Photograph Courtesy of David Walker
GREENWICH NATIVE DAVID WALKER TALKS TO JULIE KNAPP ABOUT CHANGING THE WAY YOU AND THE ENTIRE COUNTRY HANDLES E-WASTE.
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT twice about tossing your old mobile phone or laptop?
If not, David Walker sure would love it if you would. He’s certain you’ve got a handful of old gadgets tucked away in that kitchen desk drawer, or in the hall closet—just waiting to find their way to his office at YouRenew.
That’s why he went to Apple’s 5th Avenue store last summer during the much anticipated iPhone 3GS launch. As marketing director at the New Haven-based electronics recycling startup, YouRenew, Walker collected old phones from hundreds of savvy consumers funneling into the store to upgrade to the latest iPhone.
The pitch: in exchange for an old phone, Walker, 21, would grant each Apple customer up to $260 as well as bragging rights for dumping a little less cadmium, lead and mercury into the Earth and water supply that day. Also on the scene were Walker’s bosses, company cofounders Bob Casey and Rich Littlehale (garnering plenty of attention as they took turns dressed as a talking and walking, human iPhone). Walker met the young entrepreneurs as a sophomore on the crew team at Yale during the 2007-2008 school year. All three are currently taking time off from school to work at YouRenew, which pays you to recycle old laptops, phones, PDAs and other electronics. The idea is to help consumers find a quick and painless way to rid themselves of unwanted gadgets. Otherwise, they end up in a landfill with the 117 million other electronics that contaminate the earth with toxins each year.
Walker couldn’t resist joining Littlehale and Casey when they launched the company last March. It was an opportunity to be involved in a company from the ground up, complementing the more traditional classroom education he’d signed on for at Yale. Plus, it meant a chance to do something that really might resonate in a global way. “I thought the concept sounded like it had a lot of potential to make money and significant environmental change,” says Walker. Even his mom, Alyson Henning Walker, who works in education, supported her son’s break from Yale. She says David’s environmental sensitivity has grown substantially in the last year, since he met Casey and Littlehale. “David really believes in what YouRenew is doing and he feels they can make a huge impact on how this country functions in regards to e-waste and recycling.”
The company’s founders are thrilled to have Walker’s help and enthusiasm. “He’s an amazing creator of ideas that give us the opportunity to express our vision,” says Littlehale. Now as the director of marketing, he helps to dream up and organize other marketing events like the Apple Store stunt. He also works on online social media marketing campaigns and brainstorms all kinds of new ideas for the rapidly growing startup. In December, he secured a spot for YouRenew at Manhattan’s pop-up Wired Store to encourage customers to log on and recycle old electronics—using a refurbished laptop of course—before buying new ones. Up next: boosting YouRenew’s online presence. The company wants to take advantage of all that Facebook and Twitter have to offer, while looking for other event opportunities to get the word out about e-waste.
While Walker is comfortable juggling YouRenew and Yale, he also remembers where he came from. In fact, the Greenwich Country Day graduate recently looped back with his alma mater to encourage current students to organize an electronics recycling collection at the school by teaching them about the adverse environmental impact of discarded electronics. *
How YouRenew Works
+ Search for your old device in YouRenew.com’s database of more than 3,000 electronics.
+ Input a few details about its condition to find out the trade-in value instantly ($100 on average).
+ Print a free prepaid shipping label and send your old gadget to YouRenew.
+ Get paid! You’ll receive your payment via PayPal or check.
+ YouRenew will then clear existing data, refurbish and resell the phone, giving new life to your old stuff.