Hey there, titan of industry! It’s Earth Month, and businesses account for two-thirds of the waste in our local landfills, so let’s talk about how you can reduce waste and why it’s beneficial not only for the environment but also for your bottom line. Who are we to offer this unsolicited advice? Well, at The Welman Project, we see business waste every day. As a Fort Worth nonprofit on a mission to fill a classroom, not a landfill, we take business waste, find curriculum-enhancing ways to repurpose it, and donate it to teachers for creative reuse in the classroom. Along the way, we see a LOT of questionable decision-making by companies. Here are some examples:
1. Printing your address or other changeable info on swag.
Are customers really going to pull out that coffee mug to find your location? No, they’re going to Google it. Stick to printing your web address so that moving doesn’t cost you hundreds of dollars in useless merch. Or better yet, go swagless! Here are three good articles (here, here and here) on alternative marketing ideas, and if you really must gift, go consumable or sustainable. (But please be creative on the sustainability part – we all have a reusable straw by now.)
2. Printing the date on stuff.
Have a recurring event? A “Night Under the Stars” sign is just as effective as a “Night Under the Stars 2023” sign, and you can reuse it every year. Sponsors may change, so print those sponsor logos on a separate sign or on adhesive vinyl that can be swapped out. Thinking through how décor can be designed to be reusable can save your dollars and your sanity when it’s crunch time for event setup, and no one’s going to remember that they saw that same table number sign a year ago.
3. Printing things at all.
You knew this one was coming. Do you really need to print that receipt? Go digital, and reuse the backside of old paperwork if you do have to print something. Do people really want your glossy, full-color product brochure? Put it online and use a QR code. If you do print promotional materials, print small batches, or leave off dated info like pricing if you can’t resist the bulk printing savings. (And who among us can?)
4. Buying cheap stuff.
Spend the extra money on a bookcase that’s not going to fall to pieces when you try to move it to the other side of your office. Invest in quality electronics that won’t break in six months. Choose things that can be repaired instead of things meant to be discarded. You’ll save money in the long run.
5. Throwing stuff out!
You’re a smart, well-read individual, so we don’t need to lecture you on the collapse of the plastic recycling industry. You already know not to use disposable water bottles but consider how else you can reduce and reuse in your company. Compost service from Cowboy Compost is an easy and affordable option regardless of your size or industry, and Google is your friend for finding eco-friendly alternatives for just about anything.
Last year alone, The Welman Project gave away over $2.5 million worth of surplus materials to schools, which is great for us and the schools, but also means that $2.5 million was wasted by people buying things they ultimately didn’t need. And we’re just a tiny piece of the reuse market! You can save your business a lot of money by reducing and reusing.
It’s also a good marketing decision. In the 2021 Global Sustainability Study, 85 percent of people indicated that they had shifted their purchase behavior towards being more sustainable in the past five years, and sustainability is rated as an important purchase criterion for 61 percent of US consumers.
Look, we know mistakes happen, and sometimes waste is unavoidable. That’s why we’re here for you. We’ll take those outdated samples, misprinted goods, offcuts, event leftovers, and surplus supplies and trade you for the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting your local educators. Learn more about donating, volunteering, AND socially responsible team-building in Dad’s Garage (our makerspace) on our website, thewelmanproject.org, and follow us @thewelmanproject on Facebook and Instagram. Happy Earth Month!
About the Authors
Childhood best friends Vanessa Barker and Taylor Willis are both Fort Worth natives and proud products of the FWISD school system, learning to embrace creativity and take care of the planet thanks to the great teachers they had. That background, combined with working simultaneously as a preschool teacher in San Francisco and a project manager for New York Fashion Week, led Vanessa to the idea of a free creative reuse resource for educators. After both moving back home, the pair decided nothing could be better than working together to reduce waste, improve education, and build community in the city they love, so they founded the nonprofit organization The Welman Project in 2016 and have served as Co-Directors ever since.