The ReUse District
Traditional recycling is a good first step in diminishing what goes into landfills, but the ReUse District puts an environmental spin on the adage "Waste not, want not" by giving a second life to items that often end up in the trash. The district comprises businesses and organizations in the 7th Ward, Bywater, Marigny, St. Claude and St. Roch neighborhoods that promote recycling, reusing and repurposing items. Members range from nonprofit groups to a used book and art store, a clothing thrift shop and even an art gallery with an urban farm made from reclaimed objects.
The Green Project, New Orleans Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the Preservation Resource Center, Rebuilding Together New Orleans (RTNO), and St. Claude Main Street united in 2009 to establish The ReUse District to promote businesses and organizations in the five neighborhoods that have incorporated the repurposing and reusing of materials into their daily lives.
Marissa Allweiss, information officer for RTNO's Salvage Store (2801 Marais St., 947-0038; www.rtno.org), explains how The ReUse District is helping to revitalize the historic neighborhoods it serves.
What is The ReUse District?
As far as we can tell, we are the first of its kind in the nation. We're essentially going off our own beliefs and our own business. It was like a natural reuse district hub. We're just bringing (businesses and organizations that already existed) together as a united voice so we can promote the businesses, the neighborhoods and the concept of reuse.
There's an informal referral system within the reuse district. We're able to go through our member list, so we can show (customers) where used books are and a thrift store for clothes so we can not only promote reuse, but our businesses.
Are there plans to expand?
We hope it will expand, either locally or nationwide. (The group has been contacted by like-minded organizations in San Diego and New York who want to use New Orleans' ReUse District as a model.)
Where did the idea come from and who is responsible for putting it together?
There were the four leading organizations (already involved in recycling and reuse). We all got together and realized each separate organization's missions were very similar: We all had an environmental mission and a rebuilding mission as well. Coming together was establishing cohesion of those missions. Reuse is the purest form of recycling.
How were neighborhoods and members selected?
The ReUse District was already there. We just joined (the businesses and organizations) together. We have a revitalization mission as well as an environmental mission. We are just creating more awareness (about reusing items and the businesses already doing it). We're hoping to get more customers into the district, and more businesses popping up. The 7th Ward, St. Roch and St. Claude neighborhoods are more the focus of our revitalization mission, because the Marigny and Bywater were already up and running. Being able to work within these neighborhoods is great. They are very diverse, but they also are cohesive. We have mom and pop stores, salvage and reuse stores, bookstores, artists — it shows how universal reuse is and how vital.
So you're trying to show people that almost everything can be repurposed, reused or composted?
Even the smallest thing (like bottle tops being used to decorate picture frames). With reuse you can create out of your imagination.
Is there an education component?
We're trying to promote the availability and accessibility of items, so there is an educational component built in. (The ReUse District website, www.thereusedistrict.org, details the environmental impact of waste being put in landfills and garbage that ends up in the ocean. It also gives consumers tips about how many ways they can repurpose various items.) RTNO is big on showing how architectural products and components can be reused. which is a big part of what is sold at the Green Project and Preservation Salvage Store.
Do you support putting restrictions on what people are allowed to put in the trash?
Part of our mission is to advocate for a better recycling system in the city ... as well as letting people know what you can do with the items you can't recycle. It is a conscious effort throughout a community that needs to be more of a focus. If we cannot somehow get municipal recycling throughout the city, you do have options through reuse. ... And businesses thrive on reuse. They use it as a business component. We want the generation after us to have that kind of mindset ... to know there are options (to just disposing of things in the trash).