There are many examples out there of commercial encouragement to reuse products. Staples has encouraged people to recycle their ink cartridges at the store, and they provide a Staples credit to those who do. Shipping stores will accept the “packing peanuts” for reuse. The Farmer’s Market accepts empty egg cartons for reuse.

Now Kohls has started to actively solicit its customers to return their plastic hangars to their store — you know them: the large clear plastic hangars that work well on racks, but somehow seem oversized in a regular closet. Now they can have a second life.

All of these are win-win situations. It saves the store money. It keeps unwanted items out of the landfill, and actually allows them to be used again. It generates repeat traffic as customers come back into the store to drop off their goods.

Why don’t more places do this? Florists could offer a credit for the return of the vases from bouquets. Nurseries could exchange empty planters or seed pots for a discount on future purchases. Fruit boxes/containers could go back to the store instead of into the recycle bin. Shipping stores could accept some of the millions of padded envelopes that Amazon alone uses.

Think about what your organization uses that you could use again if it came back to you: Name badges or lanyards at events. Parking permits for visitors. Cash envelopes for bank withdrawals. Conference bags/shopping bags. Maps. Magnetic keys. The list goes on and on.

Take some steps to help the life of your tangibles to go on and on too — at least for a second trip.

— beth triplett

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