Going Green Might Have More Meaning Than You Thought

From the blog of our president and CEO, Buddy Teaster

Last week, we launched our “Give shoes. Give love. Go green” campaign. Increasingly, the environmental impact of recycling/upcycling/reusing shoes and clothes is moving to the fore in our message. For example, our terrific partnership with Zappos and the Zappos for Good initiative is just as much about keeping your old textiles out of the landfills as it is about supporting our micro-enterprise efforts. Many companies we work with want to know more about the impact of how we ship products (we use boats for overseas, rail where we can, then trucks) and the actual weight of what’s kept out of a waste stream.

That’s the best-known use of “green” and makes sense as we head into Earth Day in April and generally, spring cleaning. But there’s another meaning for green (especially here in the U.S.) and it’s about money.

Each year about 21 BILLION pounds of textiles gets tossed in the trash, here in the U.S. about 80 pounds per person (FYI, Europe is about half that). Less than 4 billion pounds gets recycled. That means upwards of 15 billion pounds of lost economic opportunity, not to mention the devastating impact on soil, water and air quality. We work with thousands of people around the world who resell these used shoes and clothing to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads. And you know what their biggest problem is….they could sell so much more than we have for them. The very thing that could help make their life better, and their family’s, literally, what we’re throwing away every day.
For almost 30 years, I lived in Texas. More has been written than I’ll ever know about the unique world view many Texans have. As they are fond of saying, welcome to the Republic of Texas. So when I heard this story about Georgetown, TX becoming one of the first cities to be powered 100% by renewable energy, Texas City Leads The Way On Renewable Energy got my attention. Very conservative and proud of it, this city of 50,000 didn’t debate climate change and make a decision. They looked at the math and saw that even in a state built largely on oil and gas, wind and solar were more predictable and cost effective. As the mayor said when asked why, he replied, “You know, because it’s our love of green – green rectangles and green energy.”
There is every reason to believe that we can all make more decisions that are good for the environment and our wallets. Not every decision is a zero sum game. When you look in your closet today, ask yourself if there are things you don’t need or wear anymore. Then ask yourself if you are just going to throw them away, which is the most convenient, or if you’re going to “go green” and donate them. Then think about how your green decision will provide the raw materials for entrepreneurs all over the world who can create their own “green” to take care of their families. Give shoes. Give love. Go green!
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