Guest post by Tim Roman, Ecotone Analytics GBC
Earth Day was established on April 22, 1970 in the United States and since then, the celebration and acknowledgement of our fragile planet has grown and evolved to include the entire month and people around the world. It’s estimated that one billion people participate in Earth Day activities.
ReUSE Minnesota welcomes the attention to the environment that Earth Day generates. My fellow members work hard to create reuse, repair and rental opportunities for people so that we can extend the useful life of raw materials, reduce the waste stream, and mitigate the effects of manufacturing and transportation on Minnesota’s environment.
Their efforts pay off. Firstly, the reuse economy generated an estimated 77,800 job for the state of Minnesota in 2015 and a little over $10 billion in economic activity. Equally important is the fact that the reuse economy helps the environment in measurable ways.
For example, in 2016 Junket Tossed and Found sold 6.2 tons of goods that might well have ended up in Minnesota landfills. Furthermore, the sale of those goods avoided the generation of 31 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a definite win for the planet!
These measures matter, because they go beyond the activities of April 22nd and can have a lasting impact.
In 2015, our client Better Futures Minnesota, in partnership with the Northwest Indian Opportunity Industrialization Center (NWIOIC) in Bemidji, and the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota - Duluth, was given a pilot study grant to model and measure the effects of “deconstruction” of residential buildings (taking them apart and saving the materials for reuse, then recycling the remainder) versus traditional “smash and landfill” demolition. The goal was to observe and measure the effects on greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction from diversion from landfill.
The data revealed that there was a “pareto” effect between recycling and reuse in relation to GHG avoidance. That about 80% of the GHG reduction effects were from material reclamation for reuse, versus about 20% from recycling. These finding support policies that incentivize reuse over recycling, an important piece of information for municipalities. In fact, based on this project, Better Futures has been recognized as the 2017 recipient of the award for sustainable business by the Environmental Initiative.
So, the numbers matter, on Earth Day and every day. Please keep counting.
Tim Roman is a co-founder of Ecotone Analytics, GBC, which specializes in helping organizations measure, manage, and communicate their social, environmental, and business impacts.