Guest post by Amanda LaGrange, CEO of Tech Dump and Tech Discounts
Businesses in the reuse sector face a variety of barriers to success. Some of these challenges, such as managing cash flow and employee retention are shared by businesses of all types. However, other challenges are inherent in our shared mission to extend the material life of goods. For example, Tech Discounts must absorb the ridiculous cost of a specialized fastening screw for a certain fruit-branded phone. Another unique obstacle our sector faces is raising awareness about the whole idea of reuse.
Most consumers here in the U.S. don’t think of reuse as an option, probably due in part to something called default bias, which is the human tendency to do whatever is easiest and do what’s always been done. In the case of consumer goods, this means throwing items away and buying new things. Overcoming existing behaviors is hard, but it can be done. Look at all the progress that’s been made in promoting recycling in the City of Saint Paul, which introduced alley carts in January 2017 and is now on track to increase the materials collected by 35 percent in the next five years.
Success is within reach, but the first step is raising awareness about our work!
In my own field of used electronics, we’re getting better about letting people know about their options, but we need to provide more education. For example, a recent report from the Wisconsin DNR indicated that the percentage of residents who knew where to take old electronics rose from 28 percent in 2013 to 45 percent in 2016, but that still leaves a majority of our neighbors to the east in the dark with a “pile of denial.” In fact, the Wisconsin DNR reported that 48 percent of cell phones in homes around the state were unused in 2016. Those numbers are not unusual. In fact, many consumers hold on to their electronics, especially cellphones; the EPA estimates that only 11% of mobile devices are properly recycled. When I hear those statistics, as an e-waste repair shop and retailer with a commitment to the environment, I think about the number of cellphones and PDAs that could be put back into circulation! On the recycling side, the amount of untapped gold, silver, palladium and copper that could be recovered is mind blowing.
All those unused devices are why Tech Dump launched Cell Phone Summer, our campaign to collect ONE TON of cell phones between June 10th and Labor Day. The funds raised through recycling and reselling a ton of phones will provide1,000 hours of work for our social enterprise’s employees, which is great, but it’s not the only reason we’re doing the campaign.
We also created Cell Phone Summer to raise awareness about recycling and reusing mobile devices. Despite all our traditional marketing and communications efforts – advertising, social media, google SEO, media relations, etc. – there were still plenty of people with old electronics that didn’t know about us. We needed to try something new to get them to bring in their stuff, so we launched the campaign. We’re placing Paul Bunyan and Babe collection bins around the metro, our staff is appearing at key summer events, and we’re hosting our own shindigs. We’re also engaging our networks in sharing information about Cell Phone Summer. (Hint: You can help us by Tweeting, Instagramming and on Facebook using the hashtag #CellPhoneSummer.) We’ll finish up in the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair. I look forward to seeing all of you there and discussing your plans for raising awareness about the work your organization does and the great potential of the reuse sector!
Guest post by Heidi Andermack, Owner, Chowgirls Killer Catering
Wedding season is high upon us. With all the festivities comes a lot of stuff…. stuff for decorating, stuff for eating, stuff for drinking, stuff for gifts, stuff for everything imaginable. As owner of Chowgirls, a sustainably minded catering company, we love working with couples who are thoughtful about their environmental footprint when planning their weddings.
One such couple gave LED lightbulbs as their favors. Another offered fire-starter pinecones — lovingly scavenged on their parents’ property and wax dipped by the family — that served as decorations as well as favors. A few brides and grooms have provided home-canned pickles or jams packed in ball jars that were found at rummage sales.
The wedding tabletop lends itself to reused or rented items. For shabby-chic farm weddings, jam jars make great drinking glasses and votive candle holders. Mismatched assortments of vintage china and flatware from thrift stores are trending in restaurants now, and they also make for a sweet table setting at a wedding reception. For the bride and groom favoring more contemporary flair, we highly recommend working with a rental company for the latest glassware, dishes, flatware, and linens. Either way — sourcing used or renting — choosing the real deal is the more sustainable than using disposables, even if they are recyclable or compostable.
There are many options for clothing that are sustainable too. A sentimental favorite is seeing a bride walk down the aisle in her mother’s wedding gown. While that’s not always an option, there are second-hand stores that can outfit a bride and her maids as well. For guys, it’s even easier, they can just go to the same place where they rented their prom tuxedo.
For décor, more and more boutique rental companies are popping up in the Twin Cities, offering unique furniture and accessories. Perhaps you’d like to host your cocktail hour in a Mid-Century Modern lounge with a sleek leather couch and Danish side tables. Or maybe you’re more into an antique look with a Victorian velvet fainting couch and elaborate candelabras. Whatever your tastes, there are niche stylists salvaging and restoring fabulous furnishings, sharing them so they can be appreciated again and again.
Gift ideas for the eco-minded bride and groom are trending toward crowd-sourced financial gifts for travel or charity. But a similarly funded down-payment on a reused house or even a vintage furniture piece in the couple’s style would also be appreciated sustainable gifts.
With thoughtful planning and good intentions, re-using can be a great way to make your event unique and memorable. Consider it a smart and sexy alternative to the wasteful whimsy that’s so easy to find most anywhere.
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.
Reposted from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
What's the big idea?
In resolutions and sustainable consumption, keep the big idea in mind but go after it one step at a time.
Did you make a resolution for the New Year? Was it to buy lots of new stuff, online or otherwise? (Didn’t think so.)
We’ve got a hunch, dear Living Green 365 reader, that your hopes for 2017 include keeping our air and water clean, and not using up finite natural resources. Those are big goals. Psychologists suggest that people keep the big ideas of their resolutions in mind, but break them down into manageable steps they can tackle through the year.
Let’s start with reusing a little more. According to one poll, 91% of Americans think the way we live produces too much waste. Even the greenest among us have room to improve when it comes to our consumption patterns.
The idea here is easy – keep what we have longer, get what we need by borrowing or buying secondhand, and not end up burdened with the kind of stuff that makes us feel both cluttered and empty.
Reuse does all sorts of good things. It:
Reuse is easy to love, but it can be hard to do when one-click-shopping is so tempting. So try committing to just one or two of these tips to help you reuse more:
Keep things longer
Tip 1. Practice gratitude for what you have. The first step to keeping things longer is to value them. Be mindful and grateful for an item, and you will find it easier to treasure. (The science of happiness says that happy people are grateful for what they have, and don’t compare themselves to others.)
Tip 2. Buy it right the first time. We talk about buying durable all the time. But how do you know if something will last? Let your experience and intuition guide you. That $5 t-shirt that you can see through when it’s new? Won’t last. That cheap freebie water bottle offered at the community event? Don’t take it. You know it’ll leak the first time you use it.
Tip 3. Show it some love. There’s a reason you’re supposed to vacuum out the dust from the back of your fridge once in a while. I know. I didn’t do it. And my fridge died. Once you’ve invested in something of quality, or have something you value – treat it well. And if it needs a little repair – great! There are so many options for fixing these days. We wrote about it here: Fixing. I recently had my old leather purse redyed; it’s as good as new.
Tame the “buy it new, buy it now” impulses
Tip 1. Take a photo instead of buying. We are hard-wired to respond to novelty. But that buzz of having a new thing wears off after just a few days and we often regret we spent the money. Next time you’re tempted, try taking a photo of the thing that caught your eye. Look at the photo enough times and the novelty might wear off. You may find you no longer “have to have” it.
Check out this fun video to remind you of all the great reasons to get less!
Tip 2. Commit to trying at least one second-hand option before you jump to online shopping sites. Check ReUSE Minnesota’s new directory to see if they have a store listed near you. Or ask if a neighbor has one they are getting rid of – NextDoor is great for this.
Seek access over ownership
The average electric drill spends only 15 minutes of its life actually drilling holes. The rest of its sad life is on your garage wall, taking up space. Many toys are the same – a child may love it for a year and grow out of it. For things like this, we only need access to them when we need them, we don’t need to own them. It’s already happened for music (Pandora, iTunes), and movies (Netflix).
Tip 1. “I’ve got one you can use.” Help someone else reuse. Offer to lend something you have. The offer will probably come back to you. Acts of kindness and creating community relationships will increase your happiness while you increase reuse.
Tip 2. Use or start a toy library, or a tool library. The Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library and the Minneapolis Toy Library lend tools and toys the way traditional libraries lend books. So simple and powerful. These can be small and simple – with just a few members in your neighborhood, or larger and more ambitious.
My first step in 2017? I hate remodeling, but my bathroom needs fixing. I’m resolving to explore the great building and architectural salvage businesses around the Twin Cities to find the fixtures, cabinets, and hardware I need.
Which tip will you start with?
Community events and resources
Where Do We Go From Here? The science, policy and politics of addressing and adapting to global-scale environmental change.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Camp Bar, St. Paul, MN.
Everything has an impact on the environment. Climate change is top of mind for many, but our carbon dioxide emissions are only the beginning of the story. The ecological outcomes of our activities take myriad forms and have far reaching implications. Join us for a wide-ranging discussion about the science, politics and policy driving our complex relationship with our planet’s systems. Sponsored by U of M College of Biological Sciences. Part of the Petri Dish series, which explores how biology affects our lives and what it means for our future.
Wild Ones 2017 Design With Nature Conference—Planting Matters.
February 18, 2017. Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul Campus. Sixteenth annual Native Plant conference hosted by Wild Ones chapters in greater Twin Cities Metro, featuring keynote speaker Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.
This film isn't about our waste problem. It's about solutions. And they are everywhere!
Support ReUSE Minnesota by purchasing a copy of the movie. A portion of the proceeds of you movie purchase go to support ReUSE Minnesota when you use this link.
We live in a challenging time. Climate change and mass consumption is threatening our planet's existence. Excessive extraction of natural resources has created immeasurable waste and pollution. This issue is complicated and imminent. While recognition and awareness is important, direct action is by far the most effective. But traditional recycling is not enough. The reuse mission offers a more sustainable solution that everyone can be a part of. REUSE! Because You Can't Recycle The Planet follows reuse pro Alex Eaves' cross-country adventure to the 48 contiguous U.S. states. On his journey, he finds endless reuse solutions for our waste problem that are not only sustainable, but many of which are easy and fun! And he learns just how reuse truly benefits "people, planet, and wallet."
ReUSE Minnesota has been getting ready to work at the Minneapolis Home and Remodeling Show at US Bank Stadium January 27-29. ReUSE Minnesota members Empty the Nest and the University of Minnesota Reuse Center have donated chairs for artists to reimagine for the show’s Upcycle Challenge. Other members, including Better Futures Minnesota, will be at the show managing the Upcycle Challenge auction of the chairs for the benefit of ReUSE Minnesota. Local vintage shop Upsy Daisy created a Prince themed chair for attendees to bid on!
This is the first year that remodeling is part of the show's mission and we're excited to promote reuse for major home projects. See below for a blog entry we're reposting from the Better Futures. It describes how “deconstruction" and reuse are better options than demolition and material recycling.
Across Minnesota, older homes and barns are being demolished to make way for new buildings or farmland. When buildings are demolished, harmful chemicals and pollutants—like lead and asbestos—are released in the air. In addition, when buildings such as old barns are burned, the old-growth wood is not only wasted, but it produces noxious smoke that’s harmful to human and environmental health.
Recently, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been trying to educate the public about the growing issue of demolishing and burning buildings. The organization suggests that demolished building materials, such as concrete and wood, be turned over to specially permitted facilities for proper disposal.
Yet a better solution is gaining steam across the country: deconstruction and reuse. Many buildings, especially those built before 1978, contain harmful lead and asbestos. Deconstruction carefully removes all building materials for safe recycling and reuse–greatly reducing the amount of waste in the landfills and avoiding hazardous plumes of lead and asbestos that occur from typical demolition. In addition, deconstruction supports public health by reducing the additional greenhouse-gas emissions that come from adding to the landfill.
On average, construction and demolition materials account for a quarter of the waste in all landfills. In Minnesota, more than 80 percent of the 1.6 million tons of construction and demolition waste was landfilled in 2013. According to the EPA, for each ton of construction and demolition waste (2,000 pounds) that goes into a landfill, 2.79 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases, including methane and CO2, are released into the atmosphere.
Through deconstruction with a specially trained crew, as much as 90 percent of of this waste can be recycled or reused, and sold below retail cost in places like Better Futures Minnesota’s ReUse Warehouse.
Additional tips for reusing building materials during a remodeling project can be found below!
The goal of the meet up was to connect reuse and repair businesses around the state.
Reusing items can reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gasses, and save energy and water.
Two businesses connected at Thursday's meeting.
"When they know someone's got something, they can direct it to the right thrift store outlet, so they can do a lot of cross promotion of their businesses," said Madalyn Cioci, MN Pollution Control Agency.
ReUse Minnesota does not have another meeting planned for the area.
Watch the video here
WCCO Mid-Morning - Reusing and repurposing older items is a great way to save money and also be kind to the environment. Joining us now is ReUSE Minnesota Board Vice President Madalyn Cioci (cho-chee) and Board member Della Simpson who's also the CEO of Relan. (3:08)
Click here for link to WCCO interview with Madalyn and Della.
By Todd Tanner, board president
It’s the time of year for giving gifts and, no surprise, ReUSE Minnesota wholeheartedly supports and encourages handmade, upcycled, repurposed, and repaired gifts. Members of our Board recently attended the Green Gifts Fair at Midtown Global Market and were blown away by the number of local artisans who repurpose common items and turn them into something wonderful. We saw bowls made from vinyl records, jewelry derived from almost anything, candles made with old glasses, scrap fabric turned into new clothes, magnets made from bottle caps, and notebooks and journals fashioned from discarded metal. It’s hard not to be inspired by the creativity! At our table, we helped attendees turn old books and greeting cards into gift tags and small notebooks, people seemed to really enjoy the project, and we had a great time interacting with attendees at this bustling and energetic event.
Those same wonderful consumers also contributed to the health of our environment. How? Purchases at the Green Gifts Fair had a minimal carbon footprint because the items were made locally and the environmental impact of transportation was minimal. Also, many of the items were created from something that otherwise would have been trashed. For example, if someone bought an item made from discarded clothing, they helped avoid the 3-4 pounds of CO2 emissions that occur for every pound of clothing that hits a landfill. And finally, items made from previously used materials extends the useful life of those materials and avoids the additional impact of manufacturing something new.
As an organization working to raise awareness of the reuse, repair and rental business sector, it’s fantastic to know that so many in our community already share our goals of sustainable living and reducing waste. And, even though the Green Gifts Fair is over, many opportunities remain to purchase environmentally friendly presents, and to be inspired to see gift-giving in a new way and exploring ideas for creating your own gift items by re-purposing things you already have.
We encourage you to investigate member businesses that specialize in reuse gift items that might be perfect for someone on your shopping list including Junket, Mr Michaels Recycles Bicycles, U of M Reuse Center, A Greener Read, Tech Discounts, Better Futures, Arc's Value Village, Magers and Quinn and Strange Boutique.
We also want to take this opportunity to wish you a healthy, happy, and peaceful holiday season! Thanks for your past and future support of ReUSE Minnesota!
Saint Paul, Minn. – On Wednesday night a few hundred people gathered at Lake Monster Brewing in Saint Paul to toast the completion of a three-year website project in support of Minnesota’s $10 billion reuse economy.
The new site at reusemn.org is an online resource for Minnesota consumers looking for secondhand goods or rental and repair services. It’s also a hub for businesses in these sectors.
The nonprofit trade organization ReUSE Minnesota led development of the website, which is the only one of its kind in the country.
“Minnesota is a national leader in its support of our reuse economy and the investment in this project is a great example that commitment,” notes ReUSE Minnesota Board President Todd Tanner.
The site was developed with a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
“Guiding people toward a mindset of reuse, rental or repair before buying something new is part of reducing waste overall,” says Madalyn Cioci of the MPCA. “We have to meet people where they are and make those choices convenient and that’s what the website does."
Minneapolis web development firm Spyder Trap worked on the project, which involved a complex back end platform that could provide an easy experience for users.
“We needed to create a responsive site that could handle images and meet the needs of consumers and of large and small businesses across Minnesota," says Ryan Beckman Director of Client Strategy for Spyder Trap.
In addition to serving as a business directory, the state-of-the art site allows businesses to become members of ReUSE Minnesota and enhance their listings with images and custom text.
The reuse economy in Minnesota spans a variety of businesses types, from local repair stores, to salvage yards, to thrift stores, to tech companies that sell refurbished IT equipment around the world.
“Our members are diverse and all work to derive the most values from resources," says Tanner, “With the site up, we’re ready to increase our membership and continue to help the reuse economy grow in Minnesota."
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
© 2022 Reuse Minnesota. All rights reserved. | Reuse Minnesota is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.