Q2: Make It Visible

Cheerful smiles abounded during the volunteer hours of our day spent touring Seattle’s central Goodwill donation site. Before diving in to lend a hand we got to take a behind the scenes look at donation processing and internal distribution – a key diversion at the disposal stage in The Story of Stuff and astonishing in its daily scope.

“99% of the stuff we run through this system is

trashed within 6 months”

~ Annie Leonard

On a slow day this one donation site accepts an average of two semi trailers of items – in the busiest seasons up to nine containers will be filled by day’s end. The intervention Goodwill leverages in the cycle of stuff became all the more apparent thanks to our conversation with the recycling & salvage staff person. From stories of single shoes sent to countries in need to continuous salvage of materials able to be commodity traded, the opportunities he spoke of for continuous innovation and solution seeking were vast. Among them, at present no viable method for repurposing or recycling pressboard furniture (compliments of IKEA & others) is available.

Especially when it comes to the enormity of our present consumption (food waste specifically is keeping me up at night these days) this question keeps rattling around in my mind: How to make these system visible yet still hold hope? Little messages of truth & action like this are a step in the right direction:

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4 responses

  1. Hey Amanda ~ I love that you’re able to take a volunteer experience and turn it into greater learning. Looks like you had fun with Monali, Souravi and (can’t identify the other person)! Did our relatively recent CAIR, B.G. Nabors-Glass, facilitate this opportunity?

    This reminds me that there is one in a string of clothing swaps coming up. If you haven’t partaken in this kind of event, here’s a quick description: you bring clothes you no longer want (that are still wearable) to the swap and combine them with clothing brought by the other attendees. You try on each other’s clothes in order to find new-to-you items to bring home. The rest goes to charity. Have you ever been to one? Let me know if you’d like an invite.

    Do you donate items to Goodwill? If not, what do you do with your stuff?

  2. Your posts always get me thinking. I always wonder when I drop off my unwanted stuff at Goodwill, whether it’s actually needed, used, sold, etc. How do they take my, and others’ junk and turn it into something someone does want? I’m interested to hear more about your volunteer experience and get more insight as to what goes on once I drive away from the drop-off site.

  3. The Annie Leonard stat is bold. 99% eh? And I’m jealous that you went to Goodwill without me. As a poor grad schooler, thats my first shopping option these days for household goods. Aside from pressed wood, what else can they not dispose of? Opportunity here? I would also be keen to hear what keeps you up about food waste? Is it that big of a problem? Tell me more…

  4. Press-board furniture can’t be recycled? Oh, no! I have to check out IKEA’s supply chain.. the video mentioned re-use and recycling, but they forgot the most important one—reducing! Cary and I try to run a tight consumption ship and limit our purchases, but it’s wild how quickly things accumulate. We once had a one-for-one appliance rule. Before we bought a new “thing”, we’d have to decide what old “thing” to give away. Can’t remember who said it, but I remember it from one of the intensives.. something like this, “When you throw something away, remember there is no “away”.

    …I also want to hear more about what food waste issues keep you up at night.

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