In hopes of bringing about spring to Berkeley, I’m undergoing the process of looking through my closet and thinning out my wardrobe. A challenging task for someone who can derive sentimental value from anything that gets placed in her path, but essential to the future of my ability to close my dresser drawers.
As the pile of clothing to give away slowly increases now includes other assorted objects from around my apartment, I find it’s time to remove this eclectic assortment from my living room. In terms of simplicity, walking to the dumpster and getting the bags out of my hair in a matter of seconds may sound appealing, but I hope that most people turn to Goodwill or a recycling center to repurpose their unwanted items.
In the scope of environmentalism, there are many creative alternatives to trashing your household goods. Sustainable modes of reusing clothing and items have sprung up as ways to repurpose materials without engaging the process of recycling and large industries of redistribution.
The task of reducing the amount of items that end up in landfills can be simplified when looking through the lens of a waste hierarchy. The top tier is reduction, which involves cutting off sources of waste at the source to remove unnecessary packaging and lessening item production in general. Below reduction is reuse, the act of repurposing items for their intended purpose. Recycling comes at the bottom of this hierarchy, as in this process items are broken down and repurposed into raw materials once again.
Through this logic, recycling can be seen as an important aspect of trash-related environmentalism, but not the only answer or even the best alternative.
Unmistakably, recycling is essential to reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Establishing easy access to recycling networks and education about the correct sorting of waste should be a top priority for all organizations, institutions and households. But, as with most systems run through underfunded government programs and private corporations, many challenges in organized recycling result in large amounts of reusable waste ending up in landfills.
So what makes ReUSE different, and more beneficial, than just recycling? ReUSE centers save resources through eliminating the labor, transportation and reprocessing costs associated with organized recycling. These centers also keep material goods in a community, allowing local members to be the first to benefit from their neighbors’ recycled items.
In the basement of the MLK Student Union, we have our own thrifted items oasis. ReUSE is a student-run thrift store founded for members of the Berkeley community to exchange materials between professors, students and departments alike. While mostly focusing on clothing items, the store stocks books and a handful of miscellaneous items, so donations of most forms are welcomed.
At Berkeley, ReUSE aims to divert 20 to 30 materials headed to landfills and recycling centers annually. While this may seem ambitious, it is the quantity that the campus waste audits have identified as reusable.
Beyond MLK, ReUSE has several stations throughout campus, located in corners and under stairwells in various buildings. Keep an eye out on Sproul, as clothes are occasionally displayed on racks for passersby to peruse through on the way to class. Supporting this organization is an important step that we can take at Berkeley to support sustainable waste cycles, maintain the integrity of material goods and reduce landfill waste.