing with a court of a tough neighborhood because you know, the -- you know parents and grandparents and adults by men really you know committing crimes and it was very, very small percentage ---

Sean Daily: Um-hm.

Cisco Pinedo: It’s really the use that -- that you know trying to figure it out and you know they come from a low incomes and families and they just -- you know a lot of free time and kids just don’t have focus the energy in the street and unfortunately you know the society gets -- and the media gets to really put it out there and you know that’s what we know about South Central but, you know it’s a great place, a lot of wonderful people lives here.

Sean Daily: Well I’m curious sir, so from your roots there in South Central, Los Angeles and the works that you were doing then to bring us forward of that what happened after that just sort of bring you into, you know, oh I guess really the question I have is what year did -- I’m always curious about this as when sustainability and green living and green building got first on you rate our screen, do you remember that -- that moment?

Cisco Pinedo: Yeah, I mean we -- I’ve been -- when we -- when I -- a couple of years after I founded the company, you know I stated Cisco Brothers in 1990.  So, about probably 90s we somewhere in there I really thought it, kind of what, just kind of start asking myself, you know where is -- all this wood coming from and that was kind of more of my thinking, you know I grew up in a very-very small village, I mean I’m not even you know quite -- not quite a village it’s more like in the Sierras, and so ---

Sean Daily: It was in Hellisco in Mexico right?

Cisco Pinedo: Hellisco, Mexico.

Sean Daily: Um-hm.

Cisco Pinedo: So I’m very familiar with nature and you know I grew up in nature and that was -- that’s all I knew.  So therefore, you know I start asking myself about -- about where were the trees coming from.  So, what we did is that we put a little program together that on every piece of furnitures that we made, we will plant a tree.  And that was, you know with -- back in the early 90s.  And, can I just -- you know can I left it alone and that was kind of in a way that was a way that we felt like we were contributing to -- to nature and -- and you know probably about five years ago, well the industry was getting a little bit, you know, not consolidating but really almost you know immigrating into Asia and a lot of the manufacturing was going away.  I just sort of asking myself, you know what was Cisco Brothers really you know, place within the industry because my -- I made that you know conscious decision not to go overseas.  So, we started you know kind of a soul searching and saying, you know what really is it’s our role and what -- why is it that you know that -- how can we bring something to the customer that they fear like you know we really what story we want to tell, why should they be buying product that it is more expensive that if you buy from overseas.  So in that, you know in that journey of culture chain I just started analyzing everything that we do and you know I just felt like everything that we were doing was, you know we were paying and living the way it just we were offering people medical, you know insurance and we were -- we had you know, 41K Plan for them, so we were just looking like you know, we’re doing all the right things and then I just went into and said well, what kind of ingredients are we -- are we really, please look at into the ingredients, what is it they were using, you know just because it’s available and that’s what they tell us that we should buy because of what suppliers tell you what is good.  We should start, you know analyzing is really good and I started looking into that and then I realized that you know, they -- there is a lot of ingredients that were used in a furniture where, you know petroleum based.  So, that you know, if one of those things you kind of know but it id\s since you don’t ask then you don’t -- you don’t read the point imprint.  And by the time I got to that point I just realized you know I want to change the way our industry -- I think there is a good, you know people should know that there is other choices, so there is natural materials out there and -- and you know I just remember I went back into when I was carrying furniture apart, remembering that a lot of these furnitures that I tore apart was from you know, 19th Centuries, you know and, and I realized that, you know there was a lot of -- the contents and the ingredients in those piece of furniture or it was horse hair, it was you know cotton, you know rubber, it was -- it was hole nature ingredient.  So, I just went and -- and started researching the natural ingredients and so I started looking for a companies that, you know they had some of this materials and that I want to make sure that they were not adding any chemicals.  So, it was like a process, finally and ---

Sean Daily: I’m curious if you don’t want me stopping there, how you figured that out and I just got off the -- of an interview podcast interview with guest, who Mario Assadi of Greener Printer in Berkeley and he actually is going so far as to taking a video camera to the distributor he’s using and filming their operations with their consent of course and putting on their website so, I’m always fascinated by the process by which manufacturers sort of verified you know, their vendors may -- how’s that process happened for you?

Cisco Pinedo: Well, the process, it was pretty, you know pretty straightforward I just, I just kind of went back and say you know, when -- OK where is the cotton coming from?  And we did a little research and we’ve found out that there was a lot of cotton grown in California that it was organically grown and but they were not, they were not for -- they were not processing any cotton for furniture.  All they were doing was processing you know a cotton for to make textiles.  So, we have to convince -- we have to go and convince to know, the supplier tell them you know there is, there is an opportunity and we will like, you know be, you know to use their cotton and furniture.  And it took a little bit of a word to -- for them to see that there was an opportunity.  But, you know to meet the classic, one of the shipping points that I felt like and it happened to my company is really when I went to -- to my lumber supplier because, you know we used a lot of lumber and when I look deep into the lumber that we were using, even though the lumber they -- we are using it was so, you know grown in the State and in some fashion, you know it’s so-privately owned.  So, they are planting new trees to, you know to keep with demand but when I really look deep into it, we found out that there was -- there was this organization called FSC, FSC.

Sean Daily: Yeah, Forest Stewardship Council, um-hm.

Cisco Pinedo: That’s right.  And, we realized that that was the one organization that really were doing their work, they were really going through the process of making sure that they were auditing companies that they were, you know that they were looking in detail that if they were doing responsively work from planting a tree all the way to a company like ours that is actually making the furniture and selling the furniture.  So, there was chain of custody that it was pretty transparent for people and consumers to see.  So, I went to my supplier and I said to him, you know here’s an opportunity I think you should get certified, I mean you know, we’re buying a lot of wood from you and he cannot then understand it and you know we kind of explain a little bit more and if he just didn’t believe in what we were trying to accomplish, he just -- he just thought we were just, you know like just -- this was not real and we came like six months and then eventually I just when to them and said you know you have 90 days, if you don’t get certified within 90 days I’m going somewhere else.

Sean Daily: Good for you.

Cisco Pinedo: And -- and I went and you know, then the 90 days came and he said, you know I haven’t gone through it and all of a sudden he lost me as a customer and I was his largest account.

Sean Daily: Wow!

Cisco Pinedo: And, I went and found someone who was certified and all of a sudden it was, you know they had overnight, they had this huge account.  And to me that is really you know what, what companies and -- and you know, and as a consumers, you know we are the biggest consumer in the planet.  Then we have a power to go and, and you know and demand, you know the people that we buy this from, you know doesn’t really matter where it could be furniture globing and ---

Sean Daily: Yeah, I know it’s great.

Cisco Pinedo: --- I then -- and put that and say you know what, I want to know who made it, I want to know how was it made, you know and we should say the people that you know ours -- we have this culture that you know we want it now and we want it cheap and I’m hoping that you know we bring in -- we are changing a little bit of that culture and now, just for asking, you know what was it made with and who made it, you know…?

Sean Daily: Yeah, right -- instead of we want it now, we want it cheap, how about you know, we want it soon, we want it reasonably praise but most of all we want a sustainably manufactured.

Cisco Pinedo: Absolutely.

Sean Daily: And with respect and a sustainable lifestyle for the indigenous people on whatever area you might be, you know manufacturing and processing this.

Cisco Pinedo: So, you know so that that to me was really the most telling and -- and I saw the impact and I just, you know so I started with the word and I just started switching every other ingredient, you know now for the first time, we’re going to introduce in April, every leather and every fabric, they will introduce into the market as all natural and certified that we no longer will introduce textiles, conventional textile.  And so, you know, it’s been these steps that were just challenging our vendors and -- and also, you know, making sure that the end consumer knows that they have a choice now that they can buy something that is petroleum, you know free -- a lease you know the ingredients even though we still use petroleum for transportation that are lease the ingredients that they have inside their home is petroleum free.

Sean Daily: And well, Cisco, we’re going to take a break right here for a quick work from my commercial sponsor and then we will be right back talking about sustainable design of furniture, in this case we just did a recent one or another is just sustainable design, so in this case we’re talking about furniture design and we’ll be right back with Cisco Pinedo of Cisco Brothers, thanks everyone.

Male: Carlisle Wide Plank Floors:  We believe in a responsible use and reuse of all our natural resources to discover the beauty of our reclaimed antique wood flooring and give this treasure wood the second life they deserve.  Visit Carlisle and WidePlankFlooring.com.

Sean Daily: OK everybody and we are back talking with Cisco Pinedo of Cisco Brothers, we’re talking about sustainable furniture and furniture design and I’m curious I just wanted to talk a little bit about what do you -- what do you see as a role of designers in sort of creating a greener more sustainable future in general I mean not just for the regards of furniture design but in general?

Cisco Pinedo: Well, you know I -- I choose -- I choose I was part of a panel a few weeks ago and one of the things that that I was explaining to all these designers and they -- they were all into a designer.  And one thing that I was telling them is that you know they are the biggest and someone like there’s the perfect of people to go and deliver the news, to go and tell their new client and say by the way you know that now you can have your whole impair of your home not only that there is environmental materials but now you can, there is there is ingredients that I used in furniture that are good for you that are healthy that you have a healthy choice.  And, you know I can see that their, their eyes were lighting because at the end of the day you know when someone goes and hires the designer, they become the authority in many ways you know the consumer or the client, they have an ideal, you know lifestyle that they live in and they have an idea behind sensibility and the designer job is to -- to deliver you know everything out.  So, when a designer now has the choice that can go o and tell this client by the way, would you be interested and having your home all, you know nature -- with only using environmental friendly materials and making sure that your place is going to be, you know a healthy environment.  There is not going to be up gashing and this in your inside your home, you will live a much healthier, you know life and you will sleep much better I mean to me that you know, that’s a huge opportunity and, and you know designer is a big influence, you know they -- even the way -- even furniture designers or anybody that design we influence in all the buying what people buys.  So ---

Sean Daily: Yeah, and businesses, yes.

Cisco Pinedo: And businesses.  So, when a designer gets hire by a company there is the opportunity all over again, you know you can go to a company, say by the way will you be -- you want me to design this product for you, there is resources now that you can do it with an environmental, you know conscious that is good for the environment, it’s good for -- for society and is good for, you know people tell.  I will be, would you be interested in me telling you about it.  So, I think they are a big influence and I think we should you know as far as responsibility to make it available.

Sean Daily: Pick up the mantle yeah.  So, I’m curious as a client, now this is a question that I asked most of the guest on the show that deal with you know greener versions of services and products that -- that maybe out there conventionally.  As a client if I was to come to you and say you know, I want to go with the more sustainable furniture, what’s the cost premium?

Cisco Pinedo: You know ---

Sean Daily: Or is there one?

Cisco Pinedo: Well, there isn’t, there isn’t.  If you buy a piece of let’s say if you -- you’re going to buy a dining table and all of a sudden that dining table, there is -- made out of recycle wood and instead of using 20 layers of paint, it just has a natural oil on top of this beautiful, you know all piece of wood that we used in as your raw ingredient.  Well, that table is going to be either the same price that a conventional table, which going to cost and sometimes even a little bit less because they’re just less -- less lever and layers of all these paint but you have to put at that product.  When it comes to, you know when it comes to upholstery it might be -- and it might be 10 to 20 percent more if -- if the size that you want to go with this beautiful lush textiles, but if you go with a basic ham for you know certified cotton cover it might be, you know, equivalent or cheaper than a conventional piece that you will buy, you know from one other retail stores.

Sean Daily: Um-hm, OK.  So, but we’re going to take one more quick break and then we’re going to come back and I have one final question for you and we will be right back, we’re talking about sustainable furniture with Cisco Pinedo of Cisco Brothers, you can find him online at CiscoBrothers.com.  We’ll be right back to Green Talk Radio.

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Sean Daily: Everybody, we’re back.  This is Sean Daily with Green Talk Radio, I’m talking today with Cisco Pinedo who is the Founder and Principle of Cisco Brothers and a furniture designer and Cisco I’m just curious you know about one more thing before you have to go today.  You have a technology called Inside Green brand and does so certainly I’m -- can you tell us exactly what -- what that label means?

Cisco Pinedo: Well, what we did is -- what we did is that we decided to take everything that is inside and a piece of furniture, all the ingredients that you need to use, so when you -- when you start -- you know primarily an upholstery, you started with lumber and then you have to use foam and then you have to use some type of fiber and then you use the cover.  Well, before you get to the cover there is at least three or four layers that have ingredients that we do.  So, what we did is that we say, you know we’re going to make sure that all the ingredients inside the piece of furniture are going to be all natural because if we -- if we can control that then we know that we’re giving customers the choice because the cover, you know we don’t have control, somebody might decide to bring their own ---***--- favorite and therefore, you know, there is a limitation.  So, what we did, we replaced regular foam, petroleum based with rubber, you know, rubber that comes from the rubber tree.  So, this tree is not cut.  The only thing that is done is, it gets harder and you end up with a cushion, you know, with rubber that you can make any size cushion the same way that you would use from petroleum base.  And then we replaced the fiber with certified cotton and then replaced, you know, also with 100 percent wool.  So, instead of using foam, petroleum based and fiber petroleum based, we went to a natural ingredient.

Sean Daily: And-and, it sounds like there is not necessarily -- I mean again, I think most people would associate that with their being in price premium but from what you’re saying that’s fairly insignificant.

Cisco Pinedo: It’s very insignificant.  And you know one thong that people to have to also keep in mind is that you know, we’re so used to buy disposable furniture and the problem with disposable furniture is that, you know once it was done with it, it goes to the landfills.  I mean, it’s not like, you can reuse and reuse and when you buy a piece of furniture that is so natural ingredient or guess what, you can either re-upholster it or you can pass it along to, you know, next generations, to your kids or your cousins or your nephew ---

Sean Daily: Right.

Cisco Pinedo: --- because you’re giving them something that is not only that is good for them but you know that is durable and you can pass it along.  So, and it will last three or four times more than the disposal piece of furniture that you buy you know, in the market right now.

Sean Daily: And that is interestingly or you can talk to somebody like, my previous guest Lara Fishman at storm Interiors, who’s an interior designer that specializes in reusing, you know, vintage materials or all the materials in new projects.  So, you know furniture or whatever it might be being recompiled or rug or something being, you know, reincorporated into a newer piece, you know.  These are all durability and long-lasting -- if I can make up that word ---

Cisco Pinedo: Right.

Sean Daily: --- being one of the, you know, the greenest thing that you can possibly do which is something I said on that interview ---

Cisco Pinedo: Absolutely.  You know, we just introduced a line that we call refine and what that -- what it does is that that line, we only make product with found objects and we make lamps, you know we make tables, we make chairs, we make anything that is all with the fine lumber that we find or objects that we, you know, that we might find and turn it into a functional piece of furniture.

Sean Daily: Great.  Well, we are out of time for today Cisco.  I really appreciate you being on the program today and sharing the information and wish you great luck with your company and everything you’re doing and I loved the story about how you actually exercise your corporate processing power to shake somebody off their non-green rear ends you know.  I hope that company has subsequently gone green and got -- they’re losing their biggest customer but it was inspiring.  So, my guest today again has been Cisco Pinedo, who is the Founder and Principal of Cisco Brothers.  They’re online at www.CiscoBrothers.com.  Thanks again Cisco.

Cisco Pinedo: Thank you Sean.

Sean Daily: Thanks is always to everyone listening in today.  Remember for more free on demand podcast, articles, videos and other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at www.GreenLivingIdeas.com.  We’d also love to hear your comments, feedback and questions.  Send us an e-mail at [email protected].

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