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The Repurpose Project: Redefining and recycling waste in Gainesville

The entrance of the Repurpose Project. (Rebecca Marks/WUFT)
The entrance of the Repurpose Project. (Rebecca Marks/WUFT)

Nestled among Gainesville’s historic scene is a shop featuring former trash, flipped into stunning pieces of art, furniture and functional gadgets.

The Repurpose Project, a non-profit organization founded in January 2012, aims to inspire people to look at everyday objects in a new light and find creative ways to give them a second life. The store is located at 1920 NE 23rd Avenue in Gainesville.

Sarah Goff, the co-founder of The Repurpose Project said valuable items can be anywhere. “Some of us see it when our curiosity pushes us to peek into a dumpster and sometimes even jump in to retrieve a treasure that was tossed out,” she said.

From antique appliances like old washing machines to unusual sculptures and discarded childhood memorabilia, this facility is a treasure trove of odd and unexpected items.

“Walking into the Repurpose Project’s workshop is like stepping into a wonderland of creativity,” said Gainesville resident Jacob Sawyer, 37.

Every time he enters, Sawyer recalls the shelves being stocked with old furniture, books and broken electronics, all awaiting a fresh transformation.

This sentiment aligns with Goff’s perspective, as the project poses a simple yet profound question: “Why buy new when there is so much perfectly good used stuff in our own communities?”

“Particularly in Gainesville, buying used is more than just a cost-saving measure,” Sawyer said. “It’s a powerful way to reduce our environmental footprint.”

Choosing to purchase used items not only gives these seemingly worthless objects a new lease on life but also has significant environmental benefits. By opting for reused goods, individuals eliminate the need for raw materials, save water used in manufacturing, reduce energy consumption and minimize packaging waste.

A sign displays the mission of The Repurpose Project as a community-based area to explore creativity in non-traditional ways. (Rebecca Marks/WUFT)
A sign displays the mission of The Repurpose Project as a community-based area to explore creativity in non-traditional ways. (Rebecca Marks/WUFT)

But the Repurpose Project is about more than just creating beautiful objects. It is also about educating the community on the importance of reducing waste and promoting sustainable practices.

The project hosts regular workshops, teaching locals how to repurpose items at home and encouraging them to think creatively about their consumption habits. “Buying from this non-profit is a sustainable choice that benefits both your wallet and the planet,” Sawyer said.

This approach gained a loyal following among residents, many of whom visit the junk shop regularly.

In fact, The Repurpose Project recently formed a partnership with The Zen Center, a nearby housing facility for transient residents. Together, they deconstructed houses slated for demolition, diverting items from dumpsters and landfills.

A sign highlights the “trashion” show event held on April 20. (Rebecca Marks/WUFT)

Another innovative aspect of The Repurpose Project is its pricing structure.

While some items are priced based on the labor costs associated with deconstruction efforts, others are left unmarked, allowing buyers to determine the price through reverse bargaining. In this approach, the seller sets the price they want for a product or service, and the buyer tries to negotiate down from that price.

For instance, a person experiencing homelessness might purchase a sleeping bag for just $0.50 or a phone charger for $0.05. Conversely, another customer might pay $13 for a printer cable, choosing to support the project and paying what they'd typically spend at an electronics store.

This sliding scale pricing system not only makes goods accessible to everyone, but also addresses social and pay inequality issues.

“By allowing the locals to set the price, they are not just selling goods, they are building a more inclusive community for people like myself,” said Alicia Gonzales, 57, retired.

Adding a creative twist to their sustainable mission, The Repurpose Project hosted a trash fashion show on April 20, where participants showcased their fashion-forward looks made entirely of trash.

This innovative event not only highlighted the creativity and potential of repurposed materials but also encouraged people of all ages to rethink waste in a fun and engaging way.

“What a turnout,” said Celine Levy, 71, a retired Alachua County technician. “Seeing all of these costumes was such a sight.”

“This organization is truly a catalyst for change in the community,” Gonzales said. “The next time you pass by a discarded piece of furniture or an old book, remember the potential that lies within these seemingly forgotten items.”

Rebecca is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing