Community Forklift, Numbers, and How They Work Together

Angela3By Imani Lewis

For Community Forklift, numbers play a big role. Curious? Think about it. All of the numbers of visitors, numbers of donations, numbers of items on the floor and others serve as examples of numbers that help CF successfully operate on a daily basis. This summer, CF intern Angela has been working on another set of numbers important the organization– numbers of products reused through CF efforts.

The process

The goal for this project was to convert the current CF “sale” data into understandable visual representations of CF diverted waste. To the unassuming person, this project would seem simple, just averaging out the total items sold with sales totals and creating a solid visual of that figure. However, as many CF item categories and prices vary regarding type, weight, height, Angela1age, purpose, etc., finding these numbers accurately can be quite a tricky task.  Despite this challenge, Stewart, with her background in statistics from George Mason University, pursued on with the project by creating formulas to calculate these important CF numbers. “[Some departments (of the CF inventory) were easier to calculate than others,]” Stewart said. “For example, CF prices for lumber are by feet, so we already knew the length- it just had to be converted into something meaningful. Other items, such as the radiators, required weighing, careful examination of the pricing book, and interviews with CF staff to create a formula [in order to accurately find what was diverted].”

statsThe impact continues

The project Stewart started is just the beginning of CF’s efforts to quantify their waste diversion. However, even in this early stage, she and the CF Staff involved in this process have discovered a bit on just how much impact CF has made on environmental waste diversion. “[While calculating the number of radiators reused], I decided on a hunch to see if the weight of radiators we sold could measure up to [the size of an Elephant] — it did and then some! The weight of radiators sold in 2012 and the first half of 2013 was as heavy as several grown Elephants. I was amazed and so delighted with the imagery.  Elephants are these beautiful, powerful, and wise creatures.  I think their strength is reflected in the role CF plays in lifting up communities. Their wisdom can been seen in how this non-profit has turned a traditional business model into a mechanism for giving back to people and the environment.”