Beyond Recycling

In many parts of the country and in many European countries, recycling is not only a concept implemented by many employers and municipalities, it is a legal requirement. Even if you for some reason discount global warming, you cannot deny the fact that landfills in Western countries are beyond the point of overflowing.

When I was in New York City some time ago, I noticed a fleet of small boats heading south to New Jersey. When I asked one of the locals what they were, he told me “garbage boats”, taking the overflowing NYC trash and shipping it across state lines.

Needless to say, I was just dumfounded. Say what you want about my being an Oregonian, this just seemed sad and wrong.

A few months ago, as I was considering starting this small business, I had the opportunity to ghostwrite a review. It was for Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything, about global climate change. My New York experience often played in my head as I read through the pages.

After reading the title, I decided to take her up on the challenge to reduce emissions by reducing waste. But how?

I ditched my car. I live in the Portland Metro area, which has one of the best public transit systems in the country, for which I am grateful. I don’t mind walking a great deal here, as it truly is beautiful.

As I considered starting a small business, I struggled with the concept of what else could be done. I am a media professional, and would be selling art prints and the like on my site. I also wanted them to be affordable.

The products my site offers, for the most part, are part of a print-on-demand service. This concept is not just about recycling, but avoiding the creation of waste from the start. In addition to art prints, I also offer many of the same items in a PDF format as a digital download, and people can print the items for themselves at their local copy shop for about a buck-fifty.

There isn’t a large warehouse storing these items on shelves. This is not only an environmentally friendly measure, but a cost saving measure as well. This is the reason I am able to offer these items at such a low price.

Additionally, by offering the digital format to clients, I reduce emissions to practically zero, as they do not have to be put on a truck or plane and shipped. Bonus: my specialty printer is literally a short 10 minute walk from me, and right across the street from our local post office.

Yes, it took some time, planning and foresight. But most importantly, recycling in any measure takes commitment, which is a much more precious commodity when making decisions about “greening” your organization.

I have always been of the mindset that no one should be priced out of the things that make them happy, like artwork. So, not only do my clients get an item that hopefully brings joy to either you or to someone else as a gift, you can also take comfort in the fact that each one of the items here isn’t causing massive deforestation, melting ice caps or filling up landfills.

It isn’t perfect, but then again nothing is. My goal is that it is not only a step in the right direction to reducing my carbon footprint, but hopefully it will inspire environmental solutions and innovation from others. Would love to hear your feedback, stories and successes as well.

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr.

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