Column: Duluth Goodwill: community, economy and environment in harmonyIn recent years it has become easier and more convenient to recycle items that typically would have gone into the garbage and straight into the landfill.
By: Cara Lindberg, For the Budgeteer News
In recent years it has become easier and more convenient to recycle items that typically would have gone into the garbage and straight into the landfill.
The majority of our local garbage haulers accept aluminum, plastic, glass, paper and cardboard to be recycled. However, there are many items that cannot simply go on the curb and out with the trash. Household items such as electronics and furniture are more challenging pieces to dispose of. Luckily, we have some local organizations that have found creative ways to overcome these obstacles.
Duluth’s Goodwill Industries Vocational Enterprises, Inc., known to most as simply Goodwill, is leading the way in reducing, reusing and recycling goods in our community. Goodwill’s mission truly reflects the triple bottom line of sustainability — the balance of a healthy community, economy and environment.
Our local Goodwill, founded in 1919, is one of the oldest Goodwill agencies in the world. It was created to provide jobs to returning World War I veterans and unemployed immigrants. In 1979, the Head of the Lakes Goodwill and the Duluth Sheltered Workshop joined forces because of a shared goal of job creation for people with disabilities. During the merge of the two organizations, they purchased Goldfine’s department store on Garfield Avenue, where they still are located today, and became Duluth’s Goodwill Industries Vocational Enterprises, Inc.
Community: Goodwill has several programs that assist in the creation of jobs for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. They employ many people at the Garfield Avenue facility and provide supported employment to other businesses in our community. Valerie Clark, Goodwill’s public relations specialist, said, “Goodwill provides assessment, training and ongoing support to help each program participant reach his or her fullest potential.” The Goodwill philosophy is that everyone deserves a chance to work, no matter the barriers, and they remain true to that mission.
Economy: Goodwill accepts donations of gently used clothing and household items in good condition. What is “good condition”? “Something nice enough to give a friend,” Clark said. Goodwill then resells these items to the public at affordable prices. You can make a donation at any Goodwill location. “Often times you will have the opportunity to hand your items to an attendant whose job is being directly supported by your donation. What a rewarding experience,” Clark said.
Environment: Goodwill attempts to recycle or reuse anything that doesn’t meet store quality standards. Cardboard boxes from donations are sent to a Twin Cities company that recycles them into cereal boxes and tissue. Goodwill recycles scrap metal and wire and other items that do not have a lot of upfront value. “During the 2012-2013 fiscal year our Goodwill store recycled 3.2 million pounds of materials through reuse,” Clark said. That is 3.2 million pounds of material that did not go to the landfill!
One of the standout recycling and reuse programs is mattress recycling. Goodwill participates in the Northeast Minnesota Mattress Recycling Program (NEMMRP), which provides a sustainable solution to mattress disposal. The public can simply drop off unwanted mattresses at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s Materials Recovery Center (off of Rice Lake Road) for a fee of $7 per mattress. From there it goes to Goodwill where the mattress, box spring, foam topper, cotton, wood and steel is disassembled by Goodwill workers and recycled. Since the beginning of this project in 2004, Goodwill has processed more than 120,000 mattresses — 17,000 in the last year alone. “People come from all over the world to visit Goodwill Duluth and learn about this innovative program, which recently was honored by the Minneapolis-based Environmental Initiative as an award winner in the Business and Environment category,” said Clark.
I encourage all of us to learn more about Goodwill and the wonderful programs that are bettering our community, economy and environment. To support Goodwill’s mission and for additional information on acceptable items for donation, visit www.duluthgoodwill.org and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District at www.wlssd.duluth.mn.us
Cara Lindberg is the board president of Sustainable Twin Ports. She lives with her husband in the Duluth area. Cara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.