According to Stuffstr co-founder John Atcheson, you probably have $7,000 worth of unused stuff sitting in your house. And the total may have gone up over the weekend, as new gifts rendered some of your older items obsolete.
Between clothing, furniture, sports equipment, and various knick-knacks, we have a lot sitting in closets and garages. While many people are eco-conscious enough not to send everything to the landfill, it raises the question: if it’s simply sitting in a closet, is it any better?
That idea drives the research behind Stuffstr, a Seattle-based company with the vision of “no unused stuff.” Sharing economy veterans John Atcheson and Steve Gutmann started Stuffstr after working at Flexcar (later acquired by Zipcar), and Getaround, a peer-to-peer car-sharing company they helped launch in San Francisco. As they were enabling people to share their idle cars with others, they transferred that line of thinking to all of our other unused belongings.
“I got to thinking, what about everything else?” said Atcheson. “The more you dig into that, the more frightening it is.”
The typical U.S. household is filled with idle items: about 80 percent of them are used less than once a month, and about 70 percent eventually end up in the landfill. But it’s not just a clutter issue, it’s a sustainability issue. In fact, Atcheson says the CO2 embedded in the household items we buy each year exceeds the emissions of the entire U.S. auto fleet. (Editor’s note: This post has been updated to better reflect Atcheson’s comments about emissions).
Whether it’s packing boxes for Goodwill, organizing a garage sale, or posting items for sale on Facebook, these seemingly simple actions serve as obstacles that stop us from actually repurposing unwanted belongings.
Through the Stuffstr app, users can manage a library of their things and swipe or tap to donate, repair, or give away to friends. Major partnerships with brands like Amazon, The North Face and H&M allow Stuffstr users to easily find clothing donation sites nearby. These sites accept any brand or type of clothing, not just their own label, and reward donations with store discounts.
It’s one of a several apps providing mobile alternatives to Craigslist — including Bellevue-based OfferUp — but Stuffstr’s initial focus is on donations and giving. The company is structured as a Public Benefit Corporation.
The company is tackling a big problem. Almost 85% of U.S. textiles end up in the landfill—at about 70 pounds per person every year — yet most are eligible for recycling. “There are virtually no connections between the buying decision and the end-of-use decision,” said Atcheson. “By the time you want to get rid of it, it’s too much effort to decide what to do with it.”
Big-name retailers are now doing their part to help curb this issue, and in-app integrations with Stuffstr are a natural fit. “We had this designed from the beginning to be helpful to a variety of people, particularly retailers,” Atcheson explained.
Since H&M launched its campaign to become 100% circular (i.e., reused, recycled, or repurposed), the company has given a second life to more than 80 million pounds of textiles.
“The Stuffstr App helps move us towards our goal of becoming 100% circular,” said a statement from H&M. “[We’re pursuing] using recycled or other sustainably sourced materials, taking a circular approach to designing new products, and rewarding our customers for recirculating their unwanted apparel.”
The company has big ambitions. “We want to partner with every retailer on the planet,” said Atcheson. “We’re in the process of integrating, but it’s going to take a long time because it’s a complicated ecosystem.”
“Any time you’re trying to fundamentally change the way an economy operates, it’s challenging.”
While the app grows and attracts even more partners, the key is simplicity. Users aren’t expected to take pictures of everything they own in order to create a Stuffstr library. Instead, they can draw on existing resources. A one-time Amazon login will automatically import all past purchases and add future items in real time. Location technology finds nearby donation sites and local (as well as national) organizations.
To Atcheson, the app is more about putting all the pieces in place, so all the user has to do is the last step. “It’s all part of making it super simple for people. There’s not going to be any systemic change if it’s people taking pictures and typing things. You have to make it automatic.”
The next frontier for Stuffstr is to expand further beyond donations and incorporate a better way to sell. “We’ve got this grand vision,” said Atcheson. “It’s every retailer feeding into [the app], and every possible option available. We’re one-by-one knocking those off and moving forward.”