Smile Politely

Having a (green) purpose

In August 2010, the City of Champaign announced that they would be closing their drop-off recycling center on Hagan Street, leaving a gaping hole in the local recycling infrastructure. Enter Green Purpose, a startup located just a few blocks (at 807 Pioneer Street in North Champaign) from where the Hagan Street center once stood, which has stepped into the breach by offering many of the services that the City had in the past. They’ve even begun selling some eco-friendly products, similar to what the dearly-departed B. Lime used to do.

Founder and CEO Steven Rosenberg (pictured above) said, “Green Purpose is Champaign County’s centralized resource for reducing landfill waste. We offer residents a convenient one-stop location for dropping off recyclable/reusable items — not only that, but we collect a wider range of items and materials than any other recycler in the area.”

And, although they do a lot of recycling, their scope is much larger than that. “The biggest misconception about what we do is that we are JUST a recycling drop off center, but we are so much more,” Rosenberg stated. “We offer a range of services including a reusable items exchange for Green Purpose members, an electronics recycling service, seasonal workshops and repurposing classes, waste consulting for homes and businesses, junk hauling and custom repurposed furniture. We are also dedicated to finding additional waste-reduction resources for our customers; if there is an item that we are unable to take from a customer, then we will do all of the legwork to find an alternative solution for that customer.”

For a nominal $5 per month basic membership fee (find out more about membership here), members get to drop off items at the Green Purpose recycling facility, in addition to a discount on their eco-friendly products and access to an exchange program for unneeded items.

Rosenberg elaborated, “You could spend $5 in gas in order to drive all over town, trying to find places that will accept your discarded items (for example: clothing goes to Destination A, shopping bags go to Destination B, ink cartridges go to Destination C, etc.) — OR you could put that money towards a monthly membership at Green Purpose, where we’ll take all of your discarded items. We’ll even unload them from your car for you!”

It’s clear that Rosenberg is enthusiastic about his company. “There are a lot of things I enjoy about operating Green Purpose,” he noted, “but one of my favorites is giving tours of our facility to new and prospective Green Purpose Members. It’s really cool to see their facial expressions change as I take them from room to room, and show them all of the things that that our business does. They always look shocked that we were able to furnish about 80% of our facility with discarded/reused items.” The facility is spacious, well-equipped, and quite impressive overall. 

Although Green Purpose’s work is rewarding, it can also be frustrating, especially on the business side of things. “Being a start up company without funding is frustrating in and of itself,” Rosenberg allowed. “Since we did not receive the financing that we had initially needed, we have had to work twice as hard to ensure that Green Purpose is sustainable.  As exciting as it is to see how we’ve grown during the time we’ve been in business, it can also be discouraging to not have the cash flow that is needed to accommodate that growth by marketing ourselves to people who don’t know we exist.”

Green Purpose’s goals for 2012 are to increase their membership rolls to 3,000 people by July, to divert at least 375 tons of recyclables from Illinois landfills this year, and to become the only recycling center in the county to offer styrofoam recycling for free.

Rosenberg doesn’t hesitate when asked what the craziest thing he’s ever come across in garbage. “I will never forget the time I was on campus in a fraternity house dumpster, and found a desk drawer with a zip-lock bag full of change and a $50 dollar bill,” he recalled. “To me that is the craziest thing, because out of all the things I see get thrown away, money is one that makes no sense at all. It also gets me thinking about how much money could actually be somewhere in our landfills already…”

So, if you have a need for drop-off recycling or any of the other services that Green Purpose provides, give them a try. 

Steve Rosenberg will be appearing on Smile Politely Radio today (February 24) at 5:30 p.m. on FM to talk more about Green Purpose and other local environmentally friendly options. Be sure to tune in.

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