Looking Beyond Recycling

BRING Recycling executive director Carolyn Stein

Brand Story – Eugene-based BRING celebrates its 50-year anniversary and aims to improve our world through waste prevention, creative reuse and new ways of doing business.

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Saving the planet seems like an unachievable goal, but thankfully environmentalists still try. With entrepreneurial spirit and community focus, Eugene-based BRING aims to create a more sustainable, just world by not only combatting climate change but also by working to dismantle systems of oppression.

The 50-year-old nonprofit has evolved beyond its beginnings as a recycling organization and has added a fourth “R” to “reduce, reuse, recycle”—“rethink.” That means looking squarely at how individuals and companies manage physical goods and building materials, as well as how they hire and retain employees.

“Our bigger purpose encompasses the true essence of sustainability to support people and the planet as one goal,” says Carolyn Stein, executive director. “We also try to lead by example and want to inspire our community.”

Many people in Lane County know BRING from its Eugene retail space, the Planet Improvement Center, which sells everything from lumber to garden equipment to furniture. The building and its 3.5-acre site also showcase green practices to inspire visitors with solar panels, sustainable landscaping, water conversation ideas and the Garden of Earthly Delights — filled with native plants, a rain garden, planters made from recycled materials and sculptures.

IT4A6690The 3.5-acre site contains whimsical sculptures made from reused materials

Each year BRING collects more than two million pounds of building materials and welcomes donations from businesses and individuals. Some items are sold as is and can be reused, while other materials are given new life by on-staff artists and product designers who fashion them into home décor.

“We want to get people excited about reclaimed materials and encourage them to shop from local artists instead of big box stores,” Stein says.

IT4A7311On-staff desingers work on product design.

Education is key to the organization’s mission. BRING hosts free workshops, teaches families basic tool-handling skills and introduces children to worm composting. Lane County also contracts BRING to provide conservation and waste management education to school-age children.

The Rethink Business and EcoBiz certification programs, in partnership with Lane County Waste Management and Lane County Pollution Prevention Coalition, have helped 400 local businesses reduce waste and improve employment practices. Two hundred are currently certified. The programs teach companies how to decrease water and energy use and reduce toxins, actions that lower their carbon footprint and save them money. In addition, companies learn how to examine hiring and retention practices. They are asked to look at actions they might otherwise ignore, such as how they develop job requirements, where they post job openings, or who reviews resumes and conducts interviews.

IT4A7276Retail display of lighting fixtures and glass globes

BRING leads by example here, as well. It supports people who have barriers to employment, such as those who have been incarcerated or who have physical or emotional impairments. And it offers job training and professional development—getting a GED, learning a new language or training on specific equipment. BRING consistently ranks in Oregon’s top 20 green businesses and nonprofits to work for, but Stein knows success means urging people along.

“We want to help them move from entry-level jobs into high-paid positions,” Stein says. “I lose great people all the time, and this is important work that needs to be done.”


Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.