Last week was an extremely busy week for Wearable Collections. It seemed as if everyone in New York was cleaning out their closets. We hosted dozens of drives with community groups, residential complexes and even one smack dab in the middle of Times Sq with the Broadway Green Alliance. On top of hanging out and speaking with the public at some of these events, I also got the opportunity to do some public speaking. Lots of discussions about what we do: handling clothing collections, waste managment, charitable giving and community building. I can speak all day on these topics and often do, but for me the conversation kept on coming back to one thing – PEOPLE.
On Earth day its not unusual for the discussion to circle around saving the Earth. I have read many books on the environment, pollution and garbage. All this reading had lead me to one conclusion – The Earth is gonna be fine in her ever evolving status. What’s at jeopardy is our ability to inhabit her. Humans, we too are a resilient, but need very specific environment to live healthily. When I speak to people about why we should care about the environment, it always leads me back to the idea of living consciously. About being educated about the articles of clothing we wear, the food we ingest, the products we put in our hair and on our body. There is so much mis-information out there and people live such busy lives that they throw their hands in surrender – saying they dont have the time to care about all these things.
Well, I believe that every day should be a celebration of the Earth. The wondrous place that we all call home and not a day should go by where we don’t contemplate and be in awe and aware of all the products that surround us. But also the people that produce these products and how their lives are affected by our consumption habits. When I speak to people about my experience in diverting 10 million lbs of clothing,shoes and textiles over 10 years, I often come back to raising the public’s consciousness of the value of the wastestream. It seems like something that people can relate. But also, what has gone into the production of clothes before they are ever worn. The cotton that takes loads of water and pesticides to produce, the energy that it takes to ship this cotton to lands where it is turned into garments, the toxins in the dye that pollute the rivers in the lands where the garments are finalized, the shipping back to the garments final destination. That’s a whole lot of lives affected by production and consumption. There is a saying that says – out of sight, out of mind. When i think of Earth Day, I think of bringing back into mind all of those who are out of sight. A conscious life is a healthy life, and as overall consciousness is raised we will all benefit…….and so will the Earth.
Incredibly, this Earth Week, 10 years into our companies’ existence, we will surpass the milestone of 10 million lbs of clothing, shoes and textiles recycled. This is an achievement that we are extremely proud of and while that number is a very large one, it is still only a small percentage of what is still destined for landfills. I would like to share some tidbits of wisdom I have learned along the way in hopes that others can have a smoother path in search of recycling solutions.
- Sometimes a Project Turns Into a Business
We started out 10 years ago with the idea of raising funds for a cause that was near and dear to us. That cause, spinal cord research, compelled us as one of our co-founders was left paralyzed when hit by a car. At the time, we knew very little about the amount of clothing that was cluttering up our wastestream. As we learned more about the problem of textile waste, coming up with solutions was something we couldn’t walk away from.
- It’s Hard to Compete with Non-Profits
I know, it sounds silly even saying a line like that. But what I mean is that it is hard to compete with the idea and perception of non-profits, especially in the realm of clothing collections. We are a small biz that dedicates a portion of our proceeds to charity. There hasn’t been one year where we have profited more than we have given to charity yet there are still people who act as if we are a big box corporation simply because we are for profit. We are proud to be among the early social entrepreneurs and plan to continually make a mark along this path.
- Partner, Partner, Partner
A great partner can go a long way in helping you achieve your mission. We couldn’t have accomplished even a small percentage of what we have without our great partners. Partners can come in all shapes and sizes and some of our best ones weren’t the most obvious ones. We feel that we can work with anyone: individual, school, corporation and charities. All it takes is a little creativity.
- Being Proficient Online can Have a Major Impact on an Offline Business
While we spend most of our energy driving around collecting clothes in what is very manually intensive labor, we cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong presence online has meant to the business. A simple REQUEST A BIN form placed on our website in 2005 did wonders for generating interest in the company and connecting us to buildings. The web is the best way to leverage your output. Something every business needs to do.
- You Can Never Stop Innovating
In this age of instant gratification and inundation of social media, ideas become stale very quickly. In order to remain relevant you need to continually push the ticket. Resting on your laurels will likely lead to dying on your laurels.
- Running a logistics company in NYC is challenging
Street closures, construction on new buildings, subway lines, the oh too infrequent ticker tape parade, and the big one..TRAFFIC, all make for a dynamic puzzle that needs to be solved each and every day. Much respect to companies like Fedex and UPS who make it look routine.
- Used Clothing is a Commodity
Like all commodities it is subject to market conditions. For some reason there is a dearth of data on the industry. Used clothing is rarely spoken in the same breath as other commodities such as plastic, metal and paper, but when the dollar is strong, like it currently is, it puts a lot of pressure on distribution of collections and we need to adapt.
- Winters Can be Very Cruel to Business in the Northeast
The last few winters have been brutal in the northeast. Not many businesses escape the wrath of such an onslaught. It can be especially hard for small businesses that don’t have the resources or cushion to do proper risk mitigation. It has felt a little ironic the past couple of winters, running an eco-friendly business while being blasted by Mother Earth.
- You Can’t Make Everyone Happy
Its an old truism but something that I have really had to internalize lately. We have needed to adapt to the changing market conditions which has left some folks a little upset. That being said, when we do hear a complaint, we try to connect the dots and develop a solution.
- Serving the Public is Very Rewarding
We have met so many great people along the way, ones who actually bless us as we handle their discards. This relationship has meant so much to our success and inspires us to do more.
Wow! After going through all these lessons its hard to believe that we were able to make it to 10 million lbs. Thanks to all of you for your support over the years.
Another great year of textile collections almost wraps up with our beloved partner GrowNYC!
To think this all started with a pilot program back at the end of 2008. 6 years later we have millions of pounds under our belt and tens of thousands of people who have recycled their clothes with us. Thanks to all of you who come our every week to support our cause!
The following markets will have their last day of operations as follows:
- Windsor Terrace Greenmarket, 9am-2:30pm, 11th Ave b/t Sherman and Windsor Pl CLOSES December 21, 2014
- 57th St Greenmarket, 8am-12:30pm, 57th St & 9th Ave CLOSES December 20, 2014
- Tribeca Greenmarket, 8am-1:30pm, Greenwich St. at Chambers (Wednesdays): CLOSES December 17, 2014, CLOSED on 12/24/14
- Sunnyside Greenmarket, 8am-4pm, 43rd St & Skillman Ave CLOSES December 20, 2014
The HOLIDAY schedule is as follows:
- Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Greenmarket, 8am-3pm, 2nd Ave & East 47th St CLOSED on 12/24/14
- 97th Street Greenmarket, 8am-2pm, W 97th & Columbus CLOSED on 12/26/14 & 1/2/15
- Columbia University Greenmarket, 8am-3pm, Broadway b/t 114th & 116th Sts CLOSED on 12/25/14 & 1/1/15
- Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket, 8am-4:30pm Court & Montague CLOSED on 12/25/14 & 1/1/15
For more information about GrowNYC and the greenmarkets, please visit our GREENMARKETS page with locations and details.
Photo By Suzanna Finley
Like any other forward thinking company, Wearable Collections continues to evolve. We are extremely pleased to announce the roll-out of our Clothing, Textile and Shoe recycling bin 3.0.
We will be swapping out our existing bins for the new and improved ones early 2015. But you don’t have to be an existing collector to reap the benefits of these new beautiful bins. Now is a perfect time to sign up your building. No New Yorker should be without the convenience of a clothing and shoe recycling bin nearby!
The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and textiles in the trash each year, totaling 6% of our entire residential waste stream. But with your help, landfills are going on a diet. More than 80,000 New Yorkers have helped NYC lose 1.4 million pounds by recycling unwanted clothing, linens, paired shoes, hand bags and more through textile recycling initiatives.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Rather than having your residents haul their clothing to a collection site, or worse, dump them in the trash, Wearable Collections can pick up (free of charge) any unwanted textiles. You can arrange a pick up at your convenience monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually or Wearable Collections can place a receptacle in your building for your recycling convenience that is emptied on a regular basis. The goal is to reduce clothing in landfills while helping raise funds for non-profits. It is easy to do!
EASE & CONVENIENCE
Wearable Collections’ goal is to maximize clothing recycled while minimizing inconvenience to you. If you are interested in participating in our clothing recycling program,Wearable Collections will find a way to work within your building’s constraints.
FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW TO REQUEST A BIN FOR YOUR BUILDING
Together with Walkable Collections, we’re asking you to help us divert some of the 300million pairs of shoes that head to our landfills annually and give them new life. Bring Your Shoes To Work Day allows a variety of companies/entities to participate in recycling and environmentalism by simply encouraging their staff, students, guests to recycle their shoes.
It’s super easy- all you need to participate is to print and place a flyer (provided below) next to a collection box in a convenient location and help get the word out to everyone. Walkable Collections can place a branded box as pictured here or you can use your own. Once the box is filled up, a pick up time will be scheduled during normal business hours.
Link to print-ready flyer
We accept all types of used shoes, sneakers and boots EXCEPT ski boots, roller-blades or singles, please! Walkable Collections is the shoe recycling division of Wearable Collections.
If you’re outside of NYC, we will send you a shipping label, and cover the cost of freight! If your company would like to help with shipping costs – Please send your box(es) of shoes here.
Who knew being philanthropic could be so easy!
Walkable Collections is the shoe recycling division of Wearable Collections.
Check out some of the companies already involved!
FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW TO REQUEST A SHOE BIN
Any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org