Vote ReCycle North

At 226 Pine street sits a conspicuous, yellow and orange warehouse. Despite the flamboyant colors, it blends well with the other warehouses that dot the streets and waterfront of Burlington. Except, of course, that every weekday dozens of Vermont bargain hunters trek here to purchase everything from electronics and appliances to vintage books and records – for next to nothing. The organization’s name is Recycle North, and it’s been providing Burlington with inexpensive recycled products and job opportunities for over fourteen years. Their mission: “To protect the environment by reducing the amount of reusable and repairable items dumped in landfills, to give individuals in transition valuable job skills, technical training and more opportunity, and to alleviate the effects of poverty by making vital household goods and building materials available to the poor.” Recycle North is best known for the spacious front room, packed from floor to ceiling with salvaged goods. However, the impact of this non-profit co-op reaches far beyond household items. Since its inception, RN has been expanding to include programs that help the community in a plethora of ways. The newest addition in public services has come with the successful takeover of YouthBuild, a “previously independent training program for highschool dropouts” (Thomas Longstreth, executive director). Since the October ’04 merger Recycle North has expanded YouthBuild’s capacity and can now support 18 economically disadvantaged students per year. The first YouthBuild class graduated this past week and all seven graduates are either employed or continuing their educations while six out of seven have successfully earned their GED’s. In an upcoming project, YouthBuild will be renovating and selling an Old North End home to a low income family through Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, followed by the complete construction of a brand new home for a second Habitat family. Faulty appliances, otherwise headed for a landfill, escape atrophy and find a home at Recycle North thanks to the appliance training program, which handles the largest inventory of used appliances in Vermont – over 500 a month. Individuals lacking specific job skills can gain valuable experience repairing electronics, furniture and any number of other dilapidated utilities that find their way to the RN headquarters. The program is a great way for job seekers to avoid a catch-22 commonly associated with the modern workplace – gaining experience through employment when employment can only be obtained if one has prior experience. The course boasts a nearly flawless record – almost 100 percent of former trainees are currently employed. In addition to those who willingly offer their service, many local college students who find themselves on the wrong end of a noise violation choose to serve their community service punishments at Recycle North. Generally, partners in RN’s training program are “individuals who are homeless, participants in welfare-to-work programs, the unemployed whose previous careers have been sidetracked by injuries or lay-offs, at-risk youth, and people who need to perform mandated community service.” Offering further support for the local community is the deconstruction service that Recycle North offers. This team of demolition workers does everything from full “tear downs” (complete deconstruction of hazardous buildings) to “soft-strips” (removing sections of houses undergoing minor renovations). The building materials carefully collected by the demo team are either given back to the owner, offered for resale to the public for low prices or donated to one of several non-profit partners like Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity. In fact, “In 2004, ReCycle North gave away $64,612 worth of household goods, building materials and repair services to 333 families, 258 individuals and 92 nonprofit organizations through its Essential Goods Program.” As an added bonus, those who go on to pursue careers in construction organizations know the virtues of utilizing recycled material in their projects. Thus breeding ecological consciousness in the Burlington workforce. Unfortunately RN’s recent expansion has resulted in some financial problems. Workers compensation insurance and rent are just two of several financial drains that inhibit Recycle North’s growth and prevent the hiring of essential staff members. In addition there are problems with space and lighting in the two buildings that house the organization. There is a silver lining, however, as RN management works with city officials in developing a plan for a more adequate facility. In addition to those who utilize ReCycle North’s generous services out of necessity, for many the co-op offers an alluring trip into the recent, and not so recent, past. Most of the items filling ReCycle North’s shelves have endured decades of ownership by countless individuals and now wait to be re-circulated into the world. While the specific draw of these items may vary by shopper, many who roam RN’s isles are intrigued by the obscure and uncanny history that each artifact has to offer and that, for a small fee, they can reincarnate what was once obsolete and add a part of themselves to that legacy. Others enjoy knowing that the products they leave ReCycle North with are not likely to be found in identical stock-piles at designer stores. Shoppers hunt through shelves for something they can personally identify with, carefully deliberating over each potential item, and when one has been selected, to the shopper it feels more earned than bought. When the urge to splurge hits, many find more satisfaction for a fraction of the price at outlets like ReCycle North. Getting rid of that clutter in your garage or basement? Renovating the guest bathroom? Just graduated and need to clean out your old apartment before the big move back home? Caught the humanitarian spirit and want to help your fellow man? ReCycle North accepts donations of all shapes and sizes. Everything from consumer electronics to floor tiles can be repaired or salvaged for parts, however RN asks that those who make donations leave a small fee to cover repairs and transportation in the case that materials may not be salvaged. Since ReCycle North is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, all donations can be deducted from federal taxes, an added bonus for large construction and demolition companies which create high volumes of waste that could potentially be reused. ReCycle North is a true example of dynamic communal growth. Each branch of the organization extends to support the surrounding area, whether it be through ecological conservation, preparing employees for successful careers or supplying others with highly affordable household essentials. The programs at ReCycle North are examples of communal reciprocity that set a high standard for other cities nationwide. A dollar spent at ReCycle North equals much more than whatever treasure you receive in return. It is a way to pay homage to the philanthropic selflessness and communal thinking that the world seems to so-sorely lack. To spend much more money at a department store, and by doing so create a demand for new appliance production when none is necessary, is simply gluttonous. Why not bring your business to an eco-friendly store that simultaneously helps the community? Organizations like ReCycle North will remain rare until the consumer groups of today let their consciences be heard, and since the only language recognized by capitalism is that of dollars and cents, any protest not backed by a sincere movement towards conservative and conscious spending will go unheard. Your dollar is your vote. Vote ReCycle North.