Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy tool that makes producers legally and financially responsible for mitigating the environmental impacts of their products and packaging.” (Upstream)
This is largely based on the principles and understanding that manufacturers have the most knowledge of and influence over product design and are therefore also the most well-suited to manage products at the end-of-life stage. EPR policies leverage institutional power to reduce product waste by encouraging more sustainable, repairable, and reusable designs in the first place. It also sets the expectation that if a producer creates a product, there needs to be circular systems and mechanisms in place from the start, as opposed to perpetuating the linear take-make-waste models. While there is an acknowledgment that individuals drive demand with their purchasing, EPR policies redirect the ultimate ownership back to the producer.
EPR can outline clear and standardized approaches to managing certain types of materials and waste, as well as promote more transparency in making and substantiating claims of sustainability. All products inherently impact the environment throughout their lifecycle, so the longer they stay in use and are recirculated, the better. EPR with strong measurement, tracking, and reporting requirements can increase awareness of environmental impacts and help reduce greenwashing.
To date, the majority of EPR policies center more on recycling, which is a good start but not as impactful. The key to unlocking the full potential of EPR is to require practices and infrastructure that more effectively decrease resource extraction, energy consumption, climate pollution, and waste generated at end-of-life. EPR needs to prioritize reduction, repair, and reuse over recycling. Recycling is important when recycled content offsets the demand for virgin materials but it doesn’t eliminate the impacts that are still generated during the manufacturing phase. Reusable materials, products, and packaging are key to avoiding these impacts, reducing emissions and wastes, while also promoting the circular economy.
Current EPR LegislationSo, where is reuse-oriented EPR being done? Here in Minnesota, reusers are celebrating the passing of the Digital Fair Repair law during the 2023 legislative sessions, making it easier for consumers and small businesses to fix phones, computers, equipment, appliances, and so on. While typically not identified as an EPR bill, this legislation nonetheless is a critical step towards expanding electronics reuse and setting expectations that manufacturers are required to participate - even if just by making parts, documentation, software, and tools available to the public.
Many other states are developing EPR legislation, notably within the world of packaging. Maine and Oregon were first to implement laws in 2021, followed by California and Colorado in 2022, and New Jersey and Washington in 2023. The level of reuse investment in these bills varies, but hopefully, efforts will continue to prioritize this, and programs will be established. EPR is certainly on the rise in the United States, with many other states considering similar changes. More legislation is expected in the future as momentum continues, including Minnesota with an EPR for packaging and paper products (PPP) in development.
Becoming completely “zero waste” is most certainly a challenge, but with more EPR that prioritizes sustainable design, reuse and repairability, and circular infrastructure, there are clear opportunities for reducing the environmental impacts and waste generation of our products and materials. The best thing we can do is to work with policymakers and industry leaders to move towards more holistic ownership of products, more equitable distribution of financial and managerial responsibility, and ground legislation in more waste reduction, repair, and reuse whenever possible.
Reuse Minnesota has been building partnerships for over 10 years. In this blog post shared by Bridging, learn more about our work, or growth, and why our collaboration has been so valuable to the community. Bridging was a founding member of Reuse Minnesota and their participation within our organization and network has been incredibly valuable.
We thank Bridging for supporting our work from the start and continuing to find innovative ways to promote reuse.
Read the Bridging post here.
Reuse and the Minnesota State Fair might not seem like topics that go hand in hand, but with a little planning, anyone attending the Great Minnesota Get Together can help reduce the amount of stuff that ends up discarded.
Along with the sunscreen and comfy walking shoes, be sure to add these items to your packing list:
In addition to what you pack, it is also useful to think about items you might pick up at the fair and bring home, especially the freebies. We know these are seen as important marketing tools for businesses, but they are often items that are redundant to what we already have (looking at you reusable water bottles) or are things that will quickly end up discarded, such as keychains or squishy earth-shaped balls. Often we don't realize until an item is already in our hands and we are walking away that we've picked up something we don't want. If you give some thought to this ahead of time, it is an easy way to make sure you only take home items you want and will use. Similarly, if you have a smartphone, instead of picking up flyers or business cards, consider snapping a picture or scanning a QR code.
And a final tip, be sure to stop by the Eco Experience building in the northeast corner of the fairgrounds and find your way back to the reuse and repair table (look for the big moose)! Reuse Minnesota staff and board members will be there on the first two days of the fair doing reuse trivia with our "new" spin wheel custom made from scrap and reclaimed wood! Many of our member organizations will be there the rest of the days. Several will have prize drawings for gift certificates to shop used, memberships, or classes. Check out the schedule here.
See you at the fair!
The move-in and move-out days at college can be some of the most hectic times on campus. For out-of-state students and those living in the campus residence halls, managing and storing furniture, supplies, and equipment can be difficult during the summer. Some items are only needed for a year and often end up being tossed or tucked away in a basement. It’s not always clear how to engage in sustainable use and reuse as a college student, but some universities are pursuing initiatives to make it easier and more accessible.
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota ReUse Program operates a Pack & Give Back program, a semi-annual donation sort in which materials from the college community are collected and then offered for free to students. This program runs at the end of each semester and aims to divert usable goods from the campus waste stream and reduce the demand for new purchases.
Another service the University of Minnesota ReUse Program provides is the summer storage program. The program began in 2020 when the pandemic required the storage of student-owned materials since many were not about to return to campus after spring break. Since then, it has become a resource for students needing short-term storage for small items. Participating students receive a triple wall box to pack their items for storage and pay $40 per box for the duration of the summer. From there, the boxes are stored in a university warehouse that uses pallet racking. There are currently 175 students who have taken advantage of the opportunity, totaling up to 26,592 pounds of materials stored. More students are anticipated to sign up when leases end throughout August. Unclaimed items are held for ninety days and then donated to the Pack & Give Back program.
Macalester College features zero waste programs on its sustainability page, including free swaps, a free garage sale after move-out, and “Make Art Not Waste” - an annual student-led Earth Week event encouraging students to engage in environmental activism through art created by materials destined for the landfill. University-level reuse and waste reduction programs are essential in fostering sustainable minds and empowering students to continue championing the climate movement through academia, advocacy, and action.
Are you a college student looking to pick up more sustainable habits, for environmental or economic reasons? Check out Hennepin County’s budget-friendly sustainable living guide for college students, keep an eye out for community reuse or repair activities, and encourage your university to initiate these programs that support more sustainable reuse options, particularly during move-in/move-out!
Secondhand shopping has been receiving more attention as an affordable, sustainable, and engaging way to find clothing, home goods, and more. Operating primarily on a donation basis, thrift stores serve an important role in the circular economy, keeping materials from landfill and connecting them with shoppers. Secondhand shopping—in addition to its affordability and more sustainable model—serves an important social purpose. Thrift stores serve communities all around us by providing an accessible way to engage in reuse.
Reused goods are typically more affordable than new ones. While some antique or vintage items may cost more than their new counterparts, a majority of the secondhand market consists of quality, affordable goods seeking a new home.
Thrift stores boast diversity in the clothing department compared to chain retailers. While not all of the clothing may be your style, there are always some hidden gems on the shelves. Additionally, buying clothes at thrift stores provides a low-cost way to try out new styles to see what works for you!
Many people thrift for its social benefits: a more engaging experience, to bond with friends and family, or to browse local and vintage clothing and goods. Many thrift store regulars build relationships with retail employees and choose to shop at the thrift store first. Reuse is an excellent way to build connections and explore local goods, opportunities, and even friendships!
Your dollar can go further at thrift stores than it can when buying new. Many rely on thrift stores as the more budget-friendly option. These stores play an important role in connecting people with quality, and necessary goods. Consider exploring some mission-based reuse retailers in your area and learn where to donate your unneeded items. Donate Good Stuff is a great resource for learning where to donate items you no longer need!
Sometimes the most unexpected discoveries are the most exciting. Browsing a thrift store is a great way to find your new favorite pair of jeans or the perfect painting for your living room. Secondhand shopping provides an affordable way to find the items that will brighten your space and complement your wardrobe.
Thrifting, especially at larger reuse stores, can be intimidating at first. With so much to look through, it feels like you can be there for hours. And you can! But you can also be there for only twenty minutes. Knowing how you shop best can turn a trip to the thrift store into a leisure activity. There is no best way to shop secondhand, but here are some tips if you’re looking to try it out:
Stick to one or two departments, depending on what you’re looking for at the time.
Don’t go in with overly specific expectations. Inventory is always changing, so being flexible is important and will result in an opportunity for creativity. Alternatively, if you know exactly what you need, such as a specific item for your kitchen, write those things down so you can always keep an eye out for them when you make a thrift shop stop.
Invite friends and make it an event with dedicated time. With so many great finds hidden throughout the store, you don’t want to be too rushed!
Have a plan, be creative, and allow yourself the time to find the next best thing for your home and/or wardrobe.
For a more tailored experience, consider Arc Value Village’s personal shopper service. This unique opportunity is great for people who have a particular style in mind.
See Hennepin County’s Guide for great thrifting for store recommendations and more!
Some secondhand shoppers see thrifting as a formative experience on how they shop and spend their money. Three current Minnesota GreenCorps members shared their varied experiences with thrift shopping, how they were introduced, and what it has meant for them.
Heidi shared that her first time thrifting was in the 4th grade and was part of a money lesson. With $100, she could get bags full of clothes from secondhand stores compared to just a few items from the mall. She and her mom ended up skipping the mall that day.
Abby shared that her introduction to thrifting came from a sense of environmental consciousness. It is no secret that the rise of fast fashion has its impacts across the globe. Eco-minded shoppers benefit from not only the affordability of reuse but also by supporting the circular economy by buying what exists in their community and sparing the environmental costs of new material production and transportation. In this case, Abby’s passion for reuse inspired her to study sustainability and adopt many sustainable habits.
Many thrift shoppers care about the quality of goods, choosing to seek out vintage clothing for its higher durability. Through thrifting, Claire grew to appreciate the design and craftsmanship of vintage and handmade clothing. While some items had wear and tear, she said it encouraged her to develop her sewing and embroidery skills, allowing her to personalize and repair an otherwise perfect and unique piece of clothing. What a great way to keep clothing in use longer!
Want to share your experiences shopping secondhand? Click here!
Everyday People Clothing Exchange
Thred Up (online)
MyThriftStores St Paul
St. Vincent de Paul
Reuse Minnesota staff picks:
Arc’s Value Village
Free Geek Twin Cities
Old School by Steeple People
PRISM’s Shop for Change
Anybody can learn to be stewards of the planet, even preschoolers! In response to pressing global environmental issues, youth education and building sustainable habits are more important than ever.
If you ask the Minnesota Cloth Diaper Bank, it’s best to start practicing reuse when kids are very young. Single-use diapers can be costly, environmentally and financially; so much so that 1 in 3 Minnesota families struggle to obtain a sufficient supply of diapers while about 20 billion disposable diapers are thrown out each year in the United States. Cloth diapering, while requiring a financial investment initially, aims to address both issues.
Do you find yourself struggling to keep up with your kids’ changing interests or finding new and stimulating toys for playtime? Save time and money by joining the Minneapolis Toy Library! They have a variety of membership levels to choose from. Much like borrowing a book, the toy library has a large selection of toys for kids through age five. You’ll save money from not having to buy new toys and your children will have plenty of toys to choose from!
Similarly, the clothing, gear, and supplies needs of children are constantly changing. The shift in seasons and clothing sizes are reasons to consider renting clothing or shopping secondhand for your little one instead of buying new. This can be more affordable and helps avoid the need to store clothing your children have grown out of. Inventory will vary, but see what options are available in the Twin Cities area at LittlesGo and Baby Gear Group. Children’s clothing and supplies rental can be a great option for families looking to incorporate more reuse and save some time, money, and the environment! Moreover, these platforms are perfect for one-time needs or trying things out before you commit to purchasing.
An additional resource to consider are the county fix-it clinics operated by several of the Twin Cities metro counties. Volunteers come prepared to help you and teach you how to fix broken toys, mend tears and holes in a favorite pair of jeans, or repair a lamp that was knocked over in last week’s invigorating game of tag. Click here to learn more about fix-it clinics, check Reuse Minnesota’s website to see if there is a fix-it clinic scheduled near you soon, and gather some things that could use a repair.
Sustainable and simple habits make big impacts. Young children can be taught the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle. Modeling these behaviors yourself is a wonderful way to teach children! One way to demonstrate reuse in your family is to switch to reusables, like a lunchbox or water bottle. You can also be more creatively engaging by making arts and crafts with repurposed materials. Take some time with your family and brainstorm ways to cut down on single-use waste and get creative with how you and your children engage and understand “waste.”
Recently, Reuse Minnesota Executive Director, Emily Barker joined Natalie Heneghan, former Rethos Education Manager who now works for Habitat for Humanity La Crosse, for an online class centered around Reuse for Real Estate.
The class introduced Minnesota real estate agents to climate-conscious resources that they can pass along to their clients. While many consumers think sustainability requires new "green" products, reused materials are our best option to reduce our carbon emissions and energy usage. The goal of the class is to equip real estate agents with the most up-to-date and localized resources in the Twin Cities reuse economy.
In the class, real estate professionals learned about the environmental, social, and economic benefits of reuse in Minnesota and how they can take part in sustainable living and material management. Before making specific recommendations for real estate agents and building owners, the instructors covered how reuse lowers greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for new materials and giving the old materials new life. Reuse in real estate also greatly reduces the amount of bulky and heavy materials sent off to landfills. Specific topics covered included:
Ways to sustainably and reliably maintain your home: Small projects add up to big reductions in energy costs, wasteful renovations or repairs, and operational emissions
Resources for DIY reuse projects: Online and local resources for guidance and knowledge for various DIY reuse projects in and around your home
Deconstruction and salvage: Sustainable alternatives to the demolition of buildings including information on properties and projects that may qualify for grant funding. (Currently only in Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington counties.)
Reuse of building materials and the best places to buy used materials: Where you can participate in the circular economy and “close the loop” by buying used and often vintage building materials, home goods, and furniture.
Sustainable management of unwanted household items: With warmer weather comes spring cleaning. Tips for managing unwanted home goods, where to donate, and reducing waste generated from downsizing.
And more!Fix-it clinics, the Twin Cities salvage market, and how reuse in real estate can reduce costs, particularly for new homeowners.
While old homes may deter potential homebuyers, these properties have a history that can be told and sold. Old homes have character and cultural significance that new homes cannot compete with. With some simple DIY projects, we can preserve the history and uniqueness of old homes and address any flaws that may concern home buyers. There is value in historic homes and buildings. Reuse starts with you. Reuse Minnesota and Rethos invite you to learn how you can make an impact by engaging in reuse from your home and community.
Happy New Year from Reuse Minnesota! This season allows us to reflect on our year and gives us the chance to make the changes we’ve been looking to make. Regardless of your 2023 resolutions and goals, remember to be proud of the work accomplished this past year and to keep an eye out for opportunities to come.
When viewing the magnitude of environmental issues, it can be easy to become overwhelmed, but don’t worry! If you are looking to live more sustainably and incorporate reuse and repair into your everyday life, start with habits that make sense for you. For individuals just starting to think about reuse in their lives, a good first step is to incorporate reusable items for everyday convenience. This could be putting tote bags in your car for shopping, packing a reusable water bottle or straw with you , or purchasing items that are sold in reusable packaging. If you have already incorporated these changes into your routine, consider bringing your reusable containers to restaurants for leftovers, or to grocery stores for produce and bulk items.
If you are looking to challenge yourself in the new year and make the biggest impact, start thinking about where you do your shopping and choose the most sustainable options. Learn where you can shop for reused items in the Twin Cities area on Reuse Minnesota’s member directory. If you need some new-to-you clothes, decor, or entertainment consider shopping second hand. You'll save some money and find one-of-a-kind items! Planning a remodel in 2023? Be sure to incorporate reused materials into your design and take any usable items you remove to one of our members who sell used building materials.
If being more creative is one of your resolutions for 2023, take the time to think of ways to repurpose household items and think creatively about reuse.. There are many different DIY projects that you can pursue with materials that would otherwise be considered waste. And if you are not a DIY type, check with your local schools or childcare centers, as many will gladly accept items such as excess craft supplies, magazines, and egg cartons.
If you are looking for more information or ways to be sustainable in the new year, read this Living Green 365 post from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and check out the resources we have available on our website. To help motivate you, we share our staff and board’s reuse resolutions for 2023 in the video below!
This holiday season, “think outside the box” when packaging your gifts! Your home (and recycling bin) may already contain items that make great alternatives to traditional wrapping paper and gift boxes. Single-use food packaging is perfect to reuse when packaging toys or clothes. Household linens like blankets or pillowcases can easily accommodate large or bulky items. Most of the time, the whole point of wrapping gifts is creating a brief moment of surprise, which can easily be accomplished without purchasing additional single-use items and creating more waste.
Here are Reuse Minnesota’s eco-friendly packaging and wrapping tips for you. Save money and time by reusing and repurposing supplies already in your home! Watch our video! Sustainable gift wrapping hacks video.mp4
Use empty food packaging containers. Rinse and reuse plastic clamshell containers or berry baskets. Take empty cereal or snack boxes and turn them into gift boxes. When you’re finished with a tin of nuts or cookies, save them to refill with homemade goodies and treats. Empty glass jars are great at disguising the wrapped item since the extra weight stumps those trying to shake presents to guess what’s inside!
Think beyond traditional wrapping paper. Wrapping paper can rip or tear if you have an awkwardly shaped gift. Instead use textiles around your house that can serve as “wrapping paper.” Lightweight blankets, scarves, sheets, or towels all make great substitutes. Research fabric wraps or furoshiki to learn how to wrap presents with fabric, or keep it simple and toss the fabric over the item before it’s handed off to unwrap.
Make your own reusable fabric wrap or bags. Put your sewing skills to use and create your own supply of reusable fabric wraps or gift bags using scraps and rags.
Reuse holiday cards as gift tags or embellishments. Holiday cards have the potential to be upcycled into fun crafts. Cut out or trace parts of a holiday card you’d like to reuse. You can use a roll of masking tape or a coffee cup to trace a perfect circle. Cookie cutters offer fun shapes you can use to trace too! Use your new cutouts as gift tags or decorate your package with the new embellishments.
Reuse gifting supplies you already have. Save boxes, bags, ribbons, bows, and tissue paper and reuse them the following year. It’s important to note that most recycling haulers do not accept gift wrap or tissue paper. Your best choice is to not use them at all, or reuse as much as you can. After giving a gift, feel free to ask if the receiver plans to reuse the wrap/big/tissue - if they aren’t, offer to take it to use again (that may feel awkward the first time you ask, but it shouldn’t! It’s better to not have it go to waste.). When you gather with friends and family, remember your gift wrap container and announce early on that you intend to reuse as much of the single-use wrapping people don’t want to reuse themselves. As people unwrap, fold and stash the unwanted pieces to have less to sort and clean up later.
Plan a scavenger hunt for gifts and skip gift wrapping altogether. Carefully placed clues makes the anticipation of finding the gift even more exciting. By the time your recipient finally gets to the last clue, they may be thankful they don’t have to unwrap the gift!
Giving gifts in non-traditional packaging encourages conversation around your intentions to use fewer resources and reuse what you already have. Not only are you giving a gift, but you’re also opening your recipient’s eyes to the possibilities of reuse and intentional lifestyle choices. You can also consider starting the conversation before giving your gift - reach out to family and friends to encourage everyone to wrap gifts more sustainably this year. It can even be a game to see who has the most creative reuse for their gift wrapping!
Which of these eco-friendly gift-wrapping ideas will you try this year?
Today is National Regifting Day! While it’s beneficial to have a specific day for this concept, we believe it is a mindset to celebrate all year long.
Regifting is the act of taking a gift you’ve received and giving it to someone else. Doesn’t seem too difficult, does it? After all, sometimes we don’t have a need or want for an item. Maybe you have a fragrance sensitivity to lotions or candles, but you know someone else that loves to have a variety of body products or scents in their home. Or perhaps you have plenty of sweaters and don’t need to drive demand for the production of more clothing in the fashion industry. What are the best options when someone gives you an unwanted gift?
Don’t clutter your home, store an unused item, and contribute to society’s over consumption of products. Instead, consider passing it along to someone else, or resetting expectations that gifts aren’t needed for the occasion. Gifts don’t always have to be shiny and new to be appreciated! One that is chosen with intention and thoughtfulness will have more meaning to its recipient.
Reuse Minnesota has come up with some regifting strategies to help get you through any gift giving or gift receiving scenarios.
Tips for regifting
Examples of items to regift
There are many reasons to consider regifting. Besides being an acceptable and normal thing to do, it’s also economical and environmentally friendly. Whether you are regifting secondhand or new items, or having that discussion that gifts don’t need to be the focus, you are showing your appreciation for the other person’s friendship, support, and love!
Reuse Minnesota was founded in 2012 and is a member-based nonprofit that supports repair, resale, and rental businesses, bringing visibility to the reuse sector as a means to lower our state's impact on the environment.
Contact usEmail Reuse Minnesota612-314-6283reusemn.org
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