Interview with Jonathan Smith of Earth911

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The ReGeneration is on the move! To make it easier for customers, Dell employees and stakeholders to find and participate in our conversations about the environment, we’re moving the best of our blog over here to Direct2Dell.  You’ll find the same great posts about what’s news in “green” business and technology, along with the green tips so many of you tell us you love. Join the conversation!

JSmith What is develops content and applications to deliver local information on recycling, proper disposal and product stewardship without all of the politics. We partner with local, state, and federal government programs, as well as the private sector to provide consumers with simple access to the information they need to make a difference at home, at work, and in the community.

Tell us a bit about your role.
As President, I work with leaders among government groups, trade and industry associations, non-profits, and within the business community to keep at the forefront of recycling solutions.

What tools and information does your site provide for people looking for help with recycling?
Whether they’ve seen us on Oprah or found us through Google, I think most people know us for the Recycling Search Engine. It boils all of the rules, regulations and programs related to local recycling and disposal down two boxes. A consumer can simply enter the product they want to recycle or dispose of and their address and our search brings back the options available in the local community along with related content, events and even national programs.

We work with more than 11,000 local program coordinators at grassroots level of both public and private sector programs to gather and keep this information current. When you couple these local solutions with engaging and politically-neutral content on “green” topics, delivers a “one-stop” shop of solutions for mainstream consumers trying to make a difference.

Why is it important that unwanted electronics be recycled?
I like to approach recycling from two directions. First and foremost, we have to consider the environmental potential impacts of the “stuff” we consume. Obviously electronics have an array of components that pose a threat if improperly disposed. And for me, that issue is important enough that I’ve gotten to where I don’t even store old electronics. If I’m done with it and don’t personally know of someone who can reuse it, I’m on searching for a responsible recycler. It’s not that I’m necessarily worried about the groundwater in my closet, it’s just that as a consumer, I feel it’s my job to take a few minutes to make sure that the recycler handling my old electronics is doing so responsibly, it’s easier to do that when it’s on my mind versus when I’m in a rush to clean out storage.

Outside of the direct environmental impacts, I encourage people to seek out a responsible recycler because it takes volume and consumer demand to build a sustainable industry. We hear from manufacturers on an almost daily basis who would love to use more post-consumer commodity in their processes but just can’t get enough volume into the system to invest in the technology they need.

What are some points to consider before purchasing or discarding of electronic equipment?
I think Americans speak strongest from their shopping carts. If we want to see real, sustainable changes occur in our society, we have to take the time to know the story of the stuff we consume. I challenge consumers to check out how much recycled material goes into the items they purchase. Go online and check out the sustainability practices of manufacturers and retailers before you purchase products or invest. I’m honestly not a big fan of the old “protest” model. Instead of shouting from the street corners at the folks we don’t like, I think my generation is going to have a longer lasting and greater impact by doing business with companies who are working to make an authentic and lasting difference. Companies like Dell are investing millions in bringing sustainable products and practices into our society. I want to be part of that momentum by making my voice heard as a customer and a shareholder.

What is the best way for people to get involved with Earth’s mission? is committed to “making every day Earth Day” by empowering everyday, mainstream consumers to make a difference in their community. Not everyone is going to be able or even want to run out and buy a hybrid, but we can all commit to recycling the products and packaging we consume every single day. Recycling and proper disposal has an immediate and local benefit to both the environment and the economy. It’s the simplest thing each of us can do every single day to make a real difference.

What’s next for Earth911?
Our big focus for 2008 was to take move the Recycling Search and our content library into syndication to bring it to a larger and more diverse audience of consumers. Today we’re powering searches at everywhere from to Comedy Central’s Address the Mess campaign, so it’s been fun to see that come to fruition. We’re in beta right now on our mobile search platform. Our iPhone application will be released this fall with other platforms and applications to follow close behind. We’ve got an amazing beach and water quality application that’s in development now for a 2009 launch that’s got us pretty excited as well.

Jonathan is a nationally recognized expert on message management, cause marketing and grassroots activism. His Communicating Cause™ training series is used by clients in 35 states including corporate leaders, political figures, activists, and back-to-back Miss Americas.

Jonathan has also been listed on America’s Entrepreneur 500 and featured in the Oklahoma Journal Record, Entrepreneur Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.
At he develops new business relationships and oversees the brand direction of the company.

About the Author: Todd D

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