"The north star goal of yerdle is to make sharing the new shopping."
We wrote that statement in 2012 as we first incorporated yerdle as a California Benefit Corporation.
California created the Benefit Corporation status in 2012, and we quickly followed Patagonia in adopting it for yerdle. By becoming a Benefit Corporation, we wrote our mission into our corporate charter: to reduce the number of new things we all have to buy by 25%. Reuse, we believe, should be as easy as online shopping.
This letter serves as our annual statement of how we’ve done against our mission.
Our self-evaluation: We disappointed.
Yerdle had a negligible material impact in 2013.
Watch Adam and Andy share their insights from yerdle's 2013 assessment
It wasn’t that we had a large negative impact. As a team that produces technological innovations to facilitate sharing, our small office had little footprint. We don’t have factories. We produce no physical products.
But we started yerdle to have a significant effect on the badly broken consumer economy. And, at our current scale, we very clearly haven't made the dent that must be made on consumerism in America.
Reducing new retail purchases of “durable consumer goods” — like blenders, tents and cameras — can make an impact. Eighty percent of household items are used less than once a month. Today, it's easier to get a new coffee maker than it is to find one sitting idle. Companies like Amazon.com and Google Shopping Express have become so efficient at sourcing and delivering those goods to your door in 24 hours that new items are "out-competing" perfectly servicable used goods. There are $1 trillion dollars of household goods sold in the U.S., so displacing 25% means redirecting $250 billion in sales.
[See the Ten Facts About Waste below.]
To give a sense of the scope of that size, Amazon.com sold $75 billion of merchandise in 2013.
We jumped into this mission. We built an incredible team of ten talented, passionate, rebellious people, raised money from our friends and family and told everyone who would listen what we were doing. Sharing has always been the way that humanity has stretched resources and built community. We figured that with the right team and enough hard work we'd fly into action.
yerdle 2013 in numbers:
30,000 people joined yerdle
9,759 items shared through yerdle.
10 full-time yerdle staff
4 yerdle monsters created
1 ice-cream truck rebuilt
Here is a list of the top 20 yerdling cities in the U.S. in 2013.
But in 2013, the app and website we built weren't working as we had intended. People posted wonderful items and those items often just sat there. People won items and then struggled to connect to the giver. People were resentful that they could only sign up through Facebook. We were proud to see that hundreds of items moved on yerdle each month, yet we were frustrated that we were barely scratching the surface. We need to move millions of items to meet our mission. And until the final months of 2013, we weren't seeing numbers that pointed in that direction. That's why we say that, when measured against our mission, we basically had no impact in 2013.
People began to encourage us to pivot and try something different. We were running out of money. But our early members and angel investors encouraged us to keep going. One early yerdler, Pam Marcus, kept bringing us cookies and telling us beautiful stories of the people she was meeting and the useful items she was getting on yerdle. So we kept on building, and testing and tweaking.
As we write this letter in May, 2014, the story has begun to change. Over the summer of 2013 we rebuilt the entire API and iOS app. We took down the website to keep our focus on making the app work as we had dreamed. We set out to make strangers into friends and opened up the network. We negotiated low shipping rates to make it easier to move items. We launched yerdle Credits. By October we were releasing over fifty feature changes each month. We partnered with Patagonia for Black Friday. We rehabilitated an old ice cream truck, gave out goat-milk ice cream and collected items to share at Dolores Park and Atlas Cafe in San Francisco. We built a simple website to open up yerdle beyond people with iPhones. We launched a daily e-mail.
Yerdlers on Black Friday, 2013
And somehow, all of those late nights and humbling failures produced a system that is beginning to work. By the end of 2013, over 30,000 people had joined yerdle, and had shared 9759 items. We still have a mind-bogglingly long way to go. But we see the path clearly now.
What could we be doing better? How will we get manufacturers to stop making cheap crap? How do we estimate the CO2 reduction benefits of sharing? How do we get to 300,000 members? These are some of the questions we're facing in 2014. We welcome your ideas. We can only achieve our mission together with you. Thank you.
-- Adam, Andy, Carl, Bretlyn, Hugues, Rachel, Monica, Brian, Dina, Hans, Tamsin, Shira & Ian
Ten Facts About Waste
- 20% of all municipal solid waste in the US comes from durable goods. That's 50 million tons.
- Over 80% of all durable goods are not recycled.
- Less than 30% of consumer electronics are recycled; only 8% of cell phones are recycled.
- There are 4.5 million tons of electronics sitting in American garages.
- 70% of global electronic waste ends up in China.
- 50% of active landfills in the US need repair.
- 2,000: the gallons of water required to make a t-shirt.
- 10%: The percentage of American households renting a self storage unit.
- Self-storage: the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the last 40 years.
- It takes the Earth a year to produce what humanity consumes in eight months.
Sustainability @ yerdle
Yerdle 2013 B Lab Impact Assessment
We conducted a comprehensive assessment of yerdle's impact in 2013 against a third party standard -- the B Lab Impact Assessment. We scored 95 out of 200 available points. Ordinary businesses average 51 points, and certified B Corps average 97 points.
Our thanks to our advisers and non-profit friends for challenging us to be better and for their constant support. In particular, we'd like to thank Annie Leonard and the entire Story of Stuff team. Wendy Phileo and Wen Lee from the Center for a New American Dream, Sue Chiang and Michael Green from the Center for Environmental Health. David Aikmann, Eric Roland and Mayuri Ghosh from the World Economic Forum. Rick Ridgeway and Nellie Cohen from Patagonia, Natalie Foster, Millicent Johnson, Holly Minch and the entire Peers team, Lizzy Fallows from Timbuk2. Special thanks to Zilong Wang for helping us to pull this report together. We have greatly benefited from the corporate accountability work of Greenpeace, Environmental Working Group, Rainforest Action Network, NRDC, The Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club.