Reuse and Closing the Loop with Community Forklift’s Aderyn Bright

Reuse is an excellent way to save resources and promote sustainability.

 
John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of Green Is Good. This is the Green Festival edition of Green Is Good here in beautiful Washington, D.C., and we are so excited to have with us Aderyn Bright. She is the Event Coordinator for Community Forklift. Welcome to Green Is Good, Aderyn. Aderyn Bright: Thank you. John Shegerian: So before we talk about Community Forklift and all the great work you’re doing there, share a little bit about your journey and your story leading up to joining Community Forklift. Aderyn Bright: I actually had been volunteering at a community center. Not environmental at all, but I got very involved in the community development aspect of it, and when it was time to be looking for a real job – a paying one – then I came across this ad for Community Forklift. I saw a way to include in an environmental direction with community development, got really excited about it and jumped right in. John Shegerian: Did you grow up in a household that was sustainability minded or in college, or where did you get the idea that sustainability and environmentalism is important to what you do? Aderyn Bright: I think it really was just upbringing. I grew up in Southern California. I think everything was a little bit more. John Shegerian: Which part of Southern California? Aderyn Bright: L.A. John Shegerian: L.A. Aderyn Bright: With two parents that were born and raised in L.A., too. John Shegerian: A little bit more progressive. Aderyn Bright: It’s their’s culturally. John Shegerian: Sustainability. Aderyn Bright: Everything was about sustainability and health. John Shegerian: Cool. Aderyn Bright: So I just never really realized it was a debate until I got a little older and realized that not everybody recycles. John Shegerian: That there was another side. Aderyn Bright: Exactly. Yeah. John Shegerian: Talk a little bit about what you do at Community Forklift, and what is Community Forklift’s vision? Aderyn Bright: So Community Forklift itself is a reuse center for home improvement and the mission stems from this idea that about 40 percent of our landfills are filled with building materials. John Shegerian: Wow. Aderyn Bright: But 90 percent of the average building is reusable if it was deconstructed properly. So the deviation between those two statistics has driven this new industry to open up in the last 15 years or so of reuse centers all across the United States. And we’re an independent nonprofit in the D.C. area that has been open now for 10 years, and we’ve taken donations of building materials, and we get them back out into our communities as a reusable stream instead of a waste stream. John Shegerian: And how long have you been with them? Aderyn Bright: Going on three years. John Shegerian: And for our listeners and our viewers out there, to find Community Forklift, you can go to www.CommunityForklift.org. So since you’ve joined, how much product were you recycling and reusing three years ago when you joined – or even when they started it – and how much are you recycling now and how much opportunity is out there? Aderyn Bright: Oh wow. I’m not on the donations side. John Shegerian: Right. OK. Aderyn Bright: So I don’t know exactly. But I do know that when I first started – on a green job creation scale…. John Shegerian: Yeah. Aderyn Bright: When I first started, I was number 20 on the employee list and now we’re almost at 50. John Shegerian: Wow. Aderyn Bright: And that’s for our regular employees. That’s not even counting contractors that we work with and other part-time or on-call type of employment. John Shegerian: As the event coordinator, what do you specifically do at Community Forklift? Aderyn Bright: So my job is kind of everything involving events. So not only registering for events like this and making sure that we have all of our on-call event staff scheduled and ready to go and all of our materials that we need and display items and all of that, but also we do a lot of programming ourselves so we have a huge garden party every spring and we bring in local experts and really show reuse in the garden. We have Forklift First Friday’s going on all summer long. First Friday of every month we bring in local artists and local talent and help showcase the local art scene, so we really get involved in our community and try to throw events that help show what’s going on in Prince George’s County. John Shegerian: Why Green Festival? We are here today. This is the Green Is Good Green Festival edition. Why is this important in terms of your messaging and ambassadorship of Community Forklift? Aderyn Bright: We have been coming to the Green Festival since the very first year. We are huge supporters of it. We were actually rated one of the top 11 “cool companies” by Green America this year. John Shegerian: Wow. Aderyn Bright: In their article that just came out a couple months ago. John Shegerian: Right. Right. Aderyn Bright: And so we’ve just been really involved with Green America and the Green Festival, and honestly, this is the best venue of the year to connect with people that want to know more about green construction or green living or different ways to connect with the environmental movement. Where most events we might have to start at the beginning – at the basics – here we can just jump right in and people already are understanding that we need to make changes in our lifestyle. John Shegerian: Does Community Forklift exist in any other communities? Aderyn Bright: We don’t as Community Forklift, but there are places very similar to us all over the country, and even in the D.C. area, there are quite a few that are not exactly like us, but Habitat For Humanity has locations that are similar. John Shegerian: Because this is a problem that is similar in every community. As you say, if we are filling up landfills needlessly with building construction materials – 40 percent of these landfills being filled up with that – that we can pretty much reuse all of them. I mean, literally, Community Forklift or some similar paradigm can exist in everywhere from your hometown of L.A. back to New York City and everywhere in between. Aderyn Bright: And cities our size could easily support multiple Community Forklift-like businesses. John Shegerian: Wow. Aderyn Bright: And they are. Over the last 15 years, there has been a rise in this type of business, but we actually really hope to see more of that. We partner with a lot of them and keep tabs and keep friendships going with them, but we would like to see every city have many, many warehouses our size that are working for the same mission. John Shegerian: Now that you’re older and wiser and you realize that not everyone is like a Los Angelino or a New Yorker and that there is another side, how do we include more people and make the tent bigger with regards to environmentalism and the sustainability revolution? Aderyn Bright: Well, that is something that we work very hard on at Community Forklift. And reuse stores in general really help with this movement. “Green” has turned into a very elitist concept in a lot of communities, and people think it’s very expensive to eat organic, and they can’t do that or they can’t be buying all of the fancy new gadgets that help you save energy and electricity. But reusing items – at its core – is one of the greenest things you can do. You are not only keeping these items out of the landfill, you are keeping the new mining, the new logging, the new manufacturing, the shipping all around the world. John Shegerian: Preserving resources. Aderyn Bright: Exactly. You are keeping all of that from having to happen and closing the loop and making sure that we keep actual useable resources in our own community and making sure that neighbors are helping neighbors with these resources. John Shegerian: Aderyn, what is the vision and the next steps for Community Forklift? Aderyn Bright: We are celebrating our 10-year anniversary this year. That is very exciting. John Shegerian: Huge. Aderyn Bright: We’ve started moving more into some advocacy work. We’ve been partnering with the Department of the Environment on some new projects, including a green job fair where we’re promoting the green economy in the area and trying to get more people to have sustainable careers in the sustainable industry. So, in general, our future is moving to a model where what we’re doing is not only keeping the items out of the landfill, but we’re also using some of that revenue to go into the communities in our area and help better the situations there. John Shegerian: Got you. Any final thoughts or words for our listeners or viewers out there on environmentalism or on Community Forklift? Aderyn Bright: Wherever you are you, can find a store that is similar to us. If you aren’t in the market for used building materials, you might be in the market for clothing or for anything else that you can find at thrift stores, antique stores. Reusing is something that is so accessible to anybody and extremely affordable. It’s an immediate change that you can make in your life that already betters the planet. John Shegerian: I love it. For our listeners and our viewers out there – please – to learn more about Aderyn Bright’s great work and her colleagues’ great work at Community Forklift, go to www.CommunityForklift.org. Get inspired. Get involved. And thank you, Aderyn, for you and your colleagues, for making the world a better place. All of you are truly living proof that green is good. Aderyn Bright: Definitely. Thank you. John Shegerian: Thank you so much.