(See also yesterdays blog post Where there is a Will there is a Goodwill)
The waste audits continue.
It is clear as I sift through wastes that the definition of what is waste is pretty fluid. It is a function of what we generate and how we choose to deal with it.
If I were a psychologist investigating the psychology of waste generation I would focus on identifying the moment when what was a possession is dispossessed and crosses the threshold to become a waste. More specifically I would investigate the motivations inherent in that moment in time. Is it rotten? Is it broken? Is it not broken but no longer useful to us?
It is the last moment that I find most interesting. What causes us to cross the threshold of dispossession for an item that is still functional? Why do we consider something that is functional a waste? I would imagine part of it must be socio-economic in nature. Those with enough money to buy new items allow them to eliminate the value of the older item as soon as the new item is purchased.
Part of it is the nature of society that in a general sense is affluent. We have been taught commercially motivated obsolesce. Everything has a shelf life. Things do not get fixed anymore. It is less expensive to buy a replacement. Even if it is not broken we are encouraged and happily comply to buy a replacement.
The dispossessed items need to find a new home and as discussed in yesterday’s blog post it is often, maybe always, easier to dispose of these items than find a new home for it. The dispossessed item has no value to us so why would we want to expend any effort to allow others to recoup the economic value of the item. We are not really or certainly not always altruistic creatures.
What struck me today were the old doors, windows, lumber and other functional hardware that could still be used. It has lost its value once I see it at an audit. It arrives at the auditing floor often mangled and tangled with other wastes which must be pried away to collect accurate data.
As always there is another solution.
I have had the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity in London, Ontario and learned firsthand about the Restore operations http://www.habitat.ca/en/community/restores. These stores accept quality new and used building supplies. As with Goodwill Industries the inherent economic value is put to good use. Simply put the money raised goes to local affiliates who use it to build houses that become homes for families that would otherwise not have this opportunity.
We sometimes like to throw around the term “triple bottom line” when assessing and evaluating waste management options. It focuses on economics, environment and social aspects. Our extra efforts to keep these wastes out of the garbage stream are manifest as a social benefit. More simply put it is a tax free way to help people in need (i.e. the dollars are raised from our dispossessed items rather than our taxes).
While people that generate these items need to be challenged to make use of options such as Restore the other challenge is to make sure people know about these opportunities and that somehow we work towards making these options closer to the convenience level of disposal.
Some extra information on Habitat for Humanity’s Restore
ReStores are building supply stores run by Habitat for Humanity affiliates that accept and resell quality new and used building materials. Shopping at a ReStore is a socially conscious decision, as funds generated are used to fund Habitat homebuilding projects. As well, shopping at a ReStore is also an environmentally conscious decision, as much of what is sold at ReStores is product that is new, gently used or customer returns that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
From humble beginnings in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when five volunteers created the ReStore concept and opened the first store 20 years ago, there are now 65 ReStores located across Canada with hundreds more in the United States.
Find the ReStore location nearest you.
What types of products can I expect to find at a ReStore?
Every Habitat for Humanity ReStore is different and offers a unique shopping experience. The inventory is always changing, as items are donated daily by corporate and private donors. You can expect to find items such as windows, doors, paint, hardware, lumber, tools, lighting fixtures, and appliances.
What type of items can be donated to a ReStore?
Commonly donated items include windows, doors, paint, hardware, lumber, tools, lighting fixtures and appliances. Contact your nearest ReStore to determine if what you have can be donated to your local store.
How can I get items to the ReStore?
Items can be brought directly to your local ReStore. If you are unable to bring an item to your ReStore due to its size, the ReStore may be able to arrange a time to pick up the items from your home.
How does shopping at and donating to ReStores help the environment?
When a retailer has goods that can no longer be sold in store, they are often sent to a landfill. Thus, donating end-of-line products and customer returns to a ReStore can substantially reduce waste. In 2010, ReStores across Canada diverted 20,000 tonnes of material from landfills. Individuals can also help to reduce waste by donating items of value that might otherwise be thrown out.
What happens to the money generated by ReStores?
The profits generated by ReStores are used to fund the local affiliate that operates the store. Charities, like any other organization, incur administrative fees and ReStore profits help to cover these costs. As a result, money raised by the affiliate by conventional means, such as through individual and corporate giving, can go directly towards local builds and providing more families in the community with safe, decent and affordable housing.
For more information, contact your nearest ReStore or:
Director, ReStore Services
(519) 885-4565 x237