Building a Sense of Community

When I first came to work for The ReUse People, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I had a background in retail and warehousing, so I knew what to anticipate in the area of work logistics, but I didn't know what awaited me with regard to the actual work experience. My previous job had been as a computer programmer, where I sat at a desk cranking out code hour after hour, day after day. I chatted with my coworkers during breaks, but it was really just a job, a place I went for eight hours each day, performed the required tasks, then went home at the end of the day. I was excited to work at TRP for a number of reasons, primarily because the corporate world just doesn't suit me well. Also, because in my programming job I felt like just another cog in the machine, with no richness to my work-life. I could envision a future in which I completed project after meaningless project, fought for promotions, and looked forward to retiring just to get away from it all.  

When I first started working at the warehouse in Pacoima, there was a lot of talk about "being green," "reducing carbon footprints," "reduce, reuse, recycle," and plenty of other industry buzzwords. I thought maybe I had leapt from the frying pan into the fire, but I really liked the job, and so I decided to set aside my dreams of having meaningful work and see what happened.

The change was so gradual, I didn't notice it at first. Customers became regulars and began sharing green lifestyle tips. Co-managers and I would work together to improve operations and logistics while continuing to increase the reuse and recycling of materials. Vendors would come in, looking for places to advertise their green ideas. It was such an organic, natural process, completely un-orchestrated, that it took me some time to realize that we had truly built a green community of people who sought ways to improve their lives, reduce their carbon footprints, and share their sense of pride and caring for the planet we all inhabit -- not just for themselves, but for future generations.  

I have always jokingly said that I sell used toilets for a living, but it is so much more than that. I, along with my customers and co-workers, am part of a bigger movement, a movement to improve our future and that of others through sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. This is done without pretension, without trying to maintain a "keeping up with the Jones’s" lifestyle, without empty buzzwords. Just a group of people trying to do the best we can, from a very honest place in our hearts. And that produces so much more job satisfaction than I would ever get from the computer programming world.

I have always said that I was lucky to have found this position with TRP, and I have always been grateful for this job, particularly during the terrible economy of the last several years. But I am also grateful to have met and become friends with so many wonderful people that I likely wouldn't have met in the corporate world. I am proud to be part of the green community, and I look forward to continuing to encourage others to join that community.   

Shannon Barnes was recently promoted to Systems and Digital Media Manager for TRP corporate. She submitted this blog post just prior to the change, while still Retail Manager of the TRP warehouse in the Pacoima district of Los Angeles.

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