Here's an excerpt from my new book, Saving The World At Work.
Every day at work, you are surrounded by waste that could be easily converted into social nutrition for your community. Have you ever counted all the broken or outdated computers, monitors, printers, phones, desks, and chairs gathering dust?
Many innovators are turning their trash into food by partnering with nonprofit groups with expertise in preparing used items for community distribution. Electro-Motive, a LaGrange, Illinois–based manufacturer of electric-diesel locomotives, took a novel approach to a recent com panywide upgrade of its computers. Instead of throwing out seven hundred old computer workstations, the company donated them to Chicago’s Computers for Schools, a nonprofit that refurbishes computers for local school systems. And when executives discovered that the recycling program was popular with employees, they organized a three-day recycling drive. Employee enthusiasm was so high that organizers created a follow-up event for the general public at Chicago’s United Center. Between the two events, more than 80,000 pounds of computer and office equipment were collected.
Don’t stop at computers. In Lynchburg, Virginia, the local nonprofit Crayons to Computers works with dozens of local businesses to redistribute unused or discarded office supplies, equipment, and furniture to community area schools. Similarly, Maryland farmer
Rod Parker lets the Washington Area Gleaning Network, a local nonprofit that feeds the needy, pick over his farm after the annual harvest. As a farmer, he’s committed to feeding people, and he derives satisfaction from knowing his unpicked items are being put to good use. Larry’s Markets in Seattle donates expired or dented canned goods to local food banks. Fletcher Allen Healthcare, a medical center in Vermont, donates unused produce from its cafeteria to local nonprofits that feed the homeless.
Your company meetings and events may provide you with an opportunity to give back to your local community as well. I’ve attended hundreds of them over the last few years as a public speaker, and I’m always amazed how much food is wasted. In the fall of 2007, the socially minded rock band Phish, along with event vendors, donated all the edible leftover food from its concert in Limestone, Maine, to Catholic Charities Maine. The results were not trivial: Volunteers collected more than $5,000 worth of frozen, dry, and canned food.