What Sustainability Means to Me

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#WhySustainability From Jennifer Nelson & Goodwill Industries of SWFL, Inc.

Growing up with an immigrant mother and grandparents, I watched them work very hard to provide a better life for their children and grandchildren. Education, becoming self-sustaining, and the importance of a strong work ethic showed me that to thrive, you needed to build a foundation that would allow you to move forward in life. I have taken that self-sustaining piece I learned growing up and applied it to everything I do. This is why I have spent my whole career working for Goodwill Industries, an organization that believes in sustaining its business model and the people we serve.

Our philosophy at Goodwill is to utilize less of our resources so that we can serve more people with disabilities and disadvantages here in Southwest Florida. We offer opportunities to those we serve by focusing on our people first while being a socially and environmentally sound business, and maximizing our revenue from each donation we receive. Our business model is a “social enterprise,” meaning that the sale of donated goods provides the majority of support for our mission services. Goodwill’s clients receive opportunities through education, job training, family strengthening, and community support.  We give a hand up, not a handout, and the people we serve are more independent and self-sufficient as a result.

I am most proud of our efforts in generating revenue from items that do not sell in our regular retail stores. We recycle or reuse everything possible through selling items by the pound in our Outlet Center and on the recycling commodities market. In the past seven years, we have become a best practices Goodwill in our sustainable efforts. We diverted more than 40 million pounds from our landfills last year, which gave us a 60% landfill diversion rate in 2014. Our forethought and continuous innovation in our sustainability efforts ensure that Goodwill will continue to serve our community’s future generations.

Jennifer Nelson is the Senior Director of Sustainable Operations at Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. For more information, visit www.GoodwillSWFL.org/GoGreen

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