THE BLOG

Earth Day is Donate Day

04/21/2014 07:00 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2014
  • Jim Gibbons President and CEO, Goodwill Industries International

With spring weather (finally!) coming to much of the nation after a long and snowy winter, this year feels like one in which we should be particularly grateful for Earth Day. During the commemoration, millions of people around the country and across the world will think about what we can do to help protect our planet. With each passing year, the environmental problems we collectively face seem more intractable than the previous. But I'd like to make the case that small actions can still make a big difference when it comes to the environment. One particular case in point is the power of donating.

Let me start by giving you an example from the world of America's college campuses. While college students are among the most environmentally conscious demographic group as a whole, as with everyone else, they are no strangers to waste. Every spring as the school year comes to an end, the estimated 3 million students who live in university housing move out of their dorm rooms and leave perfectly good clothing, electronics, books and furniture in overflowing campus dumpsters. Why not donate those items? Giving away these kinds of used items not only diverts waste from landfills, it also helps communities.

Last spring, Goodwill's Give and Go! initiative with Keep America Beautiful collected more than 60,000 pounds of clothing, household items and the like on five university campuses. This year, we have tripled our footprint and the program has expanded to 15 universities around the country.

Sixty-thousand pounds of usable stuff is a lot of waste diverted from landfills -- and it's also a lot of job opportunities created. In addition to the environmental benefits, a single box of books can provide 13 hours of on-the-job training, and eight desk lamps can provide an hour and a half of résumé preparation for someone in need.

Of course, the problem of waste is not at all limited to college students. Nearly all of us, from high school students to senior citizens, are producing more electronic waste than ever before. A few decades ago, a household might use one computer, one television and one phone for many years. Now, in many families, each person has his or her own phone and computer, and we go through smart phones, laptops, chargers and the like in what comparatively seems like the blink of any eye.

Working electronic items can be donated too, but broken ones should be recycled responsibly in order to prevent dangerous environmental waste. The Dell Reconnect program has helped consumers responsibly recycle more than 324 million pounds of electronics over the past decade -- that's the equivalent of more than 45 million laptops. (Check out the Reconnect website for locations where you can recycle your e-waste.)

Those are just two examples how small acts of donating on just one day can add up to a huge environmental impact throughout the entire year. What kind of an impact will you make this Earth Day?