Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Helpful: Jane Jacobs and used boxes

Moving boxes are expensive, and if you don't have a car, they're a pain in the butt to collect and bring home, even if you can snag them for free. Luckily, and just in time for my move, someone in Chicago figured this out. (The link goes to a craigslist ad which isn't permanent, but if you search "used boxes Chicago" I'm sure you'll find others.) This particular service picks up "gently used" boxes from the people who have moved in, then delivers them anywhere in the city for a flat fee. Brilliant.

It's just another example of how, in a big city or big company, smart people can take waste and turn it into profit. 3M didn't plan to make Post-It's--they wanted to make sandpaper. Turned out, the leftover glue from the sandpaper was more valuable than the sandpaper itself. Jane Jacobs, a social activist and prolific writer in economics and urban issues, wrote about this concept of economic advancement in her book "The Economy of Cities," which I'm just now finishing. Jacobs died this week at the age of 89; if you want to have just a little taste of what urban planning program is about, read Jacobs' book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" from 1961. RIP, Jane.

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