From 2011 to 2013, I worked for a personal training company that staffed the fitness centers of Wall Street banks, five-star hotels, and magazine corporations. They provided towel service, but as soon as a towel had a few strings hanging off, it was labeled “old” and joined a burgeoning pile in the laundry room. These “old” towels would be washed, dried, folded, and put on a shelf — never to be used again, even though they looked just like the “good” towels.
One day, the zoo where I volunteered asked docents if they had any towels to donate for spring when a lot of baby birds were hatched and animals were born.
Eureka! Time to upcycle.
With my beat-up wheeled suitcase and an unlimited Metrocard, I went to all the gyms (I emailed and asked first) and hauled the old towels to the zoo. When that need was fulfilled, I continued hauling towels to a local mission, Bowery Mission.
Everyone asked, “Where did you get so many towels?” When I answered, they would then ask, “But what’s wrong with them? They seem fine.” I would respond, “Nothing. They are fine.”
When one fitness center on Wall Street closed for renovations, I hauled so many towels to that local mission, it was my own workout. When I arrived with them, the employees immediately sent the towels down to the bathrooms for people already in the showers — that’s how great their need was.
In 2015, I managed a conference at NYU, and was told I didn’t order enough food.
Specifically, I was told, “We should have a lot of leftovers and be throwing it away. Otherwise, we could lose the grant.”
Does that even begin to make sense? Plus, we did have leftovers — I alerted the building staff every evening that extras would be in the cafeteria after the conference, so they could come take as much as they wanted. They came in droves with Tupperware and Ziploc bags — but apparently, I was not throwing enough away.
I left that job, for that and many other reasons.
Please, stop throwing things away immediately. No, it does not have to stay and fester wherever you are — but there are so many organizations that will take your “junk” because they need it. Many will even haul it away for free.
There is just no excuse. And soon, there will be no more room for our waste.
Bring your old clothes to consignment shops and thrift stores. Donate clothes, towels, and toiletries to local missions, homeless shelters, and women’s shelters. Organizations like Housing Works even sell your donations to raise rent money for those living with HIV/AIDS.
Happy Upcycling! Earth Day is every day, but we will party responsibly on April 22nd.