By Kenneth Guertin

This article was originally published on April 20, 2015 in the Daily Pilot. Kenneth Guertin is the donation acquisition manager with Goodwill of Orange County and also a participant in a REV Sustainability Circle in Orange County.


Unless you’re Superman, you can’t save the planet. But you can save an old computer from a landfill.

You can divert your shredded documents from the dump. You can grant a second life to that suit you never wear. And you can help provide green-economy jobs for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.

While the challenge of Earth Day can seem daunting, the work is actually quite simple. It’s what we do at Goodwill of Orange County every day. A pioneer of the “reduce, reuse, repurpose” philosophy, Goodwill of Orange County has proven that simple acts, such as donating gently used clothing and unwanted household items, can have a lasting impact on the planet.

It’s being green with a purpose.

Every year, Goodwill of Orange County saves 2 million pounds of electronics from languishing in landfills. Our Document Destruction Services recycles 9 million pounds of paper annually and protects people and companies from possible security issues. Goodwill is also one of the few companies certified to recycle “blue wrap,” the polypropylene containers used for medical instruments at hospitals and medical centers.

By encouraging people to donate their gently used clothing and household items to our retail shops, we also help fund job training programs for a stronger, greener economy. In all, we divert 91% of all items donated to us away from landfills and to our retail shops and materials recover facility, which breaks down electronics and metal items for recycling. With your help, we are saving the planet. And we don’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound to do it.

This year, Goodwill is going even greener, with an in-house Go Green Challenge that encourages our employees to take simple steps, such as air drying dishes instead of using the heat setting on dishwashers and unplugging unused appliances. Goodwill has also joined a REV Sustainability Circle to learn innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

We are also stepping up our community events, when Orange County residents are encouraged to turn out for fun-filled days of saying goodbye to things they no longer want. One of our largest “go green” events will be held on April 25 in Ladera Ranch. We expect to fill 10 trailers with donated goods from the community, including two trailers devoted to electronic waste.

Our efforts have been recognized internationally, nationally and locally, but the real super heroes of this Earth-saving story are you, the people who have donated to — and shopped with — us for more than 90 years.

You have helped create jobs and job training for people with barriers to employment. You have diverted millions of pounds of goods from the dump every year, and you have helped us embody the commitment of Goodwill founder Edgar J. Helms to “save the waste in men and things.”

You might not be able to save the planet on your own. But together, through simple acts of stewardship, we have the power to make a lasting difference.