Electronic recycling benefits community and Mother Earth

By Stan Brown, Industrial Services Manager

“NONE of this ends up in the landfill!”

And so began my tour of Valley City Electronic Recycling in Grand Rapids. Stacked at one end of the facility I saw an incredible variety of discarded computers, TVs, computer monitors, printers, keyboards, stereos, cell phones, and other office equipment. All of this would have been headed for the landfill if it had not been donated for recycling.

Valley City is certified as an electronic recycling company adhering to the Recycling Practices Standard. Known as “R2,” this stringent standard is particularly focused on electronics that contain cathode ray tubes, circuit boards, items containing mercury/PCBs, and batteries – seeking to ensure that these materials are not incinerated or land filled. They disassemble the equipment to maximize the commodity value of the recovered metals, plastics, glass and circuit boards.

Electronics contain hazards from toxic heavy metals. Lead is the largest contributor to this problem and is found in the solder used on circuit boards. There is also four to eight pounds of lead in each television and CRT monitor! Other heavy metals include mercury, cadmium, and chromium. Flame retardant chemicals are also present in the plastic housings. Proper processing keeps these out of the waste stream.

I saw bales of recovered plastic destined to be reground and blended with new material, bundles of metal headed to scrap metal processors, computer hard drives being shredded to destroy any data, TV tubes being cut apart to separate the two distinct types of glass each with a different value and reuse, and circuit boards boxed up for processing to recover the small quantities of valuable metals. I had no idea there was so much potential reuse and value, not to mention the entire industry built around this process. What I did NOT see was a dumpster at the end of the line headed for the landfill!

Goodwill partners with Valley City to process the electronics donated at the Goodwill Stores and Donation Centers throughout West Michigan. Working TVs are sold at our stores and everything else is processed, sorted, and palletized for pickup by Goodwill program participants. Revenue generated from the program pays workers’ wages and Goodwill avoids costly dumping fees. And one of the best benefits of all is that over a million pounds per year is kept out of landfills!

Donating is free and easy. Simply take your unwanted electronics to any of our 18 donation drop-off locations or participate in any of our upcoming community recycling events!

To list a few of acceptable items click here.

APRIL 21-25: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Electronic Recycling Events
Nichols Paper & Supply, 1391 Judson Road, Spring Lake
MCC, 221 South Quarterline Road, Muskegon

APRIL 22-24
Cross-River Recycling Challenge
Whitehall and Montague Middle Schools

APRIL 26: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Muskegon County Spring Recycling and Collection Event
1350 East Keating Avenue, Muskegon

MAY 17: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
MCC Mayfest Electronic Recycling


Be Aware of Your Clutter This Week!

By guest blogger Lorie Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet

Evidently the fourth week of March is National Clutter Awareness Week. (Not sure who makes these up, but thank you!) You’re probably keenly aware of the clutter you already have, but this week let’s focus on awareness of how to prevent accumulating more.

There are three kinds of preventable clutter that accumulate in your life:

  • Purchased Clutter. Obviously, this is stuff that you pay money to bring into your home. Slankets (or Snuggies), new boots, season 2 Lost DVDs, magazines, groceries, and all that you spend your hard-earned cash to enjoy. Whether you are standing at the checkout in the store or you are clicking the checkout button online, be mindful as you open your wallet that almost everything you purchase ends up in your home or car or workplace, and it requires some kind of maintenance or attention. You will need to read it, recycle it, replace the batteries in it, fold it, store it, clean it, repair it, or just add it to your piles.
  • Acquired Clutter. Sometimes “clutter happens.”This is physical stuff that you did not have to shell out cash to take home — you either inherited it, received it as a gift or hand-me-down, got it in the mail, brought it home from school or work, or grabbed it as a freebie giveaway item. Regardless of the source, remember you do have the choice of bringing in the door or not.
  • Allowed Clutter. Time and communication clutter are invisible, not physically taking up space, but they are mentally cluttering your life and that can be just as bad. By not being a good steward of your time, you can allow too many commitments to burden you. (See previous post, “Overdoers Anonymous”) And by not managing your emails and phone calls, you allow them to crowd out time from more important tasks you could be doing.

Here are a few tips to help prevent purchased, acquired, or allowed clutter:

  • If you check your mail at a community block of mailboxes or a post office box and they already have a trash can there, stop right there and get rid of any unwanted junk mail before you take it home.
  • We have our wallet reminder sleeves you can download as a bonus item when you get our weekly newsletter — they have the five important Clutter Prevention Questions you should ask before purchasing anything. You can store your favorite credit or debit card in them as a first line of defense when you open your wallet to buy something!
  • Consider alternative gift-giving arrangements in your family, especially in the holiday season. Just kids, no gifts, drawing names…be creative and don’t just buy for everyone because you always have before.
  • Remember that people make their entire life’s work figuring out how to sell things to you, and they are VERY clever. Don’t fall for traps like “free gift with minimum purchase,” or “free shipping” if you were not already going to purchase the minimum number of items in the first place. Be a savvy shopper and be protective of your wallet.
  • Along with ending telemarketing calls quickly and cleanly, be also aware of “friendly fire” phone calls — ones you actually enjoy but take up way too much of your time. If you must chat, get a headset and fold some laundry or clean something while you talk.

And finally, being organized is in itself a great way to prevent further clutter. If you have visibility and knowledge of what you already own, you are unlikely to purchase duplicate or similar items by mistake. I am glad we are having this “awareness” week because as they say, awareness of a problem is the first step in fixing it. If you can be more mindful of what you purchase, acquire, and allow and realize that you always have a choice … you are halfway there!

Want more organizing tips? Start following The Clutter Diet Blog today!

Follow me on Twitter for my Daily #ClutterTweetTip!

First sign of spring = Younkers Goodwill Sale

By Jim Cherney, Retail Operations Director

Each year – as we anticipate the end to our long, cold, Michigan winter and our donation stream trickles to a drip – we are blessed with the Younkers Goodwill Spring Sale. It is the much-needed, early March boost we can count on to lift our weary spirits!

This year, the sale kicks off on March 13 and runs through Saturday March 29. It’s the perfect incentive to inspire folks to start cleaning out their closets with the thawing of the snow and warmer days ahead.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sale, it works like this: anyone donating to Goodwill during this two-and-a-half week period – either at a Goodwill store or Younkers – receives a 25% off Younkers coupon for each item donated. Donate six items and you get six coupons. Donate 25 items? Get 25 coupons! (You get the idea.) And the coupons are good toward items that rarely (if ever) go on sale.

Donors are not only rewarded with discounts on new spring items, but they help make a difference in our community by supporting Goodwill’s mission of job training and placement programs for people who need helping finding a job.

Savvy Goodwill shoppers also know that this is an excellent time to shop at Goodwill as a new crop of high-quality donations begin to refill our stores.

We are so grateful to Younkers and their ongoing support and belief in our mission. Held each spring and fall, the sale is the largest and longest-standing department store donation drive with Goodwill. Since its inception in 1994, the cause-marketing collaboration has generated an estimated value of more than $211 million in revenue to support Goodwill’s employment services.

So what are you waiting for? Start cleaning out your closets. Spring will be here before you know it!

For even more discounts, and a chance to win prizes, visit Younkers’ Million Acts of Goodwill website at Millionactsofgoodwill.com.

My sweetest find

By Liz Witzler, Marketing Director


ong before I started working at Goodwill, I was a thrift store aficionado. Some believe it is a gene you are born with, and you either possess it or you don’t. Having personally witnessed many converts to thrifting, I know this is to be false.

My love of secondhand clothes began the week before the start of first grade when my mother hung five school dresses in my closet that had belonged to my sister and announced, “These should fit you now.” I idolized my older sister (still do) and remember how thrilled I was that her dresses were now mine. I couldn’t wait for school to start!

In college, I started collecting and wearing “vintage” clothing … acquiring intricate 1950s-era beaded cardigans (so cute with jeans) and 1960s-ish swing coats (I still have a blue velvet one that I wear to the symphony) at small thrift shops and church rummage sales. I admired the quality and craftsmanship of these pieces, and fantasized about their former glamorous lives.

After graduating from college and starting my first serious job, consignment shops helped me build my professional wardrobe beyond my single “interview suit.” Wearing brands beyond my financial means gave me confidence, as if through textile osmosis I would inherit the success of their previous, more accomplished owners.

In addition to clothing, I like old things … furniture, books, artwork, jewelry. As many of you thrift store-types know, it’s exciting to unearth a treasure you find at a Goodwill store. There’s something wonderful about finding something discarded or forgotten, and giving it new life and value through your own adoring eyes.

Then there’s the bragging … let’s not overlook the glory in that! Quite often, when I tell a new acquaintance that I work at Goodwill it is followed by the sharing of their greatest find story. Like the fisherman who caught the biggest fish, or the golfer who achieved a hole in one, all Goodwill shoppers have a story about their sweetest find.

For me, it is a raku-fired piece of pottery that I found at the North Muskegon Goodwill store for $3.00. It is one of my favorite possessions and resides on my living room coffee table where I can see and enjoy it every day. I don’t know who made it, or what its value is, I only know that I love it.

Do you have a sweetest Goodwill find story? We would love to hear about it! Please share a photo of your treasure on our Facebook timeline and you will be entered for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate for some Valentine’s Day sweets!

Don’t make resolutions

By Jane Drake, MoneyWorks Manager

With the start of the new year, it is inevitable you will read and hear lots of advice and tips on making resolutions. Try this tip: don’t.

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions. Instead of making resolutions, try a different tactic that will be more likely to help you be happier and more successful. Try what we tell our MoneyWorks clients: change your thinking.

Don’t think you have to be on a diet to lose weight. You know you tried diets before, and they failed. You don’t like having to deny yourself foods you enjoy. Instead, go on an eating plan. It is not about denying yourself all the sweet and gooey, or crisp and salty calorie-laden foods you love. Think of it as having all the delicious and wonderfully healthy foods you want!

In the same way, we advise many of our clients who are working on achieving financial goals, they should not think they have to be on a budget. Many of our clients tell us that they tried keeping a budget but just couldn’t do it. Just as with a diet, they didn’t like that they had to deny themselves something in order to stick with it.

Change your thinking. Instead, of a budget, adopt a spending plan. It is not about denying yourself that new article of clothing, the shiny new toy, or the latest phone upgrade. It is not about not buying what you want with the money you worked so hard to earn. Think of it as taking control of your money so it will no longer be a source of stress to you. Think of it as a wonderful tool to open new possibilities, help you reach your short and long-term goals, and create greater security for you and your family. We can show you how!

We also tell our MoneyWorks clients that nothing happens if you don’t first dream it and then commit to it on paper. Studies show that goals are more likely to be achieved if they are written down. So don’t make a resolution this year. Try a new approach: change your thinking, dream big, and be sure to write it down.

If you would like assistance with spending plans, debt deduction, or saving goals … with free, one-on-one assistance, please contact MoneyWorks directly at financialaction@goodwillwm.org.

Rekindling the spirit of the season

By Drew Robinson, Resource Development Coordinator

Every year at this time, I am amazed how differently adults and children experience the holiday season.

When I was young, I remember Christmas being a time of magic and mystery: everything was perfect! For the week-and-a-half of vacation from school, we spent our days sledding, building snowmen (and later, snow forts), and would watch with excitement as the stack of presents under the tree grew larger each night.

When I became an adult, the snow and the season had become far less appealing. Christmas shopping and wrapping presents consumed most of my free time. I agonized over what gifts to buy my parents, siblings, and in-laws, and wondered does it even matter? I worried would Dad appreciate the cordless drill I got him as much I enjoyed (cough cough) receiving a weed wacker? Despite our best intentions, we resorted more and more on giving and getting gift cards. What was the point of it?

This year, my family is trying something different. My children and their kid cousins will all receive the normal pile of gifts – toys, clothes, etc. – but for the adults, we will be making donations to charities in each other’s honor instead.  We’re already enjoying the reduction of shopping anxiety and fewer trips to the mall, and we will not miss standing in long return lines, or stockpiling those unused gift cards in our wallets. (And speaking of magic and mystery, it shouldn’t take us an hour to pack up the car after dinner on Christmas night!)

We will be practicing what I believe Christmas really is all about: celebrating the blessings we have received by helping others in need. The surprise bonus: it feels really good.

As we enter the last few weeks of this holiday season, consider becoming one of the growing number of families using this approach to redefine the season: for yourselves, and for your children (believe me, they won’t want a weed wacker in 30 years either).  As you do, I hope you will consider Goodwill when selecting your financial charitable gifts.

For over 60 years, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan has helped thousands of people in West Michigan with barriers to employment find, and keep, good jobs in our communities. By providing opportunities for people to earn their own income, we help them experience the dignity that comes with independence: the ability to provide for themselves and their families, and make a meaningful contribution to society.

Giving to Goodwill couldn’t be much easier either: just click on the “Donate Online” tab at the top of our homepage at www.goodwillwm.org, and you can complete the process on a few easy steps. You can even let us know who you are honoring with your gift, so we can provide them with an acknowledgement of your giving.

Giving to those you love by giving to others in need: sounds like a gift that keeps on giving, doesn’t it?

May you rediscover the magic of the season as I have!

Happy Holidays!

Donate a little time. Make a BIG impact.

By Amanda Grover, Tax Program Coordinator

How many volunteer opportunities have you heard of that can make a $5,000 difference in someone’s life? Volunteers involved in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Services for West Michigan can tell you it is a very rewarding experience. Last tax season, volunteers assisted more than 2,200 households in West Michigan, and the economic impact of our efforts was greater than $2.4 million.

We are always looking for new volunteers! No accounting or tax experience is required – you only need a little time, some basic computer knowledge, and the desire to learn.

This free tax preparation program assists low-to moderate-income individuals, and for some, this is the largest lump sum of money they will receive all year. For some struggling families, these tax returns make a big difference – enabling them to stay in their homes, pay overdue bills, and buy groceries.

The program has been hugely beneficial to our community, and volunteering is a great opportunity to learn something new and develop a useful life-long skill. Our VITA volunteers have enjoyed getting to know each other and experiencing the camaraderie that results from our common goal. A few of our student volunteers turned the experience into an internship and a way to gain future job references. Regardless of the various benefits, volunteers agree that the biggest reward comes from the gratitude of people receiving the service, and learning first hand how much the return is going help that person or family.

The free tax preparation program has had a presence in Muskegon for over a decade. Goodwill became the lead agency for the program four years ago. There are lots of volunteer times and locations to choose from! This coming tax season, there will be 11 sites in four counties: Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, and Lake. Sites operate at various times but appointments are available anywhere between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. There will also be select sites operating on Saturdays.

To learn more about volunteering with VITA Services for West Michigan, please contact me at 231-722-7871, ext. 246 or send me an email at agrover@goodwillwm.org