Can you recall the daily presence of one of the most iconic characters in modernist history? The Milkman. That brilliantly cladded character, often with the aw-shucks demeanor that brings to mind images of Jimmy Stewart, carrying wire baskets of glass milk bottles from door to door in the manicured cul-de-sacs of 50s America, might be making a comeback as the reuse industry begins to take earnest form. And it’s as circular a thing as the economy that environmental advocates are hoping to create.
Reuse is back in style
With companies popping up like Loop (a division of long-time reuse company, Terracycle), we can see how the milkman idea of local, small batch deliveries and reusable containers could be the wave of the future. And it doesn’t stop with consumer products.
In fact, the idea of getting second-hand technology might have been out of favor with most Americans even just a few years ago. But, thankfully, millennials are changing that tune. And there are two very good reasons for this: the environment and the cost of progress.
The environmental impact of reuse can’t be understated; it is—by far—the most sustainable option we have with our electronic devices. A close second is to reduce, but who wants less technology? Reuse saves the energy that is necessary to properly recycle devices and keeps using the value still carried within these high-tech shells.
The cost of progress is a slightly more difficult subject to grasp. Mostly because we think of progress as always being an upward journey. But, as we’ve seen with recent smartphone releases, there comes a point in progress when manufacturers backtrack.
This backtracking typically means the newest devices introduced are of lower quality than previous models (we see this all the time with Apple iPhones and Macbooks in our ecommerce shop). For this reason, many consumers choose a refurbished or reused item to get a better product than the latest version. In the same way, consumers are interested in getting things like milk and ice cream in glass and metal containers they can reuse or return for a refund, because the convenience of single-use plastic is no longer appealing.
Reuse as a sourcing strategy
Too often reuse is positioned at the end of life for your things—that it’s a last-ditch effort way of being sustainable with your harder to toss items like a computer or smartphone. The reality, however, is that looking at the refurbished or reuse devices can be a cost-effective procurement strategy. Not only because of the better value we discussed earlier, but also because of the cost savings that comes with reuse.
Considering reuse as a procurement angle positions your department to benefit from some other company’s bankroll. Think about it: many large corporations renew their IT assets every few years—whether for security reasons or because they want to stay ahead of the game—often tossing devices out well before they are useless. And their expense can be your savings.
Often, the devices that land in reuse have sat on a single desk and been used by one employee. That means no kids were spilling sticky substances on them, they weren’t surrounded by smoke, and they often were handled with utmost care by the IT department or by the employee who used it. If ever there was an ideal case for reuse, it’s with corporate IT assets.
Bringing back these icons of the past—and entering into a depression mindset of conservation and reuse—is unfortunately necessary. Our environment is crying out at the way we’ve treated it for the past fifty years. The least we can do is look at extending the life of our own devices and products while reusing as much as possible the things we work with every day.
Only with a simple approach to how we consume things will we be able to bring a significant change to our planet. We need to think smaller scale, simpler methods, and familiar processes to keep our resources going for the future. And at the forefront of this revolution is reuse. Be it at the hands of a milkman or an online e-store, we need to bring reusable thinking back into practice.
Image ©: Turas Troimh Alba
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