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Goodwill's Eco-Story

What's your company's definition of sustainability, and why is it important to you?

At Goodwill, our focus is keeping items out of landfills by recycling, reducing, and reusing. Sustainability is extremely important to us because we care about our environmental impact and the communities we serve.

What are the most important sustainability issues your company deals with?

Many people are familiar with our Goodwill Store & Donation Centers. Every day, these retail operations live and breathe our “reduce, reuse and recycle” message of sustainability. Our customers “reduce” their gently-used items by donating them to our Goodwill Store & Donation Centers. We then sell those donated items in our stores for a fraction of the original price, allowing our customers to reuse or upcycle their newly purchased items. And even better, revenue from the sale of donated items is reinvested in programs that help provide training and jobs right in the communities in which we serve.

A new business for our organization is Goodwill E-cycle, which is an R2 certified computer recycling and refurbishment operation. E-cycling is the practice of recycling or reusing computers, computer components and other electronics, rather than discarding them at the end of their life cycle. E-waste is the most rapidly growing segment of the municipal solid waste stream. With the rapid pace of technology, the life cycle of these electronic components is getting shorter and shorter, creating more e-waste than ever before.

Goodwill E-cycle aligns with our commitment to being green by keeping millions of pounds of electronic waste out of landfills. Bringing the electronics processing in-house is a natural fit for our organization and our mission of being socially and environmentally responsible.

Because e-waste is such a new concept, most companies don’t have disposal plans in place or are paying excessive fees to private sector providers. Goodwill’s E-cycle partners can rely on Goodwill as a secure resource for their electronic waste, and our R2 Certification gives them piece of mind that our upstream and downstream vendors are just as careful as we are with their materials.

Sustainable thinking is no longer just a "nice to have", it's increasingly seen as a competitive advantage. Tell us how sustainable thinking is helping move your company forward?

Sustainability is a critical part of our operations and it’s behind so much of the work we do. For example, our Goodwill Manufacturing division, along with DataShield and Retail, works to create a positive environmental impact by choosing green materials, as well as breaking down and recycling materials from their operations. Last year, Goodwill Manufacturing recycled 11.7 million pounds of materials. Goodwill DataShield, our document destruction service, recycled nearly 2.8 million pounds of paper in 2016. And, Goodwill Store & Donation Centers collected more than 3.5 billion pounds of donations last year alone.

Rock the Green, the Sustainability Festival, is all about going for zero waste. How has your company reduced waste across your operations? Has it paid off for you financially?

Across the Goodwill organization, we use preventative maintenance designed to maximize the efficient operation of our equipment and facilities. And when building new facilities, we separate construction waste and use regional and low-emitting materials to minimize our carbon footprint. We use green refrigerants in our air conditioners and are upgrading lighting in our locations to more energy-efficient fixtures. Finally, we have installed motion sensors to cut down energy use and we have installed low flush toilets and use green landscaping practices. All of these steps make a big impact on our organization’s operations, and in the communities that we serve.

Surveys show that employees are happier and more productive when they're engaged with a company's sustainability strategies. How do you engage your staff to implement your sustainability plans?

We proudly share our sustainability practices with employees through monthly communications, so that they understand the green efforts being made by our organization. Employees are made aware of the green practices and equipment we’ve implemented in our buildings and are encouraged to contribute to their own green lifestyle as well. In addition, Team Members at our Goodwill Store & Donation Centers don shirts that communicate our “reduce, reuse, and recycle” message of environmental sustainability!

In a nutshell, how will you be “rocking the green” in the coming 5 years?

Over the next five years, we plan to continue and grow

our green efforts by researching and pursuing the latest sustainable equipment and alternatives in the construction and remodeling of our facilities. The growth of our Goodwill Store & Donation Centers and Goodwill E-cycle means we can expand our operations and continue our environmental sustainability cycle of reducing, reusing and recycling in the communities we proudly serve.

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