On October 14, 2015, seventeen students from Graham Russell’s Business & Sustainability/Sustainable Business Opportunity course visited the Colorado facility of repurposedMATERIALS, Inc. in Brighton.
Damon Carson, founder and owner of repurposedMATERIALS, explained that the company – which has operations in Chicago and Atlanta with new sites opening shortly in Dallas and Philadelphia – buys used or unwanted industrial and commercial equipment and materials with the objective of finding a use for them that is different from their original purpose. From a sustainability standpoint, the benefits of the business model are that it keeps stuff out of the landfill, thereby often saving companies costly tipping fees, and frequently eliminates the need for organizations to purchase more expensive new equipment or materials.
On a tour of the facility, the students were entertained with questions from Carson as to what they thought various items or materials could be repurposed for. Some examples included: using old firehose to protect electrical wires and cables at outdoor concerts and other events; and use of old escalator hand-railing as a “bumper” to prevent damage to boats at marinas. Used air force parachute material is purchased by brides-to-be to use as a protector against rain at their outdoor weddings.
One highlight of the visit came when Carson asked the students whether they thought used hot air balloon fabric could be used by the brides-to-be in a similar fashion. Undergraduate student Veronica Mouser suggested that it could not because it would have an unacceptable smell from the materials used in the balloons’ burners. Carson complimented her on being the only person ever to come up with the correct answer!
Several students commented on Carson’s unique entrepreneurial skill that underpins the business model: namely, his remarkable ability to imagine all sorts of alternative uses for old and unwanted materials. This frequently enables him to make money by buying a batch of stuff he has never seen before and finding someone who can give it new life in a different way.