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Let's Not Go Camping

Daniel Velez
2 min read

I've seen a lot of messaging about reuse and most of it is wrong. Maybe I'm just a stickler on this. I've seen companies say, "We support reuse," but it's just them encouraging their customers to bring their cups, bags, silverware, etc. That's not reuse, that's BYOB. Great that you're encouraging customers to, "do the right thing," but that's not a solution that scales.

Ever camp before? No? Here's what it is. You bring all the stuff you need to the forest and chill out. Sometimes, what you need is beer and firewood. Other times it's a lightweight tent, hatchet, and bear spray. It depends on what type of camper you are. The key here is you bring your stuff because there will be no supply stores.

If you're backpacking, what you bring, and don't bring, is crucial. Backpacking is a several-day hiking trip where you carry all of your camping gear and food in a backpack. Every ounce matters because that's extra weight on your back. It may not seem like much but, the dozens of miles up and down uneven terrain will take a toll on you. This is why a lightweight tent, that weighs a couple of ounces less than a regular tent, can cost hundreds of dollars more. Subtract these ounces with other expensive lightweight equipment you purchased and it's possible to shave a couple of pounds off your back.

In an urban setting, you can leave home with a credit card and get anything you need; food, transportation, entertainment, a back rub, whatever. But for some reason, when it comes to, "reuse" (really BYOB) and sustainability, we want people to bring everything they need, as if they were backpackers.

Let's not go camping.

Let's not ask people to bring their own water bottle, coffee mug, boba tea straw, spork, plate, bag, or anything else - and then guilt-trip them if they don't bring these things.

Reuse is a system, not an individual action.

Instead, let's build a system where reuse is easy. Stop outsourcing the work to customers. You, the retail store, office park, business, or university, should be creating an easy system. It should be as easy as buying coffee togo and dropping off the mug at hundreds of drop-off sites that equal the number of trash bin sites. Or, in other words, it should be as convenient as single-use.

Essay

Daniel Velez Twitter

Daniel is building the future of reuse. His last venture, Growly Delivers, delivered local beer in returnable high-tech growlers. What will he do next?

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