By Any Means Necessary: Get the Word Out About Your Good Work!
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!
ReUSE Minnesota June Member Meeting @ Habitat for Humanity ReStore!
Our next quarterly member meeting is coming up fast! On June 13th, we will be meeting at the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity ReStore, located at 2700 Minnehaha Avenue. This is a great opportunity for our members to connect with one another and discuss the happenings of Minnesota's reuse sector. In addition, there will be a behind the scenes tour of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore! The store provides quality donated home furnishings for a fraction of the price. The proceeds from the ReStore go towards building and repairing homes for hard-working local families. This year, proceeds from the ReStore will go towards building four homes for Twin Cities families. Learn more about our awesome hosts on their website.
A pizza lunch will also be provided! If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, please email email@example.com. Please RSVP through Facebook or Eventbrite to this event as soon as possible. It is important to us to get an accurate count of how many people will be in attendance so we can create as little waste as possible. We hope to see you there!
Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Something Old, Something Used:
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.