by Eric Ginsburg
Plans for a creative reuse center that keeps unwanted industrial material out of the city’s waste stream — similar to the popular Scrap Exchange in Durham — are underway in Greensboro, led by a local artist who has been studying the subject.
Repurposing unwanted materials into art isn’t a new concept for Paige Cox; she’s been doing since her childhood, when her dad — who worked in metal fabrication — would bring home small media that she’d play with and turn into necklaces, among other things.
Cox, who studied fiber arts at Savannah College of Art & Design, continued the practice in her art over the years. It’s partially pragmatic — the cost of art supplies adds up quickly — as well as philosophically sound, diverting things that would otherwise end up in the recycling or a landfill.
Last year she reached out to Triad City Beat for old newspapers on their way to a recycling bin, transforming them into sculptures for an Earth Day window display at the Greensboro Anthropologie store, where she now works as the visual manager.
Originally, Cox wondered if the Scrap Exchange, a creative reuse arts center in Durham, would open a Greensboro facility. The organization, which seeks to promote “creativity, environmental awareness and community through reuse,” has been collecting, organizing and reselling unwanted material since 1991. But rather than expanding to the Triad, the executive director invited Cox to come to a training and learn how to open her own.
Alongside a woman from Ohio and a couple from Washington, DC, Cox went through the Scrap Exchange’s boot camp in November. She walked away with a binder and head full of details of how to launch a similar reuse center, including budgetary information, an understanding of the board’s structure and other core components of the operation.
And at the beginning of 2016, Cox announced her intentions with a name and Facebook page for Greensboro’s counterpart to the Scrap Exchange: Reconsidered Goods. With the help of her husband Timothy Cox, a co-owner of Stir Creative Group, the nascent organization already has slick promotional materials and a website.
Reconsidered Goods is still a little ways off, as Paige Cox looks for a space large enough to contain it, writes grant applications and builds interest. But she’s ready to start accepting donated items, and is planning a Kickstarter and steering committee.
“I will go as fast or as slow as I need to, to make it happen,” Cox said. “I think because I have an artistic background I can see the potential for things other people might not see.”
Off the top of her head, Cox said she can think of about 200 locals who would be energized by the idea, many of them artists who already utilize reused materials but also teachers, parents and many others.
The organization will rely on excess from industrial businesses in the area rather than personal donations. Think fabric swatches, leftovers from furniture making, select medical supplies, manufacturing test pieces, or fake flowers bought for one-time use at High Point’s furniture market, Cox said. Items that companies often pay someone to take away, or that raise the city’s cost of transporting its solid waste, would find a new home at Reconsidered Goods.
Ultimately the donations to Reconsidered Goods will be tax deductible, further incentivizing local businesses to participate, but first Cox will need some help applying for non-profit status. Actually she’ll need a small team of people to help her bring the concept to fruition.
“I’m more of a doer,” Cox said. “I can get it going but I need a lot of people to get involved.”
The organization will follow a triple bottom-line philosophy, Cox said — profit, planet and people. Reconsidered Goods would help companies be more sustainable and prioritize educational outreach such as environmental awareness, support Guilford County Schools when it can, provide cost-effective material to the public and possibly include an art gallery like one at the Scrap Exchange, she said.
Sometimes it’s hard for people to grasp the concept for the store unless they’ve witnessed the one in Durham or one of the many counterparts across the nation, Cox said. She’ll often compare it to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore as a point of reference, though it would be a unique value proposition.
On her last trip to the Durham facility, Cox bought a $20 bag of tennis balls that wouldn’t make the grade for playing, unless you’re the family dog Pete, in which case they’re perfect and a more affordable alternative to buying new. Some items at Reconsidered Goods will be ready to use in a different way than originally intended, she said, while others will require a little more creativity.
Ideally, she’d like to have a 15-30,000 square-foot space up and running by Earth Day in April, but it all depends on how excited other Greensboro residents are about the idea and how many local companies buy into the waste-diversion initiative.
Want to help make Reconsidered Goods a reality? Contact [email protected] or ask your company to consider participating. Visit reconsideredgoods.org or the organization’s Facebook page for more information.