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Environmental Effects of Product Philanthropy

April 16, 2014
Assessing Product Philanthropy’s Impact on Community Sustainability: Energy and Solid Waste

Framing Hope Evaluation

Hani Bashour, Laura Bellows, Brijesh Krishnan, Katherine LaBeau, Lance Lindeen, Veronica Rog, Laura Smothers, Lawrence Summers, Mary Beth Wendelin, and Elaisa Vahnie

December 7, 2010

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Framing Hope is a national product donation program created by Gifts In Kind International, Inc. and The Home Depot. Rather than disposing of unsold merchandise, The Home Depot stores donate it to participating nonprofit organizations through Gifts In Kind International, Inc.

Gifts In Kind International, Inc. and The Home Depot have requested that the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University evaluate certain sustainability-related and economic benefits of the Framing Hope product donation program. Specifically, Gifts In Kind International, Inc. has requested that SPEA estimate: 1) landfill space and cost savings resulting from the program, 2) manufacturing energy savings resulting from the program, and 3) energy consumption savings resulting from the program.

The Home Depot and Gifts In Kind International, Inc. supplied several datasets containing information on donated products from February 2008 to May 2010, including product quantities, prices, descriptions, dimensions and weights, geographic locations, and energy efficiency status. These datasets were merged, missing data were estimated from available data, and additional data were estimated following research.

Methods

  1. Landfill volume and tipping cost savings:
    Missing dimensions and weight data were extrapolated from available dimension and weight data across 23 constructed product categories. Per-ton tipping cost and compaction rate estimates provided by Republic Services (The Home Depot’s waste management provider) were used to estimate total volume and cost savings.
  2. Manufacturing energy savings:
    The per-kilogram energy required to manufacture and transport products was estimated for each of 23 constructed product categories. Weight estimates and quantities donated were used to estimate manufacturing energy savings. It was assumed that one percent of donated products prevented recipients from purchasing new products and therefore contributed to manufacturing energy savings.
  3. Energy consumption savings:
    The energy usage of selected donated products as well as their expected alternatives were researched and estimated. A range of consumption energy savings were estimated by calculating the difference. The average of this range is reported here.

Questions and Findings

  1. What are the landfill volume and tipping cost savings resulting from the Framing Hope program between February 2008 and May 2010?
    • Uncompressed waste savings: 4,782,820 cubic feet
    • Landfill volume savings: 1,073,271 cubic feet
    • Landfill tipping cost savings: $612,023

      These landfill volume savings (of compressed waste) are enough to fill about 2,500 garbage trucks.
  2. What are the manufacturing energy savings resulting from the Framing Hope program between February 2008 and May 2010?
    • Manufacturing energy savings: 1,516,657 kWh
    • Value of these savings: $149,239

      These manufacturing energy savings are enough to power about 119 homes for one year.This translates to a reduction of CO2 emissions that is equivalent to planting 232 acres of pine forest.
  3. What are the energy consumption savings resulting from the Framing Hope program between February 2008 and May 2010?
    • Consumption energy savings: 3,378,319 kWh
    • Value of these savings: $645,761

      These consumption energy savings are enough to power 294 homes for one year.This translates to a reduction of CO2 emissions that is equivalent to planting 517 acres of pine forest.
Total Framing Hope cost savings: $1,407,023

Recommendations

  1. Involve future evaluators in the data collection design to ensure that the data necessary for this type of analysis is accurate and complete.
    • Ideally, potential evaluation should be considered during the program design phase.
    • In order to accomplish this, the evaluators will need to be provided with adequate technology equipment.
  2. Redesign Framing Hope tracking of donations to include manufacturing and consumption energy-related information in tracking files.
    • This information can be gathered by THD at the time of purchase from the manufacturer.
    • Manufacturing and consumption energy-related information is much harder to track down once it leaves THD’s doors.
    • Being able to market their participation in promoting sustainability will provide impedes for THD to gather this information.
  3. Take steps to trace products to their end destinations and gather information about the final use of products.
    • This could be satisfied through an arrangement between GIKI and participating nonprofits that nonprofits record how products donated are used and provide an end-of-year summary report to GIKI.
    • This will help GIKI design systems that better match products to recipients and also help future evaluators produce more accurate estimates.
  4. Require THD to contact the nonprofit in order to be aware of the nonprofit’s needs.
    • This could be accomplished through a nonprofit needs assessment form prior to matching the nonprofit to the store.
    • This will help decrease waste created when stores donate products non-profits cannot use but are required to take.
  5. Consider expanding the energy savings portion of the program.
    • The information provided in this report can be shared with stakeholders in order to determine whether energy savings should be a larger focus of the Framing Hope program. In addition, results of which products provide the most energy savings by region could be used to encourage more donations of these products.
    • While some Framing Hope nonprofit partners may have more experience in green building, those that do not might benefit from training on energy savings resulting from installation and use of commonly donated THD products.