Earth Day Celebration Adds Collection Event For Reusable Goods

Apr 17, 2019

When people envision a sustainable future, they might think of such industrial-scale, tech-heavy approaches as solar arrays and electric vehicles. But creating a greener civilization also includes strategies as simple as finding new homes for stuff you don’t want any more.

That’s the idea behind ReuseFest, the Pennsylvania Resource Council’s annual event to match donated goods with nonprofit groups who need them. Clothing, furniture, bicycles, and even medical supplies are among the items for which PRC has found new homes – all while keeping them out of landfills.

And this year, ReuseFest is the newest feature at FutureFest, the biennial Earth Day celebration staged by the nonprofit Communitopia. So in addition to Communitopia’s live music, science demos and hands-on activities, visitors this Saturday can get their unwanted items into the hands of such groups as Brother’s Brother, Construction Junction, Dress for Success, and Humane Animal Rescue.

“It’s just connecting goods one person has with something that somebody else needs, and the value of reuse versus buying new or putting something in a landfill that doesn’t need to be there,” says Sarah Alessio Shea, PRC’s environmental education coordinator. Reuse is also a way to reduce the environmental stress caused when new consumer products are manufactured.

Other partner groups include Global Links, which provides medical supplies to caregivers in the developing world; Off the Floor, a “furniture bank” for disadvantaged families; Free Store Wilkinsburg; bicycling co-op Free Ride; and Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, a store for secondhand art supplies and more.

ReuseFest began in 2012, with Shea as founding organizer. This is the third iteration of FutureFest, which Communitopia launched in 2015 as a “fresh take on Earth Day” to help visitors envision a world where we live in closer harmony with nature, said the group’s board president, Eser Yilmaz.

ReuseFest seemed a good fit with FutureFest, says Shea.

“We really had the same idea of having an Earth Day event that is action-oriented, education-oriented, hands-on, not just somewhere where you walk up and grab a pamphlet and you’re done,” she says.

Shea says ReuseFest has grown annually. It has 13 partners this year, the most it’s ever had.

ReuseFest accepts a wide range of donations, also including household and kitchen items; sheets and blankets; art supplies; business-casual shoes, jewelry, and purses; and even vintage goods. It does not accept electronics, household chemicals or tires. (Though PRC holds periodic separate events to collect items the former two hard-to-dispose-of categories.) For a complete list, see the PRC's web site; the group also welcomes phone inquiries.

“It feels good to see that people want their items to go to a good second life. They’re happy to see it go that way versus just going into the trash and not having any benefit,” says Shea.

FutureFest also features food trucks, environmentally themed vendors (including Group Against Smog and Pollution, known as GASP, and Phipps Conservatory) and live music. Performers include Different Places in Space, Phat Man Dee, Blak Rapp Madusa, Bad Custer, and Billy Pilgrim.

The event takes place outdoors, rain or shine, in Buhl Park, adjacent to the Children’s Museum. FutureFest includes a scavenger hunt that can lead to discounted admission to the museum.

Admission to FutureFest is free.

WESA is a media sponsor of FutureFest.