Un-Shopping, reCommerce & Building a Business on Buying Less

Un-Shopping, reCommerce & Building a Business on Buying Less

At the GreenBiz Forum in New York City this week, we took a close look at the current state of consumption. The topic is a fitting one for the venue, as some people might consider New York a hub of economic activity and consumption.

As a self-proclaimed gadget junkie and former Silicon Valley transplant, my focus is consumer electronics. At Gazelle, we give new life to consumer electronic gadgets that have value and responsibly recycle the ones that don't. We're a Boston-based consumer electronics trade-in and recycling service, and our business is all about rewarding people for smart consumption. We coined the term "reCommerce" for our business model, which rewards consumers for selling and recycling used gadgets they no longer use to get cash.

It should come as no surprise that today's consumer markets are punctuated by new consumer electronic launches, where everybody wants the latest and greatest gadget. Take the recent release of iPhone 4s as an example, which led to unprecedented sales of new phones. The upgrade mentality is etched into our consumer culture. But the new launch also resulted in an incredible level of trade-in activity of used phones, with more than 150,000 being reCommerced through Gazelle alone. Slowly but surely, consumers are starting to realize the benefits of reCommerce.

However, there is still a huge opportunity ahead for reCommerce. Today, less than 1 percent of consumer electronics are reCommerced while 37 percent are recycled or thrown away and 56 percent are either donated or left to collect dust in drawers and closets. What we see today represents a great opportunity to change the way people think about the consumption of consumer electronics.

At the GreenBiz Forum in New York City this week, I had the great fortune of sharing my One Great Idea with attendees, and now I'd like to share the idea with readers in hopes this idea will spread even further. What I love about this One Great Idea it is that it doesn't cost anything; it doesn't require raw materials or resource consumption. And it has the potential to have a greater impact than any new product launch.

It's a growing movement and I'm inviting you to be an early adopter. Have you ever felt like all your stuff is weighing you down as opposed to buoying you up? Rather than getting caught in the endless cycle of acquiring stuff and making room in our lives for new things, why don't we try to break the line of thinking that more stuff equals a better life?

Why don't we try Un-Shopping? Un-Shopping is the process of freeing yourself from needless stuff -- the things that we don't need or don't use anymore so we move them to our overstuffed closets, garages or attics.Un-Shopping is the process of using reCommerce, recycling and repurposing services like Gazelle, Craigslist and the Salvation Army to keep things moving and create more space, allowing us to have more clarity and free ourselves of stuff we don't need. We invite you to join in the Un-Shopping revolution and give reCommerce a try.

We think you'll like it: 30 percent of our customers have made a habit out of reCommerce. Gazelle has helped keep 600,000 gadgets out of the e-waste stream since 2006 when we started operating. That's a lot of e-waste being diverted from landfills and developing countries. But with 2.8 billion consumer electronic units on the market, and 600 million units added each year alone, the problem is far from solved.

I came to realize the Un-Shopping idea not recently, but over the course of a lifetime of developing a relationship with stuff. For me, it was the time that my wife came back from Target with new sippy cups for our children, when we had nearly 30 of them already. I started to ask myself, "how much is enough?"

Today we're asking you simply to give Un-Shopping a try to to start by Un-Shopping one thing -- maybe a phone or a t-shirt. From there, see what happens. Maybe you'll find you enjoy it or that you earn some extra money. Along the way, send us your experience or tweet it to me at @iganot or @gazelle.

Have fun Un-Shopping!

Gadget photo via Shutterstock.