Goodwill’s success in re-use and recycling provides a window to the sharing, buy-it-used economy

Goodwill’s success in re-use and recycling provides a window to the sharing, buy-it-used economy

Growing numbers of Millennials—and others—are sharing, buying used and repurposing products, not just because money is short, but also because they want to.   

Goodwill Industries has always been synonymous with re-use of old clothes and household items, with the double benefit of employing and providing job training for many who are often not able to find jobs otherwise.

Lately, Goodwill has embraced the massive business of recycling trash and electronics, including tons of cardboard, paper, textiles, paint, motor oil, antifreeze, laminate, computers and electronics that would otherwise be ending up in landfills.

“It was a good fit initially without even thinking about [the green benefits] of recycling,” said Elizabeth Nother, the executive vice president of Goodwill in Knoxville, Tenn., where the expansion into recycling and material recovery has created 350 jobs.

Goodwill’s success in its traditional “re-use” and newer recycling businesses dovetails with the trend of the collaborative economy.

Our EcoPulse ’13 research tells us that a growing number, as high as 25 percent, of consumers – notably but not exclusively Millennials — are embracing the evolving collaborative economy.

They are sharing, bartering, buying used and avoiding unnecessary consumption. At the same time, they are embracing re-use because it is a sustainable activity – in fact, one of the most sustainable things a person can do.

When we first saw this trend in our research, we tied it to economic necessity. But diving deeper, we are seeing a more profound change in behavior and values, as a significant number of young consumers reject the consumption-based economy and turn instead to thrift, sharing and re-use, which better fit their values of thrift and sustainability.

Manufacturers who’ve begun to focus on sustainability should be encouraged that, in making changes to become more sustainable, they are becoming more attractive to the largest, savviest, most loyal target audience available.

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Posted on

July 1, 2013

About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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