Reuse as Economic Justice (2018 Conference)
Founder of the Old Window Workshop Cooperative, Springfield, MA
Nancy J. Meyer
CEO of Community Forklift, Edmonston, MD
Presentation: Reuse as Economic Justice
This workshop explores the notion that radical possibility for economic justice exists and is inherent in the re-appropriation of the value of labor and natural resources back to neighborhoods in reused building materials. Communities and public resources are most frequently the recipients and managers of the waste resulting from a consumptive and profit driven economy. Reuse can be a vehicle for turning the extensive waste stream into a resource stream for disenfranchised communities.
Building materials both new and used, furniture, art, and architectural salvage are regularly disposed of in such high volumes that they make up approximately 40% of the national waste stream. Continued use (“reuse”), up-cycled reuse (turning it into a better version of itself), re-newed-use (turning it into something else) and creative use – are all recognized approaches to restoring value in the original product. Increasingly, locally-based organizations collect and restore products for donation, trade or sale. The purpose is to restore value to the benefit of the community and its members.
Both virgin (or recycled) materials and labor contribute to the value of the products. Communities may encourage selective appropriation of materials and direct them to support a variety of enterprises. We hope participants in this topic will highlight the numerous successful reuse enterprises across the country that are returning value of materials to their communities. This workshop starts with two examples of these type of enterprises and seeks everyone's participation in raising questions about the promises, limitations and challenges of building economic justice in impoverished communities.