Gainesville thrift store takes re-useful approach to sustainability

Published: March 24th, 2015

Category: News

By Kisakye Mugwanya, Contributing Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—On a drive down Northeast 23rd Avenue, it is hard to miss the light blue-and-red building next to Satchel’s Pizza that resembles a misplaced junkyard.

The Repurpose Project, 1920 NE 23rd Ave., takes pride in the organized chaos that covers both the inside and outside of the 13,000-square-foot thrift store.

Founded in 2012, the Repurpose Project began as a non-profit creative reuse center aiming to decrease Gainesville’s carbon footprint. What started as an eclectic group of “dumpster finds” in a small building off of South Main Street has now quadrupled in size with the help of the community, according to Mike Myers, co-founder of the Repurpose Project.

“People donate old or broken chairs, books, tools [and] toys that they would normally throw away, and we accept them and find use for them,” said Myers.

The Repurpose Project works to promote to the public the environmental benefits of buying used goods. Anything that is built new puts a strain on natural resources, according to Myers.

“Landfill diversion is the primary objective,” said Myers.

The project hopes to counteract such hazards by helping the community understand the cycle of reuse, according to Myers.

Located in what is known as the “Northeast Indie Park,” home to half a dozen local artists, The Repurpose Project encourages people to find creative artistic alternatives to throwing away old items, according to Myers.

“For sustainability to work, you have to blend it with some kind of art,” said Myers.

Fix-it Café, a subdivision of the Repurpose Project, is just one of the ways this non-profit aims to “marry together reuse and art,” according to Myers.

Nelson Laffey, founder of the Fix-it Café, has volunteered with the Repurpose Project for three years. Laffey holds “fix-it workshops” once a week where he teaches people how to fix small items like radios, toys and lamps through the reuse of other items.

“You would be surprised to know how many things can be turned into knobs for a lamp,” said Laffey.

With a background in computer science and applied mathematics, fixing things and teaching people how to fix things themselves comes easy to Laffey.

“I see things that other people don’t see,” Laffey said. ““I see a piece of anything, and I [can] see something that can be done with it. ”

For Laffey, keeping things out of the landfill is the most rewarding part of working at the Fix-it Café.

“Putting things back together is my putting back into society,” said Laffey.

Kayla Pozo, sophomore University of Florida student, had no idea that the Fix-it Café or the Repurpose Project even existed until she read an article in the Alligator early September 2014.

“It’s amazing to see sustainability efforts in the Gainesville community, not just UF,” said Pozo. “It’s comforting to know, that we live in a community that is increasingly conscious of our carbon footprint.”

It is that community support that Myers attributes the Repurpose Project’s success.

“Our driving force comes from the connection we developed with the community, [and] what the community developed with us,” said Myers.

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Get Involved with the Repurpose Project!

Donate: The Repurpose Project is happy to receive monetary donations or creative reuse item donations.

Volunteer: Become a Repurpose Project volunteer and work hands-on to organize the reuse center.

Promote: Share this story on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or print out THIS flyer to hang up at local schools, businesses and other community centers.

Interested in holding your own workshop at the Repurpose Project? Visit repurposeproject.org for more information.

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