Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Using What Appears to be Useless

What the heck do you do with these?
I'm going to ask you to bear with me on something that is probably NOT remotely part of your consciousness - what the heck can you do with a few thousand used Wolfgang Puck coffee pod wrappers?

Yes, that is correct, coffee pod wrappers.

You know what I'm talking about.  It may not be coffee pod wrappers for you, maybe it's baby food jars, or those little cardboard thermal wrap things that come with certain brands of coffee, or used bicycle inner tubes, or used coffee bean bags, or the crinkly wrapping paper that comes with takeout, or something completely different.  Things you look at and say "what a waste...why are we sending thousands of these a year to a landfill".  Sure, some of these items may be recycled - hopefully lots of them are - and there are things that cannot be recycled, and/or might have more value if they were kept in the material world and not broken back down and remade into something completely different.  After all, "recycling" (which is really downcycling at times as an item is make into something of lesser value) requires energy of some sort right?

OK, you may not be obsessing about this kind of stuff, but when you stop and think about it for a few minutes does it really make sense to bury something in the ground after we've invested who knows how much energy to pull it out of the ground and make it into something useful?

What to do?  There are services like freecycle and craigslist to connect people with used stuff with people that want the used stuff (I successfully passed along ~200 CD jewel cases a few years ago to a library) and a continually developing collaborative consumption and person-to-person ecosystem that might be considered and outgrowth of the ever present DIY, voluntary and involuntary simplicity, and reuse/upcycle community.

I recently learned about a project I'm excited about (and helping to spread the word about them)
seeking to connect the dots in all these communities - they're building a mobile app built on top of a curated database that will make it easy to find out what to do with the thirty empty bags of dog food in your garage or the empty 5 gallon buckets from your latest home improvement project.
It's called Cora - Trash Backwards.

Why I like it?
  • As much as mobile devices are contributing to our waste problem, they're not going anywhere anytime soon so we might as well leverage them to help solve the problem they contribute to
  • The Cora message is about the positive and creative things we can do with these items, and the personal connections made when we creatively reuse - not hand-wringing, guilt-ridden pleas to "save the planet" (though that's the ultimate goal, right?)
  • They're helping preserve and recreate our relational/circular economy.  We're now skewed toward a linear/transactional economy
  • I'm fascinated (and sometimes flummoxed) by the intersection of internet technology/communication and old-fashioned DIY/build it yourself culture in the real world
So head on over to their Kickstarter page (kickstarter is a clearinghouse for creative projects looking for financial help to get off the ground) check them out, make a small investment and soon you'll be able to creatively reuse the stuff you're not sure what to do with.  You can get a sneak peek of how their app works here.

No comments: