Checking out at the Triphammer ReUse Center. Photo by ReUse Communications Assistant Sean Campbell.

When my family relocated to Tompkins County in 2014, the Triphammer
ReUse Center was one of the first stores we visited. My husband Sean dug
through the electronics section, piecing together ingenious solutions for his
home audiovisual setup, while I browsed in a less-focused way, picking up a
vinyl record here, and a macramé plant hanger there.

 To us, ReUse was just another resale store, with its familiar jumble of misfit goods. We came for the thrill of the hunt, and to try and offset the environmental and financial impact of feathering our new nest in the Finger Lakes region. I never thought about where our purchases came from, how many pairs of hands it took to process them, or imagined their deeper purpose—until January 2019, when I began helping ReUse’s communications team.

As I began to learn everything I could about ReUse, what
appeared to be a simple resale shop (now with two locations), was revealed to
be an ambitious, purpose-driven organization that strives to makes a positive
local impact in everything they do. In honor of Independent Retailer Month. Today I’m sharing my top 10 things I didn’t know about ReUse—see if you’re as surprised as I was about all the ways ReUse makes a local impact!”


1. Finger Lakes ReUse is a non-profit.
ReUse is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, whose revenue funds an impressive variety of programs that enhance our local community, economy and environment. When we shop at ReUse, we get more than a bargain—our dollars stay local, and they’re put to good use, protecting the environment, enhancing our local economy, and strengthening our community, one person at a time.


2. ReUse pays a living wage.
Did you know that ReUse is a Living Wage Employer? When I donate, volunteer and shop at ReUse stores, I feel good about supporting a local employer that empowers workers to provide for themselves and their families.


3. ReUse boosts our local economy.
The simple act of reuse saves us money on purchases and disposal costs, generates new business and employment opportunities, and supplies goods for people and organizations that might otherwise be unable to afford them. According to South Dakota Rural Enterprise, Inc., a dollar spent at an independent retailer like ReUse is usually spent 6 to 15 times in the community before heading out of town. Just $1 can create $5  to $14 of value in our immediate area!


 From left: Volunteers Judy and Marlene at the Ithaca ReUse Center;  Previous ReSET Trainee and current Brightworks Employee Brendan Hart-Nutter, tests WiFi modems with previous ReSET Trainee and current eCenter Program Assistant, Asia Cansler; Administrative Manager Louise Henrie at the clothing department at Triphammer ReUse Center. Photos by Sean Campbell.


4. ReUse keeps tons of goods out of landfills.
Since opening in 2008, ReUse has resold and reused more than 6 million pounds of materials—that’s 56 pounds per person in Tompkins County! From manufacturing to trucking to disposal, every part of a product’s life cycle creates greenhouse gas emissions and waste that contribute to climate change. Ithaca’s two ReUse Centers already keep tons of materials out of landfills every year, and they’re working hard to expand their capabilities to handle even more!


5. ReUse funds free job skills training.
One of the programs our purchases support it ReUse’s ReSET program, which serves local community members who are in need of job skills and credentials. This free job training program offers two paths to employment—computer technology, or sales and customer service. After ReSET, alums can also apply for full-time paid apprenticeships, and some have gone on to join the team at ReUse, too!


 From top: Triphammer ReUse Center and Ithaca ReUse Center. Photos by Sean Campbell.   


6. ReUse’s two locations are community centers.
In addition to the ReSET program, our donations and purchases help fund other ReUse programs that enhance our sense of community, while raising awareness of the impact of reuse. ReUse’s weekly Ithaca Fixers Collective (Saturdays, 3-5 pm at the Ithaca ReUse Center) brings community members together to share skills and resources for repairing household items. Creative ReUse programming inspires makers of all ages to explore creativity and build community through reuse. And there are ongoing events and volunteer opportunities where community members of all ages can connect with ReUse’s vision of a just, resilient, waste-free world that values people and resources.


7. ReUse is a strong voice—and leader—for climate action.
Before getting to know ReUse, I hadn’t thought through the impact of manufacturing, and even recycling, on the environment. Every time we choose to reuse, we’re preserving the energy originally used to manufacture the goods, reducing the strain on resources like fuel, forests and water supplies, and creating less air and water pollution and hazardous waste. Because I’m concerned about climate change, I’m grateful that ReUse presents opportunities to learn about—and act upon—alternatives that lessen the environmental harm caused by our consumer purchases.


8. The ReUse Community Fund helps families in need.
Did you know that ReUse helps relieve poverty and hardship locally through the pilot ReUse Materials Access Program, supported by the ReUse Community Fund? Here’s how it works. Compassionate community members like us make donations to the fund, which ReUse matches dollar for dollar, with funds of their own. Local human service agencies refer people in need, who receive ReUse store credit, free of charge.


From top left, clockwise: Volunteer Michael sorts building materials at the Ithaca ReUse Center; ReSET trainee Demetrius in 2018; Building Materials Specialist Andy Farrell in the lumberyard at the Ithaca ReUse Center; Volunteer Sara at the Ithaca ReUse Center. Photos by Sean Campbell.


9. ReUse’s eCenter offers low-cost computers, tech support and repairs.
You might be surprised to learn that ReUse offers affordable computer refurbishment, resale, recycling, tech support, repair services to the public, and discounted IT services for local nonprofits! The eCenter helps serve the needs of local nonprofit organizations by providing full-service IT support, including computer installation, network design and software provisioning. The eCenter also offers workshops on topics like internet safety, software tutorials and basic hardware repair.


10. ReUse is inclusive.
I saved the best for last, at least from my perspective. As a shopper, I’d observed for myself that ReUse seemed to welcome all types of people as team members and volunteers. But the more I got to know the organization, the more clear it became—ReUse’s commitment to compassion and inclusivity goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. When I say ReUse is inclusive, I mean that everyone is welcome, wanted, and safe to be who they are. ReUse offers a free cup of coffee and a safe place to be for every community member, and they also provide valuable experiences for people who couldn’t get those experiences anywhere else. In partnership with local organizations like Challenge Workforce Solutions and Unity House, ReUse works with people with disabilities in-store, inviting them to contribute to the mission, and inspiring that shared sense of purpose that keeps me committed to coming back.


Want to contribute a great local organiation that values people and resources? Shop, donate and volunteer at ReUse, where everyone is accepted and appreciated for who they are.

Erin Fierst is a Tompkins County mom who’s passionate about the act of reuse and its environmental and social benefits. She contributes to ReUse as a volunteer and as a communications advisor.

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