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Case study: Resourceful PDX

Two women stand near each other smiling and each holding a bright blue child's chair. The background shows shelves with different items at the ReClaim It store in Portland.
A case study on how to make it easier for community members to lower the climate impact of their purchases by reusing items, borrowing and sharing goods, and fixing and maintaining what they already have.

The problem

From food and furniture to clothing and appliances, the stuff we buy has climate impacts. But understanding how to reduce those impacts can be confusing.

Resourceful PDX offers a solution

The Resourceful PDX program helps Portland residents make simple changes to conserve natural resources, save money, use second-hand goods, support community-based sharing, and extend the life of their stuff through basic maintenance and repair.

The program connects residents with those resources – including community-based organizations, local businesses, government agencies, and each other – through:

  • A map showing what resources exist in their neighborhood and a search function to find what they need within the city.

  • An event calendar listing upcoming Repair Cafes, swap events, and more.

  • A blog that offers timely tips, like holiday gift-giving or spring cleaning, as well as highlights of new organizations and resources.

The Resourceful PDX website shares resources for life transition moments, such as moving to a new home, growing a family, home improvement, and kids heading back to school. These are often periods of increased stress, pressure, clutter – and stuff – which can also lead to greater waste. During these transitions, people are exploring new ways of doing things (new neighborhood, new school, new projects) and developing new habits, which makes this an ideal time to share information and examples of how to do things differently.

The Resourceful PDX map is interactive, so residents can add more resources to it. The program promotes events and efforts organized by the local sharing community, from tool libraries and clothing swaps to neighborhood food exchanges and Buy Nothing groups. And through the regional Master Recycler program, volunteers learn about Resourceful PDX and share information and resources with their neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers.  

How Resourceful PDX came to be

In 2006, the City of Portland adopted a waste prevention goal to reduce per capita waste below 2005 levels by 2015. In 2007, City Council voted to approve the Portland Recycles! Plan, mandating the City work with the community to reduce waste. In 2010, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) started the Resourceful PDX pilot program as a values-based, long-term public awareness and behavior-change campaign focused on thoughtful consumption.

Before creating Resourceful PDX, the City conducted extensive audience research and message testing to identify barriers and benefits, values and motivators, and existing knowledge. Some key findings were: 

  • A “win/win” message of personal/environmental benefit resonated with people.  
  • Top values/benefits of reuse were thriftiness, responsibility, self-sufficiency, fun, health and family, smarts, achievement. 
  • People wanted more “how-to” information and less “why to” explanation.  

What’s next

In 2021, BPS organized a needs assessment of local reuse, repair, and share organizations to learn what they needed to continue and expand their work. BPS partnered with Start Consulting to interview 18 nonprofits, three governments, and four businesses.

The assessment found the biggest needs were space and storage. Organizations face challenges such as rising rents, lack of storage, and not enough donation processing and repair space. As well, the spaces organizations can afford to rent may be hard to access for the public.

Additional needs include racial and climate justice, communications and marketing, capacity building and staffing support, and grants and funding. The concept of a Portland-based Reuse Mall was of interest to all organizations, providing shared space for donation, sorting, storage and sales. This could be supplemented with smaller reuse hubs, kiosks or bookmobile-style vans to bring reuse, repair, and share goods and services directly to communities.

As reuse organizations continue to explore how to move forward, BPS will provide administrative support and continue to promote reuse opportunities and organizations through Resourceful PDX.

Learn more