Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Poster Child for Sustainability

This morning I participated in a panel hosted by the HoCo Tech Council called “Local Blogging: A New Media Voice in the Community.” Actually it's called the Howard Tech Council but Ho Tech Council just didn't sound right. 


This panel was part of a series of monthly seminars that the council sponsors on various HoCo loco technology issues. The seminar was attended by about 20 people from a variety of fields, both in the public sector and private sector. One of them was a guy named Duane St. Claire.

In addition to his real job, Duane is one of the co-founders of Columbia Freecycle. Freecycle is a non profit service that helps people find new homes for items they might otherwise throw out. Instead of adding to the nations increasing solid waste problem the organization gets an extra mile or two out of stuff by connecting those who no longer want stuff with those who could still use that stuff, for free. Hence the name.

Duane said that since he’s been a part of the Columbia group they’ve facilitated in the transfer of something in the neighborhood of 150,000 items. That’s just in the HoCo loco effort. In a little over seven years Freecycle has grown into a global movement. In their own words:

“The Freecycle concept has since spread to over 85 countries, where there are thousands of local groups representing millions of of members -- people helping people and 'changing the world one gift at a time.' As a result, we are currently keeping over 500 tons a day out of landfills! This amounts to five times the height of Mt. Everest in the past year alone, when stacked in garbage trucks!

By giving freely with no strings attached, members of The Freecycle Network help instill a sense of generosity of spirit as they strengthen local community ties and promote environmental sustainability and reuse. People from all walks of life have joined together to turn trash into treasure.”

Duane talked about being inspired after a trip to the dump. He marveled at the things that were being tossed, many still quite serviceable. The second best place to live in the country has lots of stuff.

Ironically, the dump won’t let his group have some sort of presence at the landfill. Duane thinks the HoCo Public Works Department just couldn’t get their heads around the concept. He believes they saw it as more of a trading post type of thing than a viable solid waste reduction alternative.

Maybe Josh Feldmark could look into this. It looks to me like this would hit his sustainability sweet spot.
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