Today, I gave away an old telephone answering machine. It was our answerphone before the fire, and it had an adorable message of the three of us answering the phone, a very young Theo shouting his name at the end with great gusto. We had replaced our phones and answerphone after the fire because any electrical items that were plugged in during the fire were considered potentially unsafe. We had held onto this machine for purely sentimental reasons, but today, I made a copy of the message with my cell phone and parted with the old device. Who would want a smoky old answerphone, you may well ask? Well, no one really. I gave it away today as part of an e-waste electronics recycling event I organized at our son’s school with a remarkable local company called Isidore Recycling (http://www.isidorerecycling.com/). The company is based in Los Angeles and collects tons of computers, cell phones and other e-waste from organizations and individuals each year.
Kabira Stokes, who founded the company in 2011, believes recycling is related to the idea of value. Typically, we keep things we value and discard those we don’t. This concept applies to the way we treat people too. Currently in the United States, just as our landfills are overflowing with trash, our prisons are full to bursting with people that society has effectively given up on. Stokes hires the formerly incarcerated and trains them in computer repair. They repair about 10% of the electronics, wiping them clean of data and bugs and re-selling them online, giving them a second life. The 90% that are beyond repair are broken down into various parts that are sold to recyclers. Stokes believes in second chances. When I interviewed her recently for the local paper, she explained, “Our vision is to create a world in which resources, both human and natural are valued and not wasted.” Currently the company employs 6 formerly incarcerated staff members, who are thankful to be employed, treated with respect and given a second chance too. I had the pleasure of working with two of these warm, friendly and highly professional men this morning at the e-waste event, and I now believe more strongly than ever in the value of all of our precious resources, human, natural and man-made.