Each year, on April 22, we collectively recognize and celebrate Earth Day – a day set aside on the calendar to encourage the practice of sustainable living. Yet at Goodwill, every day is Earth Day.
Referred to as the “original recycler” since 1945, Goodwill San Antonio has taken discarded goods and sold them in our retail thrift stores to provide a combination of vocational training, employment, and provision of affordable goods for our community. Think of recycling, and initial thoughts conjure up visions of aluminum cans, newspapers, plastics, and glass. But recycling is not limited to paper and plastics. From computers to couches, and dishes to dresses, Goodwill’s 23 retail stores and expanded, stand-alone Electronic Store are stocked with gently-used items waiting to be upcycled, recycled, and responsibly repurposed – all instead of being thrown away.
Donations to Goodwill help fund education, training, and career services provided to people here in San Antonio, helping them move out of poverty and into stable, successful lives for themselves and their families. Goodwill is an organization focused on environmental and social sustainability, working to identify innovative solutions to reduce waste while simultaneously elevating lives in the communities we serve.
Grateful for the donations entrusted to us, Goodwill San Antonio responsibly receives and sorts through thousands of gently-used clothing, electronics, and household items daily. Items that would otherwise become trash or e-waste and toxic to the environment, become reused, repurposed, and recycled for the benefit of all.
In 2020, Goodwill San Antonio repurposed 12.2 million items placed for sale in its 22 retail stores, recycled 12.7 million pounds of unsold items through its Clearance Center and recycling operations, and responsibly recycled 2.3 million pounds of electronics equipment. In an effort to bridge the digital divide, an issue now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodwill also repurposed nearly 1,000 computers to individuals and families in need through Goodwill San Antonio’s Technology Access Program, a program that simultaneously diverts hazardous electronic waste from our landfills while connecting our community to opportunity.
And since 1995, our Goodwill Business Services unit has served on a recycling contract at Laughlin AFB where the team of three recycles items including but not limited to cardboard, paper products, aluminum cans, plastic, and wood pallets. In 2020, the team recycled 92 tons of material and was recently honored by Keep Texas Beautiful, Inc. with a Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Recycling Efforts in 2020.
As much as we work to provide second chances for goods to support environmental sustainability, the same intentionality should be given to those who are underserved in our community. Those who are unemployed, underemployed, or uneducated; those overcoming barriers; those with physical and/or mental disabilities; those who are re-entering society after being incarcerated; and those who have been pushed to the side and are fighting for equitable opportunity all deserve second chances.
Giving an item a second life through reuse and recycling, can in turn give someone a much-needed second chance. Those same gently-used items can be the catalyst to incite change and create opportunity to help a person realize their potential and thrive.
Goodwill San Antonio’s education and employment programs, funded in large part by the revenue generated from the sale of donated items, equip individuals to find a job, a better job, or a career pathway offering increased earning potential. Our environmental sustainability work is, therefore, critical to moving forward our social sustainability efforts. Thus, in our work at Goodwill San Antonio, we cannot have one without the other. Helping our environment is helping the people in our community.
So this season, whether you are upgrading your electronics or spring cleaning, feel good donating those items you may no longer have a use for.
Celebrate Earth Day every day, and as you do, I ask you to refocus and give intention to everyday actions. View items, view people, view our collective world with a fresh perspective, understanding that how and what we do impacts something, and more importantly, someone else. By doing so, you make every day Earth Day and may very well discover a new way to use your goodwill in a way that instills hope, inspires promise, and creates a positive impact for a better, stronger, and more sustainable tomorrow.