How Apps Could Encourage People to Reuse Items

One person’s trash is another’s treasure

Key Takeaways

  • To reduce consumption and help the environment, a wide variety of apps connect users with used items. 
  • The new app Sojo links users to tailors so clothing can be repaired instead of discarded. 
  • Some apps like MyNabes let you exchange things with people nearby.
A pile of old computer equipment.

vasiliki / Getty Images

A growing number of apps encourage people to reuse items rather than buy new ones.

The recently released app, Sojo, works by connecting its users to tailors so clothing can be repaired instead of thrown out. It’s one of many apps intended to help keep people from spending too much money during lean economic times. The software also could help the environment by reducing waste, observers say. 

"Reuse is one of the foundational pillars of sustainability," Tato Bigio, CEO of UBQ Materials, a company that claims to turn waste into climate-friendly plastic, said in an email interview.

"By extending the life cycle of a product or good, you optimize the finite natural resources that were used in its production and avoid contributing to further depletion of those same resources for new production."

Don’t Throw Old Clothing Away

The idea behind Sojo is that people waste too much money and resources on buying new clothes with the proliferation of fast-fashion chains. Sojo connects users to local tailors through its app and bicycle delivery service, so people can get their clothes altered or repaired with a few clicks.

"We need to invest maximum effort in reducing the outrageous amount of fast production in all areas of life: from food to clothing to furniture to electronics."

"It’s fair to say we’re being fed a culture of overconsumption—leading us into a constant desire for more in a way that tells us that nothing you buy will ever be enough," the company wrote on its website.

"New clothes, new nails, new house accessories, the list goes on. It can undeniably be described as toxic consumerism, given its negative impact on both the environment and our own mental wellbeing."

Many apps let you do everything from donate unwanted food to find used but serviceable household goods, including computers. 

"We need to invest maximum effort in reducing the outrageous amount of fast production in all areas of life: from food to clothing to furniture to electronics," Silvia Borges, editor of the website EnviroMom, said in an email interview. 

Borges recommends the app OLIO, which initially was designed as a food-sharing service. You can upload a photo of any surplus food, get requests from other users who need it, select a pickup location, and leave a review after it’s done. 

"They also branched out to practically everything that’s legal, including pet food, clothing, household items, plants, and crafts," Borges said. "So you can use it for sharing items that won't go bad if nobody can make it to your location within hours."

Abandoned couches sitting on the sidewalk in a big city.

Animaflora / Getty Images

Bigio said Facebook Marketplace is his personal favorite to find gently used items. "Not only is the inventory diverse and constantly changing, but the transactions are also generally hyper-local, which saves the tacked-on carbon footprint of shipping," he added. 

Some New Yorkers rushed to leave the city during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving behind a treasure trove of used furniture and other items, free for takers on the streets.

Many residents turned to the Instagram Curb Alert NYC, which posts pictures of discarded objects and where to scoop them up. Another popular New York City Instagram account for items that have been thrown out is Stooping NYC, which goes by the tagline "One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!"

Exchange Rather Than Buy

There are also a growing number of apps that let you exchange things with people nearby. For example, there’s the app MyNabes, which allows you to exchange services and items. The app encourages people to share things like gardening tools, rather than buying them.

"By borrowing tools from our neighbors, like a drill or a lawnmower, instead of buying new ones, or by donating or exchanging something instead of throwing it away, we help reduce consumption, and therefore we help our planet a little,”  Elodie Bottine, CEO of MyNabes, said in an email interview.

An app that is similar to MyNabes, but incentivizes sharing with cash, is Yoodlize. It’s a rental platform where people can rent items to and from people in their local area (think Airbnb for your stuff). 

"The Yoodlize app allows people to rent a huge variety of items from others in their communities," Yoodlize CEO Jason Fairbourne said in an email interview. "This keeps stuff out of landfills, and in fact, it keeps new stuff from ever having to be produced in the first place."

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