Donation vs. Dumpster: How Your Unwanted Items Can Save the World
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste, Americans generate 5-7 pounds of waste per day and throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year. The EPA estimates 2-5 percent of what we toss is reusable, though much of it still ends up in the landfill.
Fortunately, large nonprofits like Goodwill Industries and Habitat for Humanity have made big business out of accepting hand-me-downs in an effort to help those less fortunate—Mother Nature included. While sustainability might not be the founding mission of these organizations, their services have a big impact on the planet.
How? Here’s an example: If everyone donated (or recycled) just one more T-shirt, the nation would recover more than 210 billion gallons of water and keep 1 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere, according to data published by www.USAgain.com.
Habitat for Humanity of Pulaski County and Goodwill Industries of Arkansas are both headed by environmentally-minded leaders and are making a difference in the state. “By making a donation to our ReStores, community members can be assured that not only are they offering an opportunity to purchase working household items to a low-income family, but they are reducing their carbon footprint as well,” says Susie Shinn, director of development for Habitat of Pulaski County.
Since the inception of Habitat’s first Pulaski County outlet store in 2006, and then with the addition of a ReStore in 2011, Shinn reports the organization is responsible for preventing more than 800 tons of materials from polluting the landfill.
Add to that 15 million pounds of donated goods kept from the landfill in 2012, thanks to Goodwill’s efforts across Arkansas. “I think Goodwill Industries of Arkansas has made major strides when it comes to our sustainable efforts,” says Brian Itzkowitz, president and CEO of Goodwill Arkansas. “In the last four years, our annual donations increased from 83,000 to more than 383,000.” Itzkowitz, who’s also on Goodwill International’s Sustainability Committee, hopes these inspiring figures will motivate Arkansans to donate more and more often.
They certainly motivate him. In 2009, Itzkowitz initiated a partnership with Dell Corporation to collect Arkansas electronic waste. Through the Dell Reconnect Program, Goodwill accepts any brand of computer and computer accessories in any condition for Dell to repurpose or recycle. In just three years, nearly 1 million pounds—close to 500 tons—of electronics have been kept from the landfill.
April is the perfect month to initiate the entire family in a spring cleaning effort. Start gathering your child’s outgrown clothes, unwanted toys and more. Then, check out our recycling guide to find a donation center near you.
People, Planet, Prosperity
Resale shops are valuable to local communities, helping people and the planet by:
- Providing low-cost or no-cost materials to those in need
- Preventing usable goods from going into landfills and reducing landfill costs
- Saving energy and reducing green house gas emissions and other pollutants
- Creating jobs
- Offering tax benefits (donations)
- Generating local tax revenues (sales)
Use It, Don't Lose It
Can’t part with a particular item? Repurposing items you already own doesn’t consume the amount of energy that recycling or manufacturing virgin materials does, which helps to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions. It takes 700 gallons of water to grow the cotton to produce just one T-shirt. If you reuse a shirt you already have or donate an unwanted shirt for someone else to reuse, you’re ultimately helping reduce the costs (and eco-impacts) associated with creating a new one.