By Evan Zachary – Jan. 1st, 2017

Relief through Reuse

In the wake of the fall of Kodak and the decline of Xerox, Rochester was left with a Detroit-esque exodus of employment. Using the United States Census Interactive Map on Poverty, it can be seen that 42.6% of children aged 5 to 17 live below the poverty line in the Rochester City School District. In conjunction with a high school dropout rate of 25%, the city could struggle to get traction with its upcoming generation. In spite of this challenge, organizations all over the city have sprung up to combat poverty in a simple and intersectional way.

The tried and true practice of reuse, bearing both economic and environmental benefits, is already in use all across the city. This goes far beyond upcycled arts and crafts around the home. Grassroots organizations are tapping into waste streams to meet people’s basic needs. By feeding, housing, and transporting citizens in an affordable and low impact way these groups are witnessing immediate and tangible improvements in their community. Before reviewing some of the initiatives underway in Rochester, it is important to acknowledge that reuse is possible with and without financial capital. This creates both opportunity and an obligation to attack the problem of waste at all levels. By offering such a variety of incentives, be they social, economic, or environmental,  the act of reuse is both compassionate and impactful for people and their shared environment.

Here’s how Rochester is turning waste into a system of support.

Food

food-insecurity-monroe-county
Monroe County Food Insecurity Data from Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” Tool

After the destruction of Sanctuary Village, Khoury Humphrey was inspired support displaced people by taking action through reuse. He did so by founding an organization that was soon at the forefront of direct aid through reuse in Rochester, Flower City Pickers (FCP). Flower City Pickers gathers a weekly average of 2,300 lbs. of unsold bread, fruit, and vegetables from the Rochester Public Market and distributing them to a network of shelters and pantries throughout the city. You can listen to the founder and some of the organizers talk about the group in this edition of WXXI Connections.

Interested in volunteering with Flower City Pickers?
Contact volunteer@flowercitypickers.com

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“I see it as a resource, if I can’t sell something at least I have an avenue to donate it to go to a cause that is worthwhile.” – WXXI Report – Rochester Public Market Vendor

FCP is not able to save every bit of food, however, that is where Food Not Bombs comes in. Founded in 1999 and Based in the South Wedge, Food Not Bombs prepares a free meal using the surplus recovered food from Flower City Pickers which is served at the southeast corner of South Ave. and Alexander St every Saturday at 3:30 pm. Since their founding, it’s estimated that Food Not Bombs has served over 600 meals. This two-tiered food recovery system creates benefits at every level, from saving money and manpower at the market usually associated with processing waste to the citizen money saved by a free meal.

Want to attend a meal or help cook for one?
Volunteers should contact Shannon Coleman at 585-576-8847

College campuses like University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology house Food Recovery Network chapters. Led by students, these groups inventory and deliver recovered food from campus cafeterias to soup kitchens and homeless shelters such as Open Door Mission and Blessed Sacrament Church. Many campus dining facilities prepare their food in bulk which can yield entire trays of prepared but untouched food. Allison Blakely , former president of RIT’s chapter, Recover Rochester, estimates the club recovers approximately 12,500 lbs of food in an average year.

Getting involved with Recover Rochester is easy! Just reach out to recoverrochester@gmail.com

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Two years ago a communications class at RIT created a proposal for a Foodshare Center on campus. Shortly thereafter, with the support of Residence Life and RIT Sustainability, the proposal became a reality and has been addressing on-campus food insecurity and acting as a waste diversion option ever since.

“The FoodShare center is important because students should never have to choose between things like buying books for class or warm winter clothing and having well-rounded meals throughout the semester.”
– Ian Gauger, Class of 2017, Former FoodShare Coordinator

Transportation

R Community Bikes, located off Hudson Ave. collects, repairs, and gives away bikes free of charge to anyone with a helmet and a form of identification. In a small city with cycling infrastructure the value of this organization cannot be understated. The organization began reporting its work in 2008 and has since helped to develop repair skills and provide affordable, low-impact transportation options to Rochestarians.

“Since accurate records have been kept, R Community Bikes has given away 17,121 bikes, repaired 21,148 and volunteered 97,542 hours, more than an average lifetime.”
– R Community Bikes 2015 Annual Report

Shelter

The Flower City Habitat for Humanity ReStore offers gently used furniture, appliances, and building supplies which are leftover from their already commendable work providing homes for those in need. Those interested in volunteering with ReStore can view listed volunteer opportunities online. More broadly, Habitat for Humanity also works to repair homes in disrepair to provide shelter and prevent wasted space.

Just north of Village Gate, off of East Main St. Greenovation offers a myriad of recovered treasures for furniture, decoration, and other unique discoveries for those who can afford them. Greenovation also offers hard-to-recycle collection services for things like electronics and plastic bags. Their creations are unique and certainly worth taking a look at!

A fairly young initiative at RIT has sprung up to improve the affordability, cost, and waste associated with students moving onto and off of campus. Goodbye Goodbuy! founded in 2015 the student-led program gathers roughly 35 tons of usable electronics, furniture, clothing, food, school supplies, and really anything they can get their hands on during the time students are moving out. These items are then sorted, tested, and priced for resale at up to 95% off retail value. By re-circulating gently used housewares Goodbye Goodbuy extends the lifetime of the products and ultimately helps to reduce waste while improving the affordability of college.

In an additional attempt to reduce waste from the sale itself and to distribute some of these the resources Goodbye Goodbuy partnered with eleven charitable organizations in Rochester. Groups received specifically requested donations including cleaning and hygiene supplies, food, furniture, clothing, and bedding. Interested in knowing exactly how much went where? Check out some of the data!

“We have a fundamental disorder between the needs of the impoverished Rochester community, and the waste of a more privileged university population. Students are literally throwing out the clothing, furniture, food and toiletries that are so desperately needed across the city, but that’s due to the fact that there is no bridge to cross the physical and societal divide between those two communities.”

“It is by no means an end-all solution for poverty on campus or in the city, but one of Goodbye, Goodbuy’s most important benefits is the ability to begin to make that connection between the waste we create, and the potential we have to help the communities around us. ”

– Nick Giordano, Founder of Goodbye Goodbuy!

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Want to be a Goodbye Goodbuy student volunteer?
Get the scoop and find out the perks at ggrit@rit.edu

Getting involved with any of these organizations stands to offer personal fulfillment and a sense of community. By pitting the two complex problems of waste and poverty against one another Rochesterians are acting as an example of resilience in the face of adversity.

 

“Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the places you are.”
– Nikosi Johnson

 

About the author:
Evan Zachary is a fourth-year Environmental Sustainability Health and Safety student at Rochester Institute of Technology. Through involvement with Goodbye Goodbuy and the Flower City Pickers he has learned more about how to create relief through reuse. Evan coordinates the Student Environmental Action League’s social media outlets and is always on the prowl for new content!
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