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What Is Reuse? (Interview)

Interview with Mary Ellen Etienne

Executive Director of Reuse Alliance and Organizer of First Ever National Reuse Conference

College Hunks: Who are you and what do you and your organization do?

Mary Ellen Etienne: My name is MaryEllen Etienne, and I am the founder and executive director of the Reuse Alliance. The Reuse Alliance is a nonprofit organization that is working to increase public awareness of reuse by educating individuals and organizations about the social, environmental and economic benefits of reuse.

We encourage people to join the reuse movement in order to create a cleaner environment and a greener economy.

CHHJ: How does reuse differ from recycling?

MEE: I know many people use these words synonymously, but they are actually quite different. Reuse involves extending the life of an item by using it more than once. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again as-is for the same function it was manufactured for.

Refurbishing re-manufacturing is where an item is re-conditioned and used for the same function

Up-cycling and re-purposing is where the addition of creativity brings a new use to the reusable materials where a product is designed to be used over and over again (bags, bottles, etc).

Recycling breaks down items like cardboard or metal into its raw materials through mechanical processes expending additional energy (i.e. crushing, smelting, etc).

CHHJ: Why is reuse important?

MEE: The reason I’m so passionate about reuse is because it offers triple bottom line benefits. By taking useful products and exchanging them, without processing them, reuse saves time, money, energy and resources.

In terms of the environment it eliminates waste and reduces toxic emissions. In economic terms, reuse offers quality products to individuals and organizations with limited means, while generating green-collar jobs and business activity that contribute to the economy.

And in terms of its social impact, reuse can literally be the difference between someone meeting critical needs of food, clothing and shelter, or not.

CHHJ: What’s your favorite example of reuse? (i.e. people, businesses, schools, communities)

MEE: There’s just so much reuse happening out there, I can’t choose just one. People are engaging in reuse everyday around the globe. Opportunities to reuse are everywhere – from food rescue to re-manufactured toner cartridges, and vintage clothing to refurbished household furniture.

There are hundreds of Goodwills, Habitat ReStores, consignment shops and up-cycling designers within your communities. Reuse is also happening online? through municipal, commercial and residential materials exchanges such as the 2Good2Waste, Reuse Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, and Freecycling.

Large businesses and institutions, such as hospitals, are even setting up internal materials exchanges to share items within their organizations. And green builders are preserving resources by deconstructing buildings or utilizing adaptive reuse techniques.

CHHJ: What is the ReuseConex event all about? (What? can we expect to see, hear and learn about?)

MEE: ReuseConex is the country’s first national reuse conference and expo. This groundbreaking event will explore the triple bottom line benefits of reuse. For the public,

ReuseConex will show us how reuse will change the way we combat global climate change and how we move into a new green economy. For reuse organizations (for-profit and non-profit), ReuseConex will share best practices that can help you maintain and grow your reuse operation.

We’ll also have a host of exciting activities including a ReArt Exhibit, a ReFashion Show and movie screenings of No Impact Man.

Secure Your Spot At The Reuse Conference!