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!
The holidays are here and our gift to you is the Reuse Minnesota holiday gift guide! You'll find a curated list of gift ideas from our members. There are many unique ideas and some you may not have thought of before, such as gift certificates for repair services or memberships to borrow items. Our members make it easy for you to gift with intention and purpose. We hope this guide will help you normalize reuse in your gift giving all year long!
View the guide below or open in a separate window.
Image: Minnesota Retailers Association
Retail’s biggest week is here… If you plan to do some holiday shopping, we strongly encourage you to skip large corporate chains, and instead enjoy our Reuse Minnesota member guide to local and sustainable businesses around the Twin Cities. Who needs Black Friday, when you can #OptOutside and partake in Small Business Saturday and Sustainable Sunday?
Shopping local is an important way to invest in our communities, reduce the climate and environmental impacts of our purchasing, and a great way to find unique gifts! Who knows what treasures you'll find when visiting a thrift store? You can handpick a thoughtful, curated gift that will be appreciated by your recipient. You can also move beyond gifting physical items and give the gift of experiences, memberships, and classes.
Local, small, and sustainable Reuse Minnesota businesses you can support
Remember to support reuse by shopping these organizations throughout the year! What are other great local places you like to visit for reuse, rental, and repair?
Click the map for Google directions to the businesses featured above
#ShopLocal #ShopSmall #SustainableSunday #SmallBusinessSaturday #BlackFriday #CyberMonday
These aren’t your grandparents’ cloth diapers! Cloth diapering has come a long way since the days of safety pins and hand washing; and while the technology and design of cloth diapers has improved, the environmental and economic benefits have stood the test of time. The Minnesota Cloth Diaper Bank is encouraging parents across the state to take another look at the benefits of cloth diapers.
MCDB was founded in 2020 by sisters, Danielle Claseman, who works in responsible sourcing, and Rachel DeVries, a pediatrician. Using cloth diapers on their own children, they wanted to help make cloth diapering accessible, affordable, and achievable for all Minnesota families.
“There are so many benefits to using cloth diapers - keeping disposable diapers out of landfills and chemicals off our babies’ bodies are some of the big ones,” says Claseman. “But with all of these benefits, we recognize that there are some financial and educational barriers to getting started. We remove those barriers so families can try cloth [diapers] pretty much risk free.”
The MCDB program loans families a “stash” of 20 cloth diapers, and provides ongoing support and resources. Diapers can be swapped for different styles or replaced with larger sizes as the child grows. Most of the cloth diapers used in the program are gently used (and sanitized) and have been donated, further reducing the environmental impact. There is no cost to participate in the program (unless shipping costs are incurred) and anyone in Minnesota is welcome to apply.
“Approximately 20 billion disposable diapers are added to landfills throughout the country each year. That waste won’t decompose for about 400 years, so the environmental implications are huge,” says DeVries. “We also know that one in three Minnesota families struggle to provide enough clean diapers. Our goal is to support families and divert as many single-use diapers from the landfill as possible.”
Since their founding, MCDB has helped more than 200 Minnesota families meet their diapering needs with cloth diapers. An unexpected contributor to their success early on was the pandemic and the supply chain shortages that accompanied it. Claseman says, “We saw a big increase in applications during the early months of the pandemic. With product shortages, including diapers, I think it sparked a renewed interest in cloth diapers which are reusable and allow you to be more self-sufficient.”
As more families are looking for ways they can reduce their environmental footprint, Claseman and DeVries want to spread the word about MCDB’s free diaper loan program.
“We want to get the word out that we’re here to help, and we have diapers and supplies ready to go! The more children we can get in cloth diapers, the more we can reduce the economic and environmental impact of diapering,” says DeVries.
For more information or to apply for diapers, visit mnclothdiaperbank.org. Everyone is welcome to apply!
If you're not in need of diapers, but are interested in volunteering with us we're always looking to expand our network of supporters. Volunteering information is available at mnclothdiaperbank.org.
About Minnesota Cloth Diaper Bank
We are working to make cloth diapering accessible, affordable, and achievable for all Minnesota families. Our aim is to minimize the economic and environmental impacts of diapering.
We recognize that one in every three Minnesota families struggle to provide a sufficient number of clean diapers for regular diaper changes. Due to a prohibitively large racial income gap in Minnesota, families with the greatest financial need tend to be families of color.
Cloth diapering—though a more affordable option in the long-term—is often unattainable in the short-term for low-income families with the initial cost of a diaper stash often surpassing $500.
Every year, approximately 20 billion disposable diapers are tossed into landfills throughout the country, creating about 3.5 million tons of waste—waste that does not decompose for 400 years. This heavy toll on our environment can be mitigated through the use of cloth diapers.
Though cloth diapers must be regularly laundered, the water used in this process is actually 2.3 times less than the water necessary for manufacturing and using disposable diapers.
To help remove the financial barrier of cloth diapering and decrease the environmental impact of disposable diapers, the Minnesota Cloth Diaper Bank has created a free cloth diaper loan program.
MCDB’s cloth diaper loan program provides cloth diapers to families free-of-charge, with the expectation that the family will return the diapers once their child no longer requires them.
Qualifying applicants to our program receive a starting cloth diaper stash (new or gently used diapers which have been laundered and, if necessary, repaired), which they may keep for as long as they need. Once the diapers are no longer required, the recipient ships them back to Minnesota Cloth Diaper Bank, where they are laundered, repaired, and (if viable) passed on to the next family.
1 According to a September 6, 2019 Star Tribune article, “poverty among whites in Minnesota is about 7%, while the rate is more than four times higher at 32% for blacks, the third biggest gap in the country.”
2 Reinhardt, Jenn. “Cloth Diapers and Water Usage.” All About Cloth Diapers.https://www.allaboutclothdiapers.com/cloth-diapers-and-water-usage/
E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Technology has become essential in personal and professional settings. Therefore, consumers, businesses, and policy-makers must be informed and engaged with proper e-waste management—and more importantly how to reduce the waste to begin with.
According to The World Counts, the world produces 50 million tons of e-waste annually. This type of waste comprises 70% of all toxic waste and only about 12.5% of it is recycled. E-waste, regardless of where it is disposed, poses significant threats to public health and is proving to be a severe international challenge. But as with any challenge, comes an opportunity to make effective and impactful changes that everyone can take part in.
This global issue requires a global response, particularly from the top three countries of e-waste generation: China, the United States, and India. Circular economics have been receiving more attention and implementation in recent years as a counter to the traditional “take-make-waste” model. The Circular Economy Practitioner Guide can be found here. While committing to supporting local circular economies can seem daunting, the three R’s of sustainability make it easy!
The first and most important step to slowing the production of e-waste is to reduce!
Only replace electronics when necessary: Unnecessarily purchasing electronics can be costly, for you and the environment! Instead of upgrading every couple of years, consider investing time in taking care of your devices. The New York Times posted an article with some useful tips and tricks of doing just that!
Buy tech with good reviews that are built to last: When it is time to make a needed upgrade, take the time to do research as a consumer. What are the reviews saying about the product? Does the manufacturer have a reputation for producing durable and long lasting products? Taking the time to thoroughly research your options will save you money down the road and will help reduce e-waste!
Look into warranty information and accessibility/right to repair: Another thing to consider when purchasing a new device is the duration and quality of the warranty policy and if the manufacturer supports you right to repair your items. You can learn more about the electronics repair industry from The Repair Association.
The next best thing in doing your part to minimize e-waste is to consider reuse! Here are some things to consider:
Fix it before replacing it: If your technology is on the fritz, consider taking it to a local business that can refurbish it. Fixing products is cheaper and requires fewer materials than buying new ones. More often than not, malfunctioning technology has many years left once it is properly fixed. Tech Fixers in Shakopee are a great place to get your electronics repaired!
Refurbish: With changing demands of the home and the workplace, some technology needs to be replaced eventually. That’s ok! But instead of tossing the old tech in the trash, find a nearby business that will take the products to refurbish and resell.
Consider buying second-hand/refurbished items: If you are in the market for a new laptop or cell phone, consider buying used/refurbished products. In addition to being far more affordable, you will help support circular economics in your community and reduce the costs of production for a new product. Businesses can also take part in purchasing second-hand. Head to Alta Tech to look through their services and opportunities!
Eventually electronics reach the end of their life. While they may not be worth much to us at this point, it is important to dispose of e-waste responsibly. You can do this by recycling!
Electronics of any kind cannot be recycled in regular single-sort recycling.
Electronics must be taken to a county dropsite that accepts electronics or an organization that specializes in properly managing e-waste. We are fortunate in the Twin Cities area to have many reuse businesses who are committed to this type of work—like Repowered!
It is important to properly manage e-waste for many reasons:
Unwanted electronics, especially those containing lithium batteries, can start fires in local recycling centers.
Electronics, as they break down, release many toxic chemicals and metals into the surrounding environment—a serious threat for nearby communities.
Recycling electronics allows for the opportunity to capture and reuse rare metals and materials, lowering the demand for mining of precious metals.
Photos: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency/Flickr
Working from home and hybrid workplaces have offered a lot of opportunities for more sustainable work (e.g. reduced emissions from commuting and heating/cooling office buildings, etc.). Use these tips to continue prioritizing reuse in your workplace(s) whether at home or in the office!
How to incorporate reuse in the workplace.pdf
Member spotlight: Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles
Q&A with Benita Warns, owner of Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles
Click here for video of the interview.
RM | Describe what MMRB does
At Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles we collect used bicycles, fix them and give them away. To pay for it, we sell used parts and accessories, used bicycles and a full line of repair services.
RM | How do bikes find their way to you?
The bicycles that we get at Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles primarily come from the five cities that we have contracts with for recycling services. People bring their discarded bicycles to either community recycling events or to recycling centers and they drop them off. We come and pick them up. We repair those that can be repaired and then we tear apart and salvage parts off of those that can't be. People also donate bikes to us. All they have to do is call us at 651-641-1037 and schedule a donation appointment, and they may bring bicycles in. The bicycles we need most are those that fit tall men, mountain and hybrid styles and lightweight bicycles to fit petite women.
RM | What is the process to request a refurbished bicycle?
To get on our wait list to receive a gift bicycle, all you need to do is call 651-641-1037 when our list is open. Leave the following information on our voicemail: your first and your last name, your height, and a reliable telephone number to reach you when the bike is done. We do not do means testing so anyone can request a bicycle. We do have a lifetime limit of no more than two bicycles per person. Our wait list right now is closed. To find out when the wait list is open, all you need to do is go to our website and we always have that information there.
RM | What other services do you offer?
The other types of services we offer at Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles are bicycle sales, where a customer can come in and purchase a reconditioned used bicycle or repair services. We offer a full line of repair services, everything from tune ups to wheel turning and just about any other service you can think of. We also offer sales of used parts and accessories, and we have a special outdoor sale on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 3, where you can browse a garage full of all sorts of second hand bicycle treasures.
In addition to our regular services at the shop, we also occasionally do mobile repair workshops. Typically we do these for low-income or homeless populations where we come and do bicycle repairs free of charge for them.
RM | Where does your passion for reuse come from?
As a kid, we were taught to never waste anything. We ended up saving just about everything and reusing it for one thing or another. My creative juices would get flowing, and so I would find all sorts of ways to reuse stuff for different purposes. We had gone to a neighborhood cleanup and we saw bicycles being discarded that were perfectly usable, we just could not stand to see that kind of waste, especially knowing that there was such a need for people to receive bicycles. And so we started collecting them. But my passion for reuse really comes from when I was a kid and not having a lot, and so we had to creatively use everything that we had.
RM | Why is a Reuse Minnesota membership important to MMRB?
Our organization, Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles decided to become part of Reuse Minnesota because we strongly believe in the reuse economy. We believe that we need to be using all of the things we have rather than making new stuff, because it is a much greener alternative and it is a more economical alternative. We feel that Reuse Minnesota does a great deal to promote and enhance the reuse economy as well as allows us to connect with other businesses with similar values to ours in the area of reuse.
Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycleshttp://mmrbstore.com/
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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