In Take-It-Or-Leave-It we trust | Guest column

By Chom Greacen

Special to the Weekly

Here is a confession: I LOVE the Take-It-Or-Leave-It!

My love affair with Take-It-Or-Leave-It dates way back. But now I want to come clean because I finally have some data to retroactively justify my behavior.

It all started with my fascination with stuff!

We all need and want stuff.

Electronics, clothes, refrigerators, furniture, cars and building supplies, consumer goods and products as well as their associated packaging are an essential part of our daily life. Along with food, shelter, and transportation, products (stuff!) are the spoils of an industrial economy that fulfill the needs and wants of so many of us.

What do you think is the largest contributing source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions?  It is not heating and cooling of buildings.  Nor transportation or food production. It’s production of all the stuff we consume.

From mining of raw materials and minerals, to turning them into finished products, wrapping them in protective, attractive packaging, and shipping them from factories (mostly overseas) to our local stores or homes, the entire process of buying and using products account for 44 percent of our country’s total carbon footprint.

But what does climate change have to do with Take-It-Or-Leave-It?

Because most of the carbon footprint from consumer goods is from extraction and production of new products, Take-It-Or-Leave-It has helped me and many others on Lopez to reuse and repurpose items,   extend their lives, reduce the need for new stuff and hence reduce our collective carbon footprint.

I am immensely grateful to Neil Hanson for his vision in founding Take-It-Or-Leave-It (Neil’s Mall) over two decades ago, and to all of the volunteers who help maintain it. Take-It-Or-Leave-It provides a huge service to our community.  It takes over 50 pairs of helping hands to run the operation for both Leavers and Takers to be able to reuse and recycle stuff.

The presence of volunteers has helped to drastically reduce the cost of disposing trash that comes into  Neil’s Mall. Each year, moldy, broken-beyond-repair and unwanted items cost the dump thousands of dollars to dispose of.  As we become more careful about what we leave, we help bring down costs and improve the experience for us all.

I’m proud of Take-It-Or-Leave-It as an iconic, endearing Lopez institution, a great, shining example of gift economy, and a great support system that enables me to become less attached to owning and consuming things. With its “free take-it” and “return” policy, Neil’s Mall has enabled me to address my weakness for stuff without depleting my pocketbook or the world’s resources.

I am even more proud of the Lopez community for voting overwhelmingly to create Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District and to tax ourselves to help fund its operations so we can move towards the zero waste goal. Deep gratitude to such a great, visionary community. Thank you.