Before you decide to recycle or to dispose of something, consider whether this item still has some life left.
Rush offers several programs that help employees to reuse items:
1) Supply Chain Management and the Green Team, in cooperation with Office Max, offers an Office Supply Exchange Day once or twice a year. These are announced in Rush News. Members of RUMC departments are invited to bring in office supplies they no longer need. These are inventoried and then later in the day are made available on a first-come basis to other employees. This helps to insure materials such as ink cartridges for printers can be used before they expire and it also saves the medical center money if a department can avoid ordering something already purchased by another department. It also keeps items no longer wanted out of the waste stream. At the end of the day, remaining items which are still usable are donated to a local school and/or nonprofit organizations.
The Research at Rush Trading Post is a Website designed as a collaborative workspace where the Rush research community can donate, sell, or trade merchandise or equipment within the community. Items that are no longer used but which may be valuable to other team member can be posted on the webpage (sometimes a photo is offered). Interested parties make contact to negotiate transfer, pick-up or delivery of the item(s). This saves our research labs money by repurposing these items (and keeps useful items out of the landfill).
Finally, Rush Remedy is a medical supply recovery and recycling program started by students that is now carried out by employees who collect unused medical supplies and equipment and provide them to overseas hospitals and clinics-in-need. They have collected and donated about one ton each month of unused medical supplies such as surgical packs, surgical gloves, gauze, bandages, sutures and catheters. Any overstock which might not be utilized prior to its expiration date is donated, as well as older hospital equipment that has been replaced but which can be refurbished. Rush employees collect, box and ship these medical supplies to Hospital Sisters Missions Outreach (HSMO) which in turn ships supplies to the clinics and hospitals in other countries. In 2009, HSMO distributed more than 800 thousand pounds of medical equipment and supplies to healthcare institutions around the world and kept this usable surplus from winding up in our landfills. This process utilizes a strict protocol developed by Remedy Inc., a group of healthcare experts promoting the nationwide practice of recovery of unused surgical supplies in order to provide international medical relief while reducing solid medical waste from U.S. hospitals.
The students that make up the steering committee for Rush Remedy now take on the role of advocacy for Remedy Inc. by aiding students and staff from area hospitals initiate their own programs. Rush Remedy also connects Rush students participating in missions abroad to supplies available through HSMO. Rush Remedy can be contacted at email@example.com
At home, you can also take a reuse approach.
Can you use that glass jar for leftovers? Can you compost your food scraps? An old shirt can become a pajama top or you can give it to a thrift shop for someone else to enjoy. Some items can be repurposed elsewhere in your wardrobe. Chinos with frayed cuffs can be turned into shorts. When those get too worn, do house or yard work in them. And, of course, old T-shirts make great rags.
The inside of an opened envelope can be used for a To Do or shopping list. A magazine can be shared with colleagues or left in waiting rooms for others to enjoy (you might want to remove any address labels first). DVDs can be traded. A dishwasher can usually be repaired. A car can be resold. A cell phone can be donated. Returnable bottles can be returned.
Reusing keeps new resources from being used for a while longer, and old resources from entering the waste stream. It is clearly not glamourous. Reusing a scrap of paper usually doesn't engender the feelng that dropping a newspaper in the recycling bin generates. But keep in mind that reusing is just as important as recycling and reducing.
For example, if you regularly go to coffeeshops or buy coffee at Rush, consider investing in a reusable mug. According to one report, every day, 150 million Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee per day. Paper coffee cups are far more difficult to recycle because of coffee stains and their polyethylene plastic lining. You can also save money. The In a Rush Coffee Kiosk (second floor, Armour Academic Center) offers a discount when you present your reusable mug. The following Chicago area coffee stands also give a discount when you bring in a clean mug for your coffee:
- Cafe Ballou
- Cafe Rom
- Caribou Coffee
- Einstein Bros. Bagels
- Istria Cafe
- Star Lounge Coffee Bar
Craigslist, zunafish and eBay make it easy. On Craigslist, You can trade items you are done with for items that you want or need. You can also use freecycle.org to find materials you want or to give away items you no longer need for others to use.
Do you have children? You can swap boxes of ten or often more items of clothing for $5 plus shipping (currently $10.70) on thredup.com. Boxes are sorted by gender, age, brand, season, type of item, etc. For more information, check out their website. You can use the service with a free membership or upgrade to a paid membership which gives you first dibs on particular clothes. Or, just go to a thiftstore near you and look for clothes and give them the ones your kids have outgrown!
Do you have gently used shoes that you no longer want? Last year, Americans threw away more than 300 million pairs of shoes. The glue holding these shoes together can leach from landfills into our water suppplies. A nonprofit organization, Soles4Souls, will clean your gently-worn shoes and ship them to needy people around the world -- over 12 million pairs so far to people in 125 countries. Check out their website.
And, if you want some help checking out "green" claims in advertising, read this piece by the Federal Trade Commission.
Consider sharing your stuff. A new website, OhSoWe, helps you to safely build bonds with your neighbors, save you money, and saves the Earth's resources. Have you ever bought something that you only used once or twice? This website lets you lend that out to others and also allows you to borrow things you only need to use for a brief period. You save on the purchase price and storage needs when you borrow something and save the resources which would be needed to make, package, distribute and display it for purchase. You register with your street address, click a confirmation email, enter a verification code from a postcard mailed to your home, and you are a member! Check it out.
Do you like to read or do you want to acquire some professional books. Check out PaperBackSwap. This online community allows you to post books you own but which you no longer want and are willing to send to others for the price of media mail. In return, you can request books from other members, who will send you the book at no cost to you. The system isn't limited to paperbacks; you can also list hardcovers or audiobooks and more. These don't have to be an exact one-to-one trade. If you have a number of titles to list and nobody wants them right away, these remain as available. When someone indicates they want that title, you are notified and sent the address to mail the book. You can create a "wishlist" of titles you would like to acquire and you will be alerted when any of them is available.