green-bannerEnvironmental awareness has long been a priority of Goodwill, whether it’s the green building practices we teach in YouthBuild, the environmental friendliness of our store construction, or simply the act of keeping goods out of landfills by way of donating and reselling. But we took it to another level last year.

In 2012, energy conservation specifically was a big part of Goodwill Industries International’s (GII) agenda – so much that GII established a movement-wide friendly competition to see which agency could best improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. Facilities Manager Ross Tremaine said the agency began replacing the lighting at all of its stores in the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) area last spring.

“We changed out all of the lights to more energy-efficient bulbs,” he said. “That was in conjunction with rebates that OPPD is offering in an effort to help businesses go green; we are taking full advantage.”

Tremaine said that the light output of the new bulbs is equivalent, if not better, while using less power – creating both energy and financial savings. The contest results will be in sometime in mid-2013, but even if we don’t win, we’re making a difference.

There’s been a noticeable change in some of our back rooms as well. When we opened our 78th & Dodge retail store in November 2011, the space we moved into wasn’t large enough to accommodate a trash compactor — a fixture in the back room at all of our retail stores. The plan was to have a truck come by several times a day to pick up the store’s trash and take it down to the Retail Operations Center, where it could be compacted and sent away.

But that didn’t end up happening. The 78th & Dodge retail team were so cautious about what they discarded — while being more mindful of what could be recycled — that those multiple daily trash pickups turned into just single pickups — less than half of what was expected. And once they set that example, our retail operations department asked itself if it could replicate this success elsewhere.

This hole once housed the Benson Park store's trash compactor.

This hole once housed the Benson Park store’s trash compactor.

The answer was such a resounding “Yes” that in July 2012, our Benson Park Plaza store’s compactor was removed completely.

In 2011, the Benson Park Plaza store was averaging two trash pickups per month. But in 2012, the store manager and staff were doing such a great job monitoring their trash that they averaged fewer than one per month.

Goodwill employees have been so effective at ensuring the efficient sorting of all of our donations — whether those donations are going to the sales floor, to the WearHouse, to GoodBytes or separated for recycling — that our trash compactors are seeing only a fraction of the use that they once were. The retail department’s trash bill in 2012 was less than half of what it was in 2011. It’s also great for the environment, as we send less and less to landfills even as our operations continue to grow. And it’s great for our donors, who can be assured that their donations are being put to their best use.

As a result of the hard work at all of our locations, our recycling numbers across the agency continue to climb. In 2012, we recycled more than 5.9 million pounds of clothing, more than 390,000 pounds of shoes, more than 987,000 pounds of computers and computer components, more than 295,000 pounds of cardboard, more than 20,000 pounds of paper and more than 10,000 pounds of plastic.

It’s just another way our retail department demonstrates its commitment to the agency and the environment.

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