The Repurpose Project: Buy USED! It’s good for the planet

by Sarah Goff, Co-Founder of The Repurpose Project

Buy USED! Many people are familiar with the benefits of buying local, but The Repurpose Project is working hard to promote the environmental benefits of buying USED. Everyday valuable materials are thrown away. We all see it piled on the side of the road. Some of us see it when our curiosity pushes us to peek into a dumpster and sometimes even jump in to retrieve a treasure that was tossed out. The Repurpose Project is encouraging everyone to ask: “Why buy new stuff when there is so much perfectly good USED stuff in our own communities!” When you buy something used, you eliminate all that goes into producing a new product. The raw materials don’t have to be harvested or mined from the planet. The water needed for manufacturing isn’t used. The energy needed to harvest/mine, produce, and ship the product isn’t used. The packaging is eliminated. Plus, you save money. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to buy used whenever possible!

The Repurpose Project was formed in 2011 to fill the recycling void seen in our communities. The organization salvages items that traditional thrift stores don’t. For example, a broken chair can be taken apart and the good legs used to construct a coffee table.  Single crayons, rubber bands (often from produce), or paper clips are accepted and sorted in jars with like items. The single item alone seems useless, but once sorted it becomes a valuable set of crayons or a gallon jug of rubber bands. How is The Repurpose Project different from a thrift store? Here are some items you might expect to see at the reuse center that aren’t seen in traditional second hand shops: office supplies (binders, folders, paperclips, rubber bands, staples), traditional arts and craft supplies (fabric, paint, pens, paper), party supplies (decorations, gift wrapping, boxes, ribbon) unconventional art supplies (scrap metal, scrap plastic, scrap wood pieces), e-waste/wire (chargers, cables, electrical wire, speaker wire, phone wire). The organization also carries building supplies such as lumber, hardware, windows, roofing, flooring, and lighting fixtures. The Repurpose Project recently partnered with The Zen Center, a nearby housing compound for transient residents, to deconstruct houses that were destined to be demolished, put in dumpsters, and taken to the landfill. Architectural salvage is proving to be a popular and much needed resource in our community. These deconstruction efforts divert a substantial amount
of weight and volume from the landfill.

Another unique aspect of The Repurpose Project is the pricing structure. Some items are priced while others are not.  Building supplies are priced because of the labor costs associated with the deconstruction efforts. The items that are unmarked are priced by the buyer (reverse bargaining). For example, a homeless person can come in and get a sleeping bag for $0.50 or a phone charger for $0.05.  On the other end of the spectrum, someone will come in for a printer cable and offer $13 because that is how much they saw it for sale at the electronics store, and they want to support the efforts of the project. It’s a sliding scale pricing system, and the balance seems to be working. The Repurpose Project is thrilled that the organization has found a way to address social and pay inequality issues as well as the environmental ones.

The Repurpose Project is in a 3000 sq ft building but plans to move to a larger facility by the end of 2014.  Once the project moves to a larger building, it will start a lending and toy library.

There are many items that can be shared within a community instead of each person owning their own. Sharing reduces our environmental impact, and is an important part in building community.

The goal is to one day have a reuse big box store with convenience that would rival traditional big box stores. This one-stop shop & drop would give customers the added benefit of dropping donation items on the same shopping trip! The Repurpose Project understands that convenience drives consumers; therefore, making it easy for consumers to purchase used instead of new is a priority. Eventually we would like to be located at a strip mall that pulls together independent reuse stores, making for a convenient reuse shopping experience.

The Repurpose Project is a non-profit community based effort to divert useful resources from the landfill, redirect these items to the public for art and education, inspire creativity, and help us all rethink what we throw away. The Repurpose Project is a 501(c) 3 tax-deductible non-profit organization located in Gainesville, Florida. Staff members are: Mike Myers (co-founder), Sarah Goff (co-founder), Lynn Polke (store manager), Wanda J. Burnette-Walker (resident mosaic artist/volunteer), Tobe Terrell (Zen Center deconstruction leader), and Nelson Laffey (fix-it specialist/volunteer).  The Repurpose Project has partnered with many local groups to help educate the public on waste reduction and improve landfill diversion in Alachua County.  These groups include University of Florida staff and students, Santa Fe College staff and students, Shands Medical Plaza, high school and elementary teachers and students, and The City of Gainesville Public Works.

To learn more, visit the website:  You can follow them on Facebook at The Repurpose Project, Twitter @RepurposeProj and Instagram @therepurposeproject  D.

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