What to do With an Old Pair of Shoes?
Today I went into my closet and realized that I had an old pair of shoes that I no longer wore. The shoes are still pretty serviceable, so I’ve been wondering what I should do with them. To an economist, this question does not have an easy answer.
Here are my options:
Throw them away. By doing this, I would probably destroy any value that the shoes might still have in the global economy. They’d just take up space in a landfill somewhere, with the attendant cost to society. That’s where organizations like Planet Aid come in.
“When you drop off your unwanted items in one of our many conveniently located yellow drop boxes, you divert them from a trip to the landfill or incinerator,” their website proclaims. “Your donated items will find new life with a new owner, who will value them as much as you did when you first purchased them.” Which brings me to my next option…
Donate them. As luck would have it, there’s a Planet Aid box down the street from me that collects clothes and shoes for shipping to countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. But economists often refer to organizations like Planet Aid as part of the “Stuff We Don’t Want” or “SWEDOW” problem. It sounds like a nice idea to give the things we no longer use to poor people in other countries, but sometimes our gifts can be more trouble than they’re worth.
If we deluge poor countries with free used clothing and shoes, we’ll cripple local sellers and manufacturers of those products. Moreover, the money we spend to ship the SWEDOW overseas might do more good in the pockets of the people we’re trying to help. To figure out whether donating still makes sense, Scott Gilmore of Building Markets made up a handy flowchart. In many cases, the flowchart recommends selling the SWEDOW and sending the money to help poor people to buy products locally or use it as they see fit. Which brings me to my next option…
Sell them on eBay. Fortunately, human ingenuity has created the world’s biggest marketplace for second-hand shoes. I may be able to get some cash for these shoes, though I’m not sure how much I’d be able to charge given the cost of shipping them. If they’re worth $20 to someone and shipping is $10, then there’s only $10 left for me – and that’s before paying eBay’s fees. But I’m not sure I really want to take photos, list the shoes online, and make a special trip to the post office for $9 and change. I’m guessing my hourly rate would be better at McDonald’s.
So what should I do? Even if I wanted to donate the proceeds from selling the shoes on eBay, I may be better off just tossing them and writing a check. Of course, the situation might be different if the shoes were more valuable or if I could gain some economies of scale by selling a whole lot of SWEDOW. As things stand, though, I’m left with the uncomfortable feeling that I have no good options to dispose of these shoes – and that’s something to consider next time I’m thinking of buying a pair.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.
- "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
- "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
We were gaining three IQ points per decade for many, many years. Now, that's going backward. Could this explain some of our choices lately?
There's a new study out of Norway that indicates our—well, technically, their—IQs are shrinking, to the tune of about seven IQ points per generation.
Here's why generalists triumph over specialists in the new era of innovation.
- Since the explosion of the knowledge economy in the 1990s, generalist inventors have been making larger and more important contributions than specialists.
- One theory is that the rise of rapid communication technologies allowed the information created by specialists to be rapidly disseminated, meaning generalists can combine information across disciplines to invent something new.
- Here, David Epstein explains how Nintendo's Game Boy was a case of "lateral thinking with withered technology." He also relays the findings of a fascinating study that found the common factor of success among comic book authors.
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