I live in Colorado and it should come as no surprise to anyone that this is a state that is extremely conscientious about the environment. We are surrounded by a natural landscape that deserves, dare I say, demands our respect. With over 17,000 trails there is no end to the ways we can be one with nature and every chance I get I am outdoors, usually hiking on one of those amazing trails. And we are also so lucky to be able to meet friends for a drink at a rooftop bar in Downtown Boulder that provides sweeping views of the Flatirons and surrounding Foothills. You can't help but marvel at the beauty even while waiting for an elevator at one of Boulder's newest venues after sharing a cocktail with one of your networking connections that you haven't seen in almost a year.
I always have "gear" in my car in case a client session ends early and I can get what can be a real butt-kicking workout if the trail has a rapid ascent like say North Table Mountain, a trailhead I've passed countless times to get to and from a regular client in Golden every week and finally got a chance to hike the entire loop last week. Nevermind the typical afternoon monsoon-like summer thunderstorms were looming in the distance. I needed to move my legs and take in some incredible scenery along the way.
While I may not have been considered the most "outdoorsy" person prior to moving here 5 years ago, I always considered myself someone who cared deeply about the environment. I remember when my home state, Michigan, first implemented a deposit on bottles and cans in the late 1970s and my mother set up a recycling "station" in our garage so whenever we went to the grocery store we would grab the bags and take them to the customer service desk to be counted and get back the deposits.
But the beverage industry was much "simpler" in those days. Today so many more drinks come in bottles and cans which actually are not subject to Michigan's 10-cent deposit. Why? Because the Bottle Bill only applies to carbonated liquids so that eliminates water, coffee, tea, sports drinks, and wine. It is also a rather unsanitary system when it comes to how grocery stores handle the returns. As a result, there is a big push to reform or simply repeal what is now viewed as a broken recycling system in that state.
The reality is, America has never really figured out how to handle recycling efficiently. In case you didn't know, a large percentage of recyclable materials were being shipped to China for decades, presumably to be processed for reuse but in recent years the vast majority was just ending up in landfills there. So when China announced in 2019 that they are no longer taking what is essentially our trash it should have been the biggest wake-up call for our country to dig really deep and finally figure out some better solutions to this really big problem. Two years later, though, there still doesn't seem to be any sweeping plans for reform in play.
Maybe you don't care, but I do so like with everything else in life I am trying to do my part to make this world a better place. And while every day, week, month, and year I am doing my best to not just go but also truly be green, I'm really exhausted. I mean I have a recycling bin that I simply put out at the end of my driveway every Wednesday for pick up by the HOA in my community so that isn't exhausting per se. I just wish, in general, we weren't such a throwaway society and we stop thinking this is someone else's problem to fix. We all have to make the effort and, more importantly, we can no longer allow greedy corporations buying off politicians to do whatever they want and take shortcuts that affect our environment so stockholders get bigger dividends.
Every time my team is helping a client...whether with a decluttering project or going through the packing or unpacking process...we see an incredible amount of "stuff" that people end up throwing out which further contributes to an already overloaded waste management system. And don't even get me started about the amount of waste that packing materials create. Did you know that we use almost 1 billion moving boxes a year in the U.S.? Just moving boxes! That doesn't take into account all of the other boxes used for products we buy, things we ship, etc. That figure is around 80 billion...yes you read that right...80 billion!
I am, of course, very proud of the efforts It's Just Stuff takes to get those packing materials recycled. Most recently we had a huge unpacking job for a 7000 square foot home and while the homeowners could have just had the moving company pick everything up for their version of recycling, I posted this photo on Facebook Marketplace offering the copious amounts of boxes and packing paper to anyone that wanted to pick it up for free.
Had the movers picked all of this up they would have put it in their inventory to actually sell to future customers. I'm not necessarily saying that isn't still a better solution than taking it all to the local landfill but I just don't see any reason to charge people for these supplies if homeowners are willing to give it away.
That said, I recently connected with a woman who is starting a business that will provide used packing materials to people at a much lower cost than the moving companies currently charge. She was hoping to be able to officially announce the launch this month and was going to write a blog for our #WhatsOnYourMindWednesday series but isn't quite ready for what will no doubt be a widely successful venture. We will, though, make sure to help promote it when she is fully operational. In the meantime, if you live in the Denver/Boulder area and are getting ready for a move and need supplies or just got done unpacking from one and want to get rid of your supplies, feel free to contact us and we will connect you to this amazing entrepreneur trying her best to be green.
In addition to the amount of trash and moving boxes we see going out our client's doors, there is also the massive volume of items they donate. And while the intention is to get those items preferably to those in our local communities that need them the most, a large percentage actually end up in landfills. Goodwill recently reported a huge influx of items being donated especially during the pandemic that they simply can't do anything with other than throwing it out and they are apparently blaming younger generations...
"Our grandmothers knew what to donate to Goodwill. And the stuff that our grandmothers bought lasted a heck of a lot longer. It was built better; it was built with a second life designed into it.”
I'm going to beg to differ because my kids were raised to know what to donate while I have had plenty of senior clients that have donated what is essentially "crap" that no one wants. This is a universal problem and there are huge consequences that cross many borders. According to GreenAmerica.org, approximately 700,000 tons of clothing makes its way to third world countries where it is sold so cheaply that local textile manufacturers can't compete, and that results in loss of jobs among other things in already fragile economies.
As overwhelming as all of the waste already mentioned can be the one thing that truly drives me the most insane is the obscene amount of junk mail that we all still receive each and every day. I understand that businesses are still using direct mail for marketing but it really is out of control. I have a post office box so technically I shouldn't be receiving any mail where I actually live. And yet I still have to check it about once a week to take out literally what is all junk mail and throw it in the giant recycling bin in my apartment complex's mailroom, a bin that is always overflowing. Seriously, I don't even look at any of it. I used to attempt to figure out how to get off of each mailing list but the marketing companies have figured out how to get around those "Do Not Send" requests and every week I have at least 20 credit card offers, a few ValPaks and a bunch of other forms of junk mail.
I try so hard not to judge anything my clients do but I will never understand why some of them do collect junk mail. We had a client recently that we ended up uncovering enough junk mail to fill two large bins. She simply just kept putting it in places around the house and never throwing any of it out. And she really had no explanation for why she had been accumulating it all for about 5 years. Even the reason might have been that she was looking for a landscaper, painter, gutter repair company or any of the other countless businesses that send out fliers and coupons or advertise in local "Penny Savers", I would never hire any contractor for myself or my clients without getting a personal recommendation. And these days that usually means putting a post on my Facebook newsfeed, asking for recommendations on a group page or via Nextdoor or checking Google reviews. The information is all available online with the simple act of a mouse click. Companies are more than capable of creating special offers for customers in the form of digital coupons and discounts but they are convinced by savvy marketers to perpetuate the belief that people still want mail. I understand that there is still a percentage of adults that do not have access to the internet or aren't tech-savvy and don't want to rely on a computer to do their research but the burden of delivering the mail on our postal system should be reason enough to make it stop.
I have been approached by many direct mail companies to set up various campaigns but I simply won't do it. I will not contribute to the waste of paper and increase my carbon footprint. Throw all of the statistics you want at me about the ROI still being better than digital marketing, I'm not buying it. In fact, I just received a very kind but still sales-y email from someone the other day wanting to convince me to start printing business cards again now that we are going back to in-person networking events after the pandemic had us exchanging contact information in Zoom chats for over a year. I may change my mind if I cannot immediately exchange information digitally when I connect with someone but for now, I really do not feel the need to have any printed materials. These days I am fortunate to provide the type of services that have become very popular on digital lead-generating platforms like Thumbtack, Task Rabbit, Angie's List, and Home Advisor and, therefore, have concentrated my marketing efforts utilizing them. And I have plenty of business coming in the door...or through my laptop or smartphone as the case may be. Apparently my method to my madness has worked because It's Just Stuff is currently at the top of the pro list on Thumbtack as both a home organizer and packing/unpacking specialist. Yeah, I will give myself a pat on the back for that accomplishment. It definitely cost me time and money to get to this level but I did it without affecting the environment.
So my apologies to the printing businesses out there hustling for clients, the stores selling moving supplies and the clothing manufacturers enticing us with their latest fashion trends to purchase but I am going to continue on my path to save at least my little corner of the world in the hopes that future generations will get to enjoy the great outdoors as much as I currently do. And for the record, if you happen to be reading this on July 4th I am no doubt on a trail somewhere in Rocky Mountain National Park hiking solo just like I did two years ago when this photo was taken...
I give myself the gift of going alone every once in a while because I spend so much of my life surrounded by people and "stuff" every day and a few times a year I want to "declutter" my brain on a mountaintop by myself. Yes, I have to drive about an hour to get to RMNP so one could argue that isn't the most "green" form of transportation. But until we have hover crafts or some other Jetson space-age vehicle that will whisk me to the mountains running on some non-precious resource/no carbon footprint technology, it is what it is and I will happily exhaust myself finding other ways to go, be and stay green.
Want to know some great ways you can easily make a difference and save your little corner of your world? Stay tuned for this week's #WhatsOnYourMindWednesday blog as well as social media content on our Facebook and Instagram pages for the continuation of our "Go Green" theme for the month of July
Have A Safe, Happy and Green 4th of July,
COCTC aka Chief of Chaos To Calm