Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The landfill blues

How many times have we driven down a street and seen a perfectly good (albeit used) piece of furniture on the side of the road, or sitting in (or outside of) a dumpster? Multiply that by hundreds of streets in your town, tens of millions of streets across the country, and hundreds of millions of streets around the globe. How much good stuff is ending up in our landfills? What about all the people who need that stuff but can’t afford to buy it? What if there was a way to save the planet and help people at the same time?

The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,593 groups with 5,760,000 members across the globe. This is an entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) free items in their own local areas. It's all about reusing and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer and membership is free. To sign up, go to and find your community by entering it into the search box or by clicking on “Browse Groups” above the search box.

If you are handy with tools, have knowledge of upholstering or refinishing, why not cruise the neighborhood and retrieve items you see on the side of the road? If they can be reclaimed, why not fix them up and donate them to someone in need? If you don’t know of anyone personally, contact your local United Way or other charitable organization. There are many people in need who don’t have the resources, or skills, to obtain essential items for their homes.

What a wonderful way to turn a hobby into a means to help people, and the environment! Only recently, have people developed a “disposable” mentality with regard to material objects. In the past, furnishings, clothing, housewares, etc. were of good quality, expensive, and treasured. Items that were damaged, or worn, were repaired or refurbished – not thrown away! Average people had few possessions and those were well cared for and made to last for as long as possible.

It is time that we went back to producing goods of quality, rather than cheap, disposable merchandise that clog our landfills at an alarming rate. It is time to embrace a different design philosophy.

In their pioneering book “Cradle to Cradle”, William McDonough and Michael Braungart explain how waste equals food. This principle explains how products can be designed from the beginning to provide nourishment for something new (after the products’ useful life has ended). They can be conceived as biological nutrients that will easily re-enter the water or soil without depositing synthetic materials and toxins – or as technical nutrients that will continually circulate as pure and valuable materials within closed-loop industrial cycles. Rather than being recycled, these products can be down-cycled into low-grade materials and uses.

Not only will this benefit the planet, it could positively impact the global economy, as well. By incorporating this principle in world-wide global manufacturing practices, we could reduce the strain on natural resources, reduce landfill sizes, and create new jobs in recycling, and remanufacturing.

Take a minute to think about ways that you can reclaim items in your own home, or those you find abandoned by the side of the road. Someone in need will thank you! The earth will bless you!
Until next time...become the change you imagine.

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