Monday, December 8, 2008

Make Of It What You Will

Goodwill Industries of Central Texas states that its mission is “To enhance the quality and dignity of life for individuals, families, and our community by providing job-related services for people with barriers to employment.” To this end, it accepts and resells donations, putting the proceeds toward employment programs. The more donations Goodwill sells, the more people it can employ. In this same spirit, Goodwill attempts to create as little waste as possible, and it makes every effort during a donation’s lifespan to put it to good use and keep it out of the landfill. The MakeGood program enhances Goodwill’s ability to accomplish these goals by appealing to shoppers and members of the burgeoning do-it-yourself community to purchase and use more of Goodwill’s items in a creative, sustainable manner.

Goodwill currently has no shortage of programs encouraging sustainability and waste reduction. Within Goodwill’s standard system, every opportunity seems to be taken to sell an item or to ensure that it is disposed of responsibly. In an effort to keep the community sustainable, Goodwill’s annual Weigh Good Drive encourages the central Texas area to donate the refuse it has accrued during spring cleaning. This past year, 725,000 pounds of donations were accepted into the Goodwill system during this drive. Goodwill has several programs in place to recycle electronic items responsibly. The RECONNECT program, a partnership with Dell and the City of Austin, offers consumers free drop-off recycling of electronics. Every month, it helps recycle 250 tons of electronic waste. Goodwill’s own Computer Works division ensures that no electronic donation goes to landfill by sorting broken-down computers into recyclable components, which are then shipped to specialized recycling facilities around the world.

In spite of all these excellent efforts, 20% of all donated goods still must be disposed of in landfills – a costly and environmentally unfriendly result. With MakeGood, it will be possible to reduce this waste and operate sustainably by using and reusing only the resources that Goodwill already has at its disposal.

Goodwill currently organizes by very general categories, such as most types of clothing, housewares, electronics, and books. Shelf and rack space are utilized to their fullest, and items are often very chaotically distributed. A uniform system of signage, which employs pastel colors and graphical cues mimicking the disjointed visual of clothes on a rack, is used in the Central Texas region. Signs are often hung from the ceiling or high on the walls in an effort not to detract from retail space. Signs advertising specific Goodwill programs, such as Brand U. or the Ghoulwill Ball are distributed throughout the store.

Many different opinions about Goodwill exist throughout the community. Some see Goodwill as a place where only the underprivileged shop for subpar goods. Others find the stores unappealing and dingy. There are a number of shoppers who go to Goodwill for specific seasonal items – most notably, Halloween costumes. Goodwill does, however, have a loyal shopper base, composed of diverse personalities. There are older shoppers, generally women, who seek out bargains on items they find fashionable. Other younger, hip shoppers build outfits out of unique vintage items. A few shoppers already recognize the value of Goodwill as a resource for do-it-yourself projects, and these will be the initial target audience of the MakeGood program.

The do-it-yourself (DIY), or “making” movement, is a somewhat recent phenomenon. It is a culture that encourages creative, unconventional, and innovative use of materials, and emphasizes the sustainability and satisfaction of accomplishing these projects on one’s own. The glue of this community is the internet, where “makers” absorb ideas and share tips via blogs and forums. The online presence of Make Magazine, Make:Blog, and Instructables.com are two of the largest online communities dedicated to this lifestyle. Goodwill is already recognized in this community as a source for affordable, unique materials which can be used in DIY projects. It is often recommended by makers, or praised when a particularly good find is discovered. This presents a fertile opportunity for Goodwill to build upon to promote sustainability and its mission.

MakeGood is a program that will take advantages of resources already in place within the Goodwill System to enhance Goodwill’s image as a source of creative sustainability. It is a system of in-store invitations to “do it yourself,” an online community of DIY-ers, and a presence within the community to promote awareness of the DIY mindset to fresh or previously uninterested audiences.

MakeGood’s extremely consistent, simple, and recognizable visual language is built around a blue and white color scheme, in keeping with Goodwill of Central Texas’ current graphic design vocabulary. The main typeface is Santa Fe, an italicized script with connotations of nostalgia and times gone by, ideal to convey the focus on vintage items. The MakeGood emblem incorporates this script with the easily recognizable “Good” of the Goodwill logo, “smiling G” included. MakeGood’s motto is “Reduce Waste. Reuse Items. Be Creative!” This is a succinct conveyance of the program’s goals, and an enthusiastic appeal to participate.

The central focus of MakeGood will be DIY projects constructed from items available in Goodwill stores. Goodwill will provide instructions for making basic projects, and offer invitations for participants to create and share their own ideas. This is an effort to get shoppers to reconsider how items on the shelf can be used. With the encouragement of MakeGood, shoppers will eventually take most items in the store at more than face value, and this re-imaging of items perhaps once considered useless should ultimately result in more donations being sold. The MakeGood team has devised several projects as the starting points for the eventual database of projects that MakeGood will provide. A pair of speakers made out of coffee mugs will wake you up in the morning with tunes instead of caffeine. A clock made out of an old record will give vintage flair to your wall. A lamp made out of a vase brings unique, colorful light, and a purse made from a hardcover book is quirky and chic. These simple projects serve as starting points for creative exploration in the hopes that participants will become interested in more complex projects and return to Goodwill for supplies.

The primary aspect of MakeGood will be its in-store presence. 18x24” posters, displayed within the pertinent section of the store, will ask the shopper: “Find something cool? Don’t know what to do with it?” and then suggest that they “Turn it into a [Vase Lamp!]” or whatever project pertains to the area of the store. The name of the particular project and its instructions will be printed on 5.5x8.5” tear-away pads for the shopper to take home as guidance on their DIY endeavor. Invitation to participate in the online community at makegoodwill.com will be included on the tear-away instructions, as well as a statement of Goodwill’s mission. In stores where space is available, examples of actual completed projects may be displayed near the instructions, hopefully enhancing the appeal of the final product and enticing the shopper to want to make their own. Another option for the distribution of instructions and information about MakeGood is bag stuffers – small leaflets that are placed in a shopper’s bag at the checkout counter. Bag stuffers are already used by Goodwill, and are extremely cheap and use a minimal amount of paper.

Considering that the nexus of the DIY community exists on the internet, it is vital that MakeGood have an online presence. Makegoodwill.com would serve as a source of making-related information, project guides and instructions, and community communication. This site employs the same uniform visual scheme of blue and white as the rest of the MakeGood program. It features a blog in which Goodwill representatives can post interesting news within the DIY community or updates and information about programs and events within the Goodwill system. Ideal topics include sharing the stories of various people Goodwill has helped, or letting the community know when a Goodwill store will be opening. The instruction database will offer instructions for every project that MakeGood has come up with for free download, and opportunity to comment and share ideas about the projects. Finally, the forums will allow discussion of projects and of Goodwill and general, and a medium through which users can share their own projects, instructions, and results.

MakeGood is an easy program to implement because it utilizes resources that are already in place in the Goodwill system. Plotters are already present for poster printing within stores. A graphic designer is already on staff to create new instructions, which follow a simple visual scheme and template. The display system is simple enough that it can be modified and scaled to different store layouts. The website would require minimal upkeep and moderation, as it is designed to be a self-sustaining community. If a website proved to be beyond Goodwill’s resources, however, a collaborative effort could easily be established with the already bustling online DIY community. For instance, Make:Blog could easily feature projects tied specifically to Goodwill and the MakeGood program.

MakeGood presents an excellent opportunity for Goodwill to expand its customer base, resell more donations to support employment programs, and be a more sustainable organization.

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