Monday, December 8, 2008

Make Good

Goodwill Industries of Central Texas is a private, non-profit organization operating in Central Texas for 50 years. Goodwill’s mission is “To enhance the quality and dignity of life for individual, families and our community by providing job-related services for people with barriers to employment.” Everyday hundreds of donation items are processed and are salvaged by Goodwill, but 20 percent of the donated items still end up at the landfill. From our research, consisting of interviews, observations, and Goodwill tours, we have also recognized Goodwill’s dedication to recycling and sustainability. We aim to enhance the existing Goodwill recycling initiative by implementing a program that will further help salvage the 20 percent of trashed goods.

In order to effectively contribute to the “reduce and reuse” cause, we researched existing recycle programs at Goodwill. The annual weigh good drive is a donation drive that encourages the Central Texas community to engage in an environmentally friendly effort to recycle their “trash” from spring-cleaning. Two recycling programs that focus specifically on computers and electronics are the Reconnect program and the Austin Computer Works program. Goodwill holds a partnership with Dell Inc. and the City of Austin. The Reconnect program offers customers a free computer-recycling drop off. The Austin Computer works recycling program processes 2,500 tons of computer waste annually. Every month, Goodwill processes 250 ¬tons of electronic waste with none going to the landfill. Computer parts are reused, resold, and displayed. In order to promote this recycling effort, the computer works program has an in store computer museum that displays older computers, as well as displays large statues made of recycled computer parts in the front of the store.
Even though Goodwill has available programs for recycling there is a lack of in store attention to their recycling initiatives. Despite these efforts to reduce waste, twenty percent of donated goods still end up in the landfill, therefore Goodwill losses money by paying to take unsold goods to the landfill. In our proposal we aim to enhance Goodwill’s image as a source of sustainable creativity.

In order to determine and investigate the current situation in existing Goodwill retail stores, we visited the North Lamar Location, which is one of the largest Goodwill retail centers in Central Texas. All Goodwill stores have a consistent organizational system which consists of categories including: men’s and women’s clothing organized by either size or color, house wares, electronics, books and furniture. In this particular store, we found that the clothing displays and their placement were not as successful as in regular stores because Goodwill does not sell multiples of the same articles of clothing. We found that the space at the end of the clothing racks could be better utilized. These grid wire racks and metal-shelving units with adjustable shelves are coherent organizational elements in almost every Goodwill store. When looking for areas around the store for potential implementation, we decided these spaces could be used more efficiently to further raise awareness of the recycling opportunities available.

In order to get an idea of how shoppers perceived Goodwill we conducted interviews the first week of research. Throughout the interviews we found that people mostly shop at Goodwill for costumes, props, vintage clothing, or shop for resale. Also, customers that thrift shop as a hobby prefer Goodwill. Most customers shop at Goodwill for themselves and said they would not shop there for gifts. When asked, “What was your initial expectation of Goodwill and how has that been or not been fulfilled?” Most people responded that there exists a misconception about thrift stores including Goodwill. One person responded, “I thought it was a bunch of junky stuff and old crap.” When asked, “If you could tell people one thing about Goodwill, what would it be?” One woman said, you can put together your own outfits or decorate your apartment and make it unique.” With this we start seeing a Do it Yourself initiative, where people are searching for things to decorate their homes, fix and build their own computers, and complete outfits. When asked, “what would you change about Goodwill?” One person responded, “I would change the negative stigma people have of Goodwill, and believe it is under them. It should be about the shopping experience, helping the community and environment, and having fun.” Customers said that the Goodwill mission gave them more of an incentive to shop there. Employees and shoppers believe in Goodwill’s mission and want to change the perception of Goodwill.

A Do it yourself community already exists and is most prominent online with DIY websites, blogs, and videos. Many DIY resources suggest thrift stores, and sometimes specifically Goodwill, as the place to go look for used goods and materials to use in trash-to-treasure projects. These websites also provide photos of existing Do it yourself projects with step-by-step instructions. There are a variety of projects, ranging from easy-to-make and affordable to more complex and time consuming.

In effect to our goal to promote the recycling effort and implement the DIY mindset, we propose a way to utilize inefficiently used resources and products in store to promote sustainability. We plan on promoting Goodwill as the place to go for Do it yourself enthusiasts and potential Do it your-selfers. The make good logo represents our effort to enhance Goodwill’s image by keeping the existing logo and adding a vintage script typeface that corresponds to our effort to salvage and reuse materials. The tag line reads, “Reduce waste. Reuse items. Be creative”. This speaks about our recycling effort and encourages creativity. Two effective ways to apply our goal is through in-store displays and a website. There will be 18 x 24” posters placed in the Goodwill stores, designed to remain the same with detachable instructional pads that will change over time. The instructional pads where designed to be more universal with only a minimal amount of text that could potentially be translated. The DIY projects will be easy to make and affordable. Some projects that we have come up with include, a vase lamp, a record clock, mug speaker set, and a bookcase handbag. These posters and instructions will be placed in the corresponding section depending on the materials needed for the project. The poster will have a link to the website so that people can take pictures of their make good projects and post them on the website. They can even exchange their own DIY ideas on the blog. In order to also promote the Goodwill mission, it will be printed on each of the instruction pads. Shelf space in the house wares section could be utilized by detaching one shelf so that the poster could be placed on the backboard of the shelf. The DIY project will also be on display so that it could be a visual example to stimulate ideas. The website will have information about Goodwill’s recycling initiatives as well as their mission statement. The website will also be a source for creative exchange with photos of Do it yourself projects and instructions. New projects will be featured on the popular projects page so that web users can download instructions, comment on the project, send it to a friend, or continue reading more about the project.
We are aware that there are concerns about the actual execution of our proposal. Further considerations include, configuration of store displays because of the layout discrepancies in each Goodwill store. Also in consideration is the turnover time for the DIY projects in store. Website maintenance is also a concern since there are no employee volunteers trained to do complex web work. On the contrary, there are resources available at the Goodwill headquarters, including a plotter printer for poster printing.Plans for future expansion are definitely included in our proposal. We plan on using Austin’s annual event Maker Faire to promote and exhibit Goodwill’s DIY mindset and projects. Maker Faire was created by Make Magazine to “celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the DIY mindset.” Maker Faire includes exposition and workshop pavilions, hands-on workshops, demonstrations, and DIY competitions. Goodwill already sponsors Maker Faire and could take further initiative to make an appearance at the festival. Apart from expansion, in order to accommodate to the large demographic of Spanish speakers, we will have bilingual posters and instructions. Furthermore, in our initiatives to make these DIY instructions universal, we plan on making instructional videos that will be available on the make good website. Through existing Goodwill volunteer programs; enough support is available for ongoing DIY workshops in order to encourage the community to participate in the recycling cause. We hope this will inspire customers to reuse goods in effort to improve the environment.

From the beginning of our process we have been interested in taking existing resources to better promote Goodwill’s mission and recycling effort. This idea has carried us through our process and our appreciation for Goodwill’s mission along with our concern for helping improve its cause is clearly reflected in our proposal. Not only is our proposal joining the global green movement, but the proceeds of this DIY mindset is also contributing to Goodwill’s mission of finding jobs for individuals with barriers to employment.

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