Zero Waste Efforts Bring Benefits, Build Community in Gainesville — Episode 131 of Building Local Power

On this episode of Building Local Power, host Jess Del Fiacco and Neil Seldman, Director of ILSR’s Waste to Wealth initiative, interview three zero waste advocates from Gainesville, Fla. Amanda Waddle and Nina Bhattacharyya are the Co-Chairs of Zero Waste Gainesville, and Sarah Goff is the Cofounder and Executive Director of the Repurpose Project, where Amanda is also the director of Zero Waste.

Their discussion touches on:

  • The importance of pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) programs, and Zero Waste Gainesville’s campaign to keep PAYT in the city. (Update: The campaign was successful!
  • How the Repurpose Project got started, how the pandemic impacted operations, and current efforts to expand into a new, larger space.
  • The relationship between the Repurpose Project and the city of Gainesville.
  • The impact the Repurpose Project has on the local economy, the community, and the environment.
  • The ties between environmental justice and reuse, and how to ensure reuse programs are equitable.

 

“And one of my favorite moments was at checkout. We had a line and it was just so diverse. It was almost like every single stereotype of a person was in line together. And they were talking to each other about what they were going to do with the items that they were buying. And it just felt so good. We were much more than a store. We were building this community, bringing people together, that maybe wouldn’t be brought together otherwise. For the common goal of just creating and salvaging and saving money… I just feel like there’s so much potential there on so many levels with expanding Reuse.”

 

Zero Waste Gainesville

The Repair Revolution by John Wachman and Elizabeth Knight

Webinar Recording: “Reuse & Repair: Creating New Jobs and Enterprises Through Zero Waste”

Wealth in Our Walls Report, City of San Antonio, Texas

Reuse Minnesota

Building Materials Reuse Alliance (BMRA)

Recycle Hawaii

Department of Resource Recovery, Austin, Texas

Cynthia Isenhour, University of Maine
Economic and sociological data on the reuse sector.
Contact: cynthia.isenhour@maine.edu

Second Chance Deconstruction, Baltimore
Contact: Mark Foster, Mark@secondchanceinc.org

The Reuse People
Contact: Ted Reiff, tedreiff@thereusepeople.org

Clean Air Action Network, Glens Falls, NY
Contact: Tracy Frisch, tracy.frisch@gmail.com

Hawaii Island Zero Waste Summit
Contact: Jennifer Navarra, jennifernavarra@gmail.com

ReUse Corridor, Central Appalachian Regional Network
Contact: Jacob Hannah, jhannah@coalfield-development.org

Rural Action
Contact: Ed Newman, ed@ruralaction.org

Jess Del Fiacco: Hello, and welcome to Building Local Power. A podcast dedicated to thought provoking conversations about how we can challenge corporate monopolies and expand the power of people to shape their own future. I’m Jess Del Fiacco the host of Building Local Power and Communications Manager here at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. For more than 45 years, ILSR has worked to build thriving equitable communities where power, wealth and accountability and made in local hands.
Jess Del Fiacco: And hello, today I’m here with my colleague Neil Seldman, who directs ILSR’s waste to wealth program. And we’re joined by a great group from Gainesville, Florida. Amanda Waddle and Nina Bhattacharyya are the Co-Chairs of Zero Waste Gainesville. And Sarah Goff is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Repurpose Project, where Amanda is also the Director of Zero Waste. So welcome everybody.
Neil Seldman: Howdy.
Sarah Goff: Hello.
Nina  Bhattacha…: Thank you for having us.
Jess Del Fiacco: Yeah, absolutely. I think a good place to start, would be if each of you could maybe talk very briefly about your organizations, your background and why you decided to get involved with Reuse. Let’s start with Sarah.
Sarah Goff: Okay. I started the Repurpose Project 10 years ago. I had already been involved in Reuse, but when it came to Gainesville, I saw there was very little infrastructure for getting a lot of usable material, back into the hands of the public. First stories do a great job of certain materials, but there’s so many different types of materials that are overlooked in the Reuse market. So I decided to start a combination. It’s pretty much a creative reuse center and architectural salvage. Both big areas of the Ruse market that needed to see improvement and more reuse happen.
Jess Del Fiacco: Amanda or Nina feel free to jump in.
Amanda Waddle: I can jump in real quick. This is Amanda. So I’ve been doing a lot of Zero Waste work as a volunteer for years and years. I did it in Lafayette, Louisiana. And then when I moved back to Gainesville in 2017, I got on board with Nina to help out, to run Zero Waste Gainesville. And I really realized that Reuse is a big part of Zero Waste a while back and that we really need to emphasize that. So in 2019, I talked to Sarah about starting a Zero Waste department at the Repurpose Project, to burn what we do with Zero Waste through her creative Reuse store in the nonprofit. So between Zero Waste Gainesville and the Repurpose Project, we really hit on so many aspects, possibly all the aspects of Zero Waste in Gainesville, Florida. And that’s a pretty exciting thing.
Jess Del Fiacco: Thanks. Nina.
Nina  Bhattacha…: I’m the Co-Chair of Zero Waste Gainesville with Amanda. And we got started with Zero Waste Gainesville in 2017 and our mission is really twofold. So we educate the community about things they can do to reduce waste in their lives. So lifestyle choices, but we advocate for Zero Waste policies at the local level, both at our city and county. And so we really try to focus on all those key elements of waste upstream and downstream, which of course Reuse is a really big part of that. In addition to just rejecting materials outright, repurposing them. And then we touch upon those downstream actions such as recycling and composting as well.
Neil Seldman: Maybe I could just add at this time, that at the end of our broadcast, we will post references of reviews, activity, and technical reports on Reuse’s impact on local economies happening all over the country. So we’re highlighting Repurpose center in Gainesville, but it is typical of a lot of activity, making it a great economic as well as sociological impact on communities. And it is growing very, very rapidly stimulated by the COVID experience we’ve all gone through.
Jess Del Fiacco: Yeah. Thanks, Neil. We’ll have that list of resources. We’ll talk about more later, but they’ll all be in the show notes for this episode. You can find them at ilsr.org. So Nina, to go back to what you’re working on in Gainesville right now, could you talk about a campaign to keep Pay-As-You-Throw in Gainesville? What is Pay-As-You-Throw mean? And then what’s happening on the ground right now?
Nina  Bhattacha…: Sure. Yeah. So for listeners who are not as familiar with Pay-As-You-Throw, it’s a program which essentially allows people to pay for the amount of waste that they generate. And so what that means is that here in Gainesville, we have different trash cart sizes and people pay a lesser amount for a smaller trash cart size. And then that progressively gets larger with the size of their trash cart increasing.
Nina  Bhattacha…: And so this program has been in effect since 1994 in Gainesville. And it became an effect because we as a community, recognize the value of allowing people to really pay for that trash cart size. And that when people choose smaller trash cart sizes, they produce less waste, thus also helping us in our zero waste efforts. So just to give you a little bit of background about the issue. This program has been in effect, like I mentioned since 1994, with really little input. And it seemed to be going along very well and people use their different size cards.
Nina  Bhattacha…: The city of Gainesville recently established a office of equity and inclusion, which is a really important office to have and to have staffed. Where they basically look at program policies, they look at contracts that the city enters into, to evaluate those items and make sure that equity is considered. We’re not overly burdening our low income communities. And so the city’s office of equity and inclusion did an initial analysis of our waste management contract, which is going out to bid shortly.
Nina  Bhattacha…: And they had found that this program seemed to be inequitable because our low income communities, tended to have larger cart sizes and then were overly burdened with those increased costs for the cart sizes. So there was a really big concern there. And so as part of this analysis, they came forward with a recommendation that the city move to a flat rate system for cart sizes.
Nina  Bhattacha…: So everyone will be paying across the board the same price for their waste. And so based off this recommendation from the city’s office of equity and inclusion, the commission voted five two, to eliminate the Pay-As-You-Throw program and to instate a flat rate system. Well, Zero Waste Gainesville, was really frustrated with that decision. We again see the value completely in terms of the Pay-As-You-Throw system, it’s vital to our waste reduction efforts. And we also knew that the program could be tailored and made flexible, to address any issues or concerns about equity.
Nina  Bhattacha…: So that very same day, this vote took place, we convened. There was Amanda, myself and my husband’s also really involved locally on campaigns and activist issues. And we discussed what we needed to do, to bring forward the things that could be done to make the program equitable. And to encourage the city commission to reconsider this vote and reinstate the Pay-As-You-Throw program. So I’m happy to go into some of those details of the actions we took now if that works, or if you have any other questions.
Neil Seldman: Yeah. First of all, this is a very important issue across the country. Cities like Baltimore and D.C. are considering, Pay-As-You-Throw. And there is deep concern for the impact on low income and moderate income families and households. So Nina, could you start with the status now. Was the new law repealed, or is it still a political battle going on?
Nina  Bhattacha…: So in our campaign efforts, we were successful in getting the City Commission to reconsider that vote. So after our outreach and education campaign, they reconsidered that unanimously. And they basically said that we would like to move forward again with the Pay-As-You-Throw system, but then come back to the table in the summer to discuss how we can look at ways to make it more equitable. So they repealed their original decision to basically eliminate the Pay-As-You-Throw program, but they want to have further conversations at this point.
Neil Seldman: Well, first of all, I want to congratulate you on turning things around.
Nina  Bhattacha…: Thank you.
Neil Seldman: In my experience with Pay-As-You-Throw, there are many different ways to protect low-income people, renters and or homeowners so the system can work. I will stay in touch with you because the results of how you modify your system to accommodate low-income people, will be very interesting to the rest of the country. So we’ll be staying in touch with you on that. And I congratulate you for accomplishing what you’ve done so far. Any information either now, or as you contemplate the new policies, we would appreciate those details.
Nina  Bhattacha…: Absolutely. So our role will definitely be and continues to be meeting with commissioners, educating our community as to the benefits of Pay-As-You-Throw and the ways to make it an equitable program. And so we will be putting forward recommendations and have been putting forward recommendations to the City Commission, as to how they can adopt different strategies to make it an equitable program.
Nina  Bhattacha…: For us, of course, education and outreach is always key. We know that there are plenty of people in our community, that don’t even know that there is a Pay-As-You-Throw system in place and that they can get a smaller trash cart and pay less. So that’s first and foremost in our minds, to really have a targeted campaign to do that. And that should be led by the city and their solid waste department.
Nina  Bhattacha…: And then also from there, there are other strategies such as waiver systems for those who really need help, to be able to pay for their waste. That could be potentially something that’s put forward. We’ve essentially put together a list of recommendations to the commission to consider at this point. I’m going to say goodbye actually, if you’re going to be kind of transitioned to Reuse, but I just thank you so much for having us.
Neil Seldman: Terrific. And thank you for the information and for your work of course, Nina.
Nina  Bhattacha…: Absolutely. It’s nice meeting you all virtually.
Neil Seldman: Okay. Thanks.
Jess Del Fiacco: Thank you. All right. We’ll be back in just a minute with more about Zero Wast efforts in Gainesville from our other guests, Sarah and Amanda. But first we’re going to take a short break. Thanks for listening to our show. If you’re enjoying this conversation, I hope you consider heading over to ilsr.org/donate to help support us. Your donation makes this podcast possible, as well as all the work that we do here at ILSR.
Jess Del Fiacco: You can visit ilsr.org/donate to make a contribution today. Any amount is sincerely appreciated. And while you’re there, you might want to check out the other shows in the ILSR podcast family. We’ve got shows that cover everything from broadband to composting. Thanks for listening. Now back to the show. Turning to Sarah and Amanda. So you both work on the Repurpose Project. Sarah, could you talk about what the Repurpose Project is and how did it get started?
Sarah Goff: Yeah. So my background before starting the Repurpose Project was creative reuse, which is pretty much arts and crafts and the small little things that can be incorporated and repurposed into other things. So a lot of school supplies, art supplies, any sort of random thing that has value, that you don’t see in a traditional thrift store. And then I met a fellow that was already working in Gainesville doing deconstruction. And so he was really passionate about architectural salvage, which is a huge part of the waste stream, that isn’t getting reused.
Neil Seldman: Excuse me, I must interrupt. I want a name the people you work with, the wonderful people, the Bearded Brothers deconstruction company of Gainesville. And Mike Myers, who I believe is now retired was one of the founders of that. A great zero waste person and a great deconstruction person. I just wanted to mention his name.
Sarah Goff: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. We met each other and were sort of a odd pair to start it, but it really did make a lot of sense with his background and my background and we just combined it. And I think the combination of architectural salvage with creative reuse, makes a lot of sense. Because creative reuse doesn’t bring in a lot of funds and architectural salvage does. So by combining them, we are able to make an organization that is self-funded.
Sarah Goff: And I think that that’s important to consider, because there’s a lot of things that should be getting reused that don’t bring a lot of income in. And by having some reuse items that are revenue generating, they can also subsidize some of these other important things that are really useful for the community to reuse. And especially the supplies that teachers come in for and students come in for. We want to provide that service. And being able to have higher revenue items, help us be able to provide that service.
Jess Del Fiacco: Yeah. Could you talk a little bit more about kind of your relationship with the local economy and your workforce and what impact that has?
Sarah Goff: Yeah. We started small and we’ve just continued to grow and it seems exponential our growth. And that really shows that what we’re offering, is very needed and desired. When we started 10 years ago, it was all volunteer run and pretty quickly we realized we needed someone there full-time. So we hired me and now we’re at 22 people I believe.
Sarah Goff: We have about a 100 to 200 sales per day. We’re open six days a week and our parking lot is constantly full. And our warehouse, our building right now is full. So we just purchased a second location. So we are expecting even quicker growth this year. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if we double all of our numbers within the next two years.
Neil Seldman: Sarah, I’ve heard you speak before and I believe, you correct me if I’m wrong. You started with 1000 square feet, you moved to 3000 square feet, and now you’re jumping to this vast warehouse of 100,000 square feet. All of that happened in 10 years. Could you just give us a little bit of information on how you financed this purchase of your new warehouse?
Sarah Goff: Yeah. Well, we originally thought that we had a bank loan. We talked to our bank that we’ve been banking with for 10 years and they gave us a loan amount, which was not enough for the building. So we launched a fundraising campaign. And we were absolutely blown away by the public support. We quickly raised $150,000 in 60 days. And during that time, the bank loan actually fell through, which was very hard to handle after raising so much money from so many people.
Sarah Goff: We probably had over 500 individual donors for that $150,000. It really is an amazing story and it shows the power of our community and divesting and investing in local organizations. Because within a week of learning that our bank loan had fallen through, we were able to get seven private lenders to lend us money and make up the difference of the bank loan.
Sarah Goff: And not only that, the lenders were really trying to work with us, to come up with favorable terms that would help us succeed in the long run. So whereas the bank was saying, “Prove to us that you’re not going to fail so that we don’t lose our investment.” These individual lenders were saying, “How can we structure this to make sure you succeed?” So they offered to delay payment for seven months so that we could have seven months to get the organization in the new building set up before we had to start paying.
Sarah Goff: It was a big learning moment for me to see that we don’t necessarily have to rely on the big institutions for all our needs. We can really look to our community. There are people out there that have money, that are willing to invest. And actually were thanking us for being able to invest in a cause that they believed in. They didn’t want to put their money in big business and on Wall Street, but they saw that we were a good company that was making positive change in our community. And so they were willing to pull their money out of traditional lending situations and put it towards us.
Neil Seldman: It’s a great story of community empowerment and it’s of course, it’s a great message to you guys that you’re doing the right thing. So I just wanted to make sure we had Sarah talk about the financing. Thanks for the interruption, Jess.
Jess Del Fiacco: Oh yeah, of course. That was great. So this question might be for Amanda, or maybe for both of you. Curious, if you have a relationship with the city or the county, and if so has it evolved over the years?
Amanda Waddle: We have been talking to the city and the county for awhile. We haven’t quite gotten there with them. Although I do think it’s around the corner. We actually just had a Zoom meeting with them today, to talk a possible pilot program, to assess the value of the bulk material on the curb. I mean, I think most of us know that anytime you drive around, you’re going to see stuff that’s valuable at the curb.
Amanda Waddle: And so we’re talking about doing a pilot program with them, where we would drive ahead of the trash hauling trucks and pick up anything of value and actually give it a unique barcode and skew number, so that we can track all the way through sales. So we’ll have an exact dollar amount of the usable material that’s getting put at the curb. And I think that that’s really exciting, because there’s just so much value there. Something that I always talk about, is recycling of courses is an amazing thing, and we should definitely do that. But reuse is really overlooked as far as municipal services.
Amanda Waddle: And it’s something that is a big part of our waste stream as far as bulk, but it’s also a valuable part of our waste stream and really beneficial to people in the community, especially like lower income members of the community, to have access to low cost material. And without a system in place to collect it, store it and resell it, we need that system. And I think it makes a lot of sense for it to be part of municipal waste hauling services.
Neil Seldman: I’d like to comment on that two things. One, a study several years ago in Oregon, where Eugene Oregon Lane county, where there’s a very active reuse group. St. Vincent DePaul of Lane County. Their economic analysis showed that the existence of these 13 thrift stores in the county, reduced the cost of living for low-income people by 3%, which is of course, terrific. The other point is, if you succeed in having a pre pickup before the trucks come, that could enhance the people putting out valuable, not antiques, but the older things that if they put in the waste stream, of course would be destroyed.
Neil Seldman: So it’s a great, innovative tactic. And I believe Gainesville years ago, didn’t they Gainesville do something with setups of electronic scrap, or separate pickup? It may have been a different city. I may be missing that. But the concept was that people would put out their east scrap separate from their waste. So it could be picked up by a sheltered workshop for refurbishing.
Jess Del Fiacco: I actually had a kind of similar question. I was wondering if any other cities had … I’ve never heard of tracking the materials before, to track that dollar amount. So I’m curious if you’re looking to somewhere else for inspiration for that? Or if that’s just something that you’re innovating.
Sarah Goff: I actually haven’t heard of that, but we started talking about it with our new building. It’s going to be mostly big, bulky items. So we were looking into bar coding systems for that. And at the same time, we just happened to be talking to the city about data collecting for this bulk material. So it just kind of, I don’t know. It might be out there, but I haven’t heard of it.
Neil Seldman: It’s an excellent innovation and we’ll be following you.
Jess Del Fiacco: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about kind of what your customers and supporter base is like. If you have any particular great impact stories that you’ve had on the community, that you’ve seen or heard from customers.
Sarah Goff: Yeah. And that’s actually one of my favorite things about our store, is that we have a very diverse customer base. And especially in the last few years, the political climate is so divided. It seems like Reuse is one of the few issues that isn’t divided. It’s really supported by everyone, because I think everyone can see the value in Reuse. There’s no reason not to have more reuse. It benefits all the upstream issues with manufacturing.
Sarah Goff: Some people care about that, but also a lot of the downstream benefits of being able to access this material, it’s really, it feels like it’s bringing the community together. And one of my favorite moments, was at checkout. We had a line and it was just so diverse. It was almost like every single stereotype of a person was inline together. And they were talking to each other about what they were going to do with the items that they were buying.
Sarah Goff: And it just felt so good. We were much more than a store. We were building this community, bringing people together, that maybe wouldn’t be brought together otherwise. For the common goal of just creating and salvaging and saving money. And I don’t know. I just feel like there’s so much potential there on so many levels with expanding Reuse.
Neil Seldman: We had a Reuse a webinar a month ago. And Elizabeth Knight. K-N-I-G-H-T presented. She wrote the book, The Repair Revolution which I’ll mention later on in our resources. But she went into several anecdotes about the profound impact that not only people who brought things in through repair, but the repair people, the relationship between the repair people, teaching regular people how to fix their own things, it was an emotional psychological event, as well as the reuse of that. Your stories are being multiplied thousands of times across the country.
Sarah Goff: Yeah. That kind of reminds me too. We recently picked up 100 washers and dryers stack units, that it was a remodel, a multi apartment complex remodel. So I mean, they were all in working condition. But that was also very touching because a lot of the people that were buying them, were low income families that were going to laundromats. So it goes beyond that. We’re improving people’s lives by making this stuff available.
Sarah Goff: It’s not just like we started off maybe thinking it was more of an environmental and now we really see that it’s a social organization. It really is helping people and it’s helping animals, because there’s less habitat loss. And we’re also helping the environment.
Jess Del Fiacco: It’s really kind of exemplifying environmental justice principles it sounds like. You’re covering all sides.
Sarah Goff: Yeah. And that’s something, I guess I’ll touch on that Pay-As-You-Throw thing too, because they were really focusing on just the cost impact of the trash carts. But what I saw right away, is the environmental injustice that’s happening in upstream manufacturing. And then also the waste disposal. Landfills are pretty much always located in low-income communities that have, there’s a lot of equity issues as far as the manufacturing stuff and the disposal of our stuff. And I think that that’s really important to consider, looking at the whole picture of equity and the waste stream.
Neil Seldman: This is independent verification, but when we interviewed people like the Reuse carter and Central Appalachia, the impact, the psychological impact on workers, on people in the community is just tremendous. And it really is needed at a time when community people need more resources and the waste stream is just overwhelming us across the country. The more reuse, the better off we all are economically environmentally and socially. Sarah, could you talk about your workforce. How you recruit your workers there, the wages, pay conditions, things like that. So people get a sense of what it’s like to work in a Reuse center.
Sarah Goff: Yeah. We’re constantly trying to increase our wages. Right now, our average wage is $14 an hour. And for this area, that’s right at the living wage. And we’re considerably higher than most of the other big box retailers in our area. Definitely this new building and the types of material that we’re going to be able to resell, we’re hoping to be able to increase our wages. Florida passed a $15 minimum wage, which is a dollar increase every year for the next five years.
Sarah Goff: And we’re hoping that we can get there this year, to starting wage $15 an hour. But we want it to be more, so we’re continuing to try to innovate and streamline and make things efficient. It’s definitely reuse is a hard job. It’s overwhelming the amount of stuff and the types of material that we get in. But people really like working with us because it is rewarding. It’s not a boring retail job. It’s never boring. There’s always something going on.
Sarah Goff: And we also are a little different in that we’re as horizontal of a structure as we can be. So we have meetings every week. Everyone has a lot of say over what’s going on as far as making sure that the working conditions are good and everything’s collaborative. And we make sure to recognize people have different lives. They’re coming from different backgrounds and making arrangements. So that it’s a good place to work.
Neil Seldman: I just again, want to relate what you’re doing in Gainesville to other places across the country. Urban Ore which is in Berkeley, California, they’ve got about 30 workers and they’ve been in business for quite a while. At least 30, 40 years. Dan Knapp and Mary Lou Van Deventure, who are the married couple that own the place, they are now selling the business to their workers. They’ve been negotiating for about a year.
Neil Seldman: And the workers are very enthusiastic about being worker owners. And they also highly praise their staff. I wanted to tell one other story that’s related. Dan and Mary Lou came back East a couple of years ago. And we drove over to Community Forklift in Prince George’s county, outside of D.C. And I just stood there and watched these four, Nancy and Ruth from Community Forklift. These four professionals with years and years of experience, going over their different procedures and learning from each other.
Neil Seldman: It was one of those exciting lessons, a class lessons I ever had. It was quite wonderful. As you said, people are so friendly and willing to share information. It really is a statement about the culture that the reuse industry is bringing to cities all across the country. Rural areas as well as urban areas. You mentioned basically how many people provided the support, monetary support for the new move.
Neil Seldman: Is there a sense of how many different customers you have? Do you keep account? Obviously people come in more than one time. But is there a sense of how many people, or families you’re impacting in the Gainesville area? And related to that, do people come from outside of Gainesville to shop at your store, or bring donations?
Sarah Goff: That’s an interesting question. I haven’t … You mean as far as unique visitors. Like how many unique visitors? I bet I could probably run a report on a square, but I haven’t done that. I’m not sure. I do know that we have a lot of regulars. We have a lot of people that are there almost every day and a lot of people that spend hours and hours and hours there.
Neil Seldman: I remember outside of Pittsburgh, they have a very good reuse operation. And I sat in the parking lot and just saw all day long, people going in and out smiling because they’re bringing stuff in and smiling because they got a bargain. So it’s really, it’s a social. And it’s quite lovely to hang out at Urban Ore and I’m sure your place as well. One other factor that I’ve learned from other reuse operations all over the country, is that many of the, a good part of their sales, goes to other stores that are going to resell what they get.
Neil Seldman: Like you’re supplying inventory for other restores. In fact, that a study just done by the University of Maine, they found out that sometimes 50 to 60% of sales from reuse stores, go to other stores that are going to resell it, either refurbish it a bit more and resell it. And I was wondering if you’ve kept data on that type of economic activity.
Sarah Goff: We don’t either, but this is all good points that we should be tracking. I mean, I do know that we have a lot of resellers that come in. And we love that. We love that there’s people that are helping us get it back into use. And we’ve started doing a lot more eBay and Etsy, because it’s a lot easier to find the people who want this stuff online. Especially for the repair community. If we get broken sawing machine that parts are still useful for people who are looking for that specific part. And it’s a lot easier to find that specific part online for the person that needs it.
Neil Seldman: Yes. I do know that St. Vincent’s out in Lane County, Oregon, they use the internet for selling high-end pocketbooks and textiles that they’ve refashioned. And so it’s a balance between using the internet and of course, having a physical store. Is there an overlap between people who donate to you and people who buy? In other words, do people come in and give you stuff and then walk out with purchases?
Sarah Goff: Yeah. I would say the majority of the people.
Neil Seldman: Really?
Sarah Goff: Yep.
Neil Seldman: Okay. And another related question, which I again, I picked this up, how important reuse is from talking to other people around the country. Urban Ore just told us that through COVID, their business has really, not doubled, but greatly increased because they’ve been … And I’m sure you have declared unnecessary in this store to keep up. This year, they’re going to pay about a quarter of a million dollars in sales tax. And I was wondering, I know you have to pay sales tax. But isn’t it a large contribution to the city and I imagine there’s a state sales tax as well?
Sarah Goff: Yeah. That’s incredible. That’s incredible sales tax number. Yeah. We’re probably this year if without the new building, our sales tax for the year would be about 36,000 for the year.
Neil Seldman: Well, clearly it’s one of the few forms of recycling that pays sales tax. And of course, reuse is much more valuable than recycling, because you’re getting a product, not a raw material. Nina’s not here now, but Amanda, did you have any comments about your work at the Repurpose Project?
Amanda Waddle: Yeah. I can add in a little bit about when we started a zero waste department at Repurpose Project. So one of our goals when I set up this department and Sarah and I figured out what we wanted to do, is we wanted to work with schools. We wanted to create educational material. We wanted to work with small businesses and events. And so we really set up a program to tackle all of that. And working with the K through 12 schools pre COVID, we had to agree to work towards zero waste.
Amanda Waddle: And part of that, was creating education for them. So they can learn about all the components of zero waste, including reuse and how important reuse is. And another component was getting school supplies to some of the classrooms that didn’t have a lot of school supplies. The families couldn’t bring them in, the families couldn’t provide them. So I would take school supplies from the aisles at the Repurpose Project and take them into these classrooms. So we were able to supply them. We needed supplies for the students and the teachers. So that was part of what we were doing.
Amanda Waddle: We’re starting to pick that stuff back up now because it was on pause because of COVID. So I’m working with a middle school. And we’re making the plans this summer for how we’re going to start back in August. And part of that, is some curriculum that they’re going to use that I created. It’s a 10 part zero waste educational curriculum that I’m real excited that they want to use. Another aspect is that before COVID, we had piloted diverting the food scraps from the lunch in this middle school. And that got put on pause, but we’re going to start that back up in August.
Amanda Waddle: So we’re lucky to have a community compositor here in Gainesville, that has agreed to pick up the food scraps weekly from this school. And since we already piloted, we kind of know that it can work. So we’re just going to have to start that back up again. So we think that actual practices of diverting food scraps, actual practices of recycling right. And then getting the education, overlapping all of that on why we work towards zero waste, why we do some reuse is so important, will really be valuable for these middle school students. So that’s one program that I’m really excited about.
Neil Seldman: Well, you’re really turning into a, all around zero waste if you’re getting into composting. So you’re doing wonderful things there. I don’t have any more questions. I would just like to take three minutes to go through the references, for other resources that people might want to, who watch this, who read this podcast, might want to go through. I’m just going to mention a few. I think people should contact and we’ll provide this information. Professor Cynthia Isenhour. I-S-E-N-H-O-U-R at University of Maine.
Neil Seldman: She’s developing a whole array with her students and other professors, data on the sociology and economics of reuse. There’s a wonderful book that’s been out for a year, The Repair Revolution by John Wackman and Elizabeth Knight. And again, there’re several many references listed. I just wanted to say, on building deconstruction, there’s a wonderful report out from the city of San Antonio, Texas called Waste Within our Walls. And it’s a technical manual and policy manual for building deconstruction.
Neil Seldman: And the final thing I’ll mention and we’ll provide, that Jess will provide this on the podcast this list, there are numerous webinars featuring reuse people, just like we’re doing here with the Repurpose Project. But I would say that we have on video recording at least 15 businesses, much like the Repurpose Center. They’re all slightly different, but of course they’re all focused on zero waste and reuse.
Neil Seldman: So to conclude, I want to thank all Sarah, Nina and Amanda for one, their hard work. Two, for sharing the details with us. And I hope you don’t mind if you get a lot of questions from around the country, when this podcast gets put up by Jess. Jess, did you have anything to conclude with?
Jess Del Fiacco: That’s all I have. Sarah, Amanda, if there’s anything else you want to add before we sign off? Otherwise, thank you so much for joining us today.
Neil Seldman: Be well. We’ll be in touch everybody. Keep up the good work as my dad would say. Thanks.
Jess Del Fiacco: Thank you
Neil Seldman: Yeah. Thank you.
Jess Del Fiacco: Thank you for tuning into this episode of the Building Local Power Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. You can find links to everything we discussed today by going to ilsr.org and clicking on the show page for this episode. That’s I-L-S-R.org. While you’re there, you can sign up for one of our many newsletters and connect with us on social media. We hope you also take the opportunity to help us out with a gift that helps produce this very podcast and supports the research and resources we make available for free on our website.
Jess Del Fiacco: Finally, we ask that you let us know how we’re doing with a rating or review on Apple podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts. This show is produced by me, Jess Del Fiacco and edited by Drew Birschbach. Our theme music is Funk interlude by Dysfunctional. For the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I’m Jess Del Fiacco and I hope you join us again in two weeks for the next episode of Building Local Power.

 

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Audio Credit: Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL Ft: Fourstones – Scomber (Bonus Track). Copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

Photo Credit: iStock 

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Jess Del Fiacco is ILSR’s Communications Manager. In this role, she works closely with program staff to develop and implement communications strategy that supports ILSR’s mission. She promotes ILSR’s work through the organization’s newsletters, website, social media, events, and more. Jess also hosts the Building Local Power podcast. Contact Jess for media inquiries.