“There’s plenty of resources out there. We have a world overflowing with goods and a cash-poor society,” said Alberto Larotonda, whose soon-to-launched TreasureCircle.com, which he hopes will address the way we shop, making for a more sustainable world.
TreasureCircle.com, which is scheduled to be up and running in November, will allow not-for-profits as well as individuals to obtain and list goods without exchanging cash.
Larotonda sees this as advancing what is being labeled the “circular economy,” a marketing experiment that is under way elsewhere in the world. Proponents, including large corporate entities in Europe, have come to realize that the finite resources needed to manufacture their products are diminishing at an alarming rate. These manufacturers are acknowledging the increasing inability to obtain the needed material will have an impact on their profits and are looking at ways to reuse discarded items to continue making their products.
Red Bank resident Larotonda is taking that basic concept and localizing it in a way that can be a service to organizations and individuals.
“We removed the money picture,” with participants making items available for other members, he said.
How it works is not unlike a Craig’s List or other sites, where members list the items they would like to offer. But TreasureCircle.com combines elements of social networking with those of Craig’s List. Instead of putting a price tag on the item, or dickering with the potential buyer, whoever wants the item within the owner’s network would simply contact the person and take it off of his hands. And the receiver would have a list of things offered that others in the network could get if wanted.
“It’s sort of paying it forward,” Larotonda explained, taking the monetary factor out of the equation. “It doesn’t have to be a quid pro quo.”
In our consumer-driven economy, “The reality is there is an overabundance of goods,” with families’ garages and storage space packed. Many families have had to resort to renting additional storage space to hold everything, Larotonda pointed out.
But there is often a shortage of cash and there can still be a need for some items.
Individuals, who pay a $5 a month membership fee (like a buyers club), establish a network like they would have on Facebook, and those members would be able to exchange various needed items.
“This is something that doesn’t exist on the Internet,” Larotonda said.
TreasureCircle.com is an offshoot of Pollytix, a social benefit startup that Larotonda founded in 2012. Pollytix is the first social benefit corporation established in New Jersey, a for-profit entity that works to do good, which Larotonda operates out of his Spring Street home office and currently relies on the efforts of about 15 volunteers. “Nobody is collecting a salary,” at this point, he said.
He created the company with the mission “to help the non-profit community become financially self-sufficient,” he said. The benefit for non-profits is that they too can obtain needed items – office furniture, used computers, whatever – without spending their limited resources, freeing up those funds for other work. And “in doing that,” helping non-profits, he noted, “we reach the general public,” creating what Larotonda said would be “a sharing network.”
“For me it’s been a lifetime of experience,” that led to establishing Pollytix and TreasureCircle.com, he said.
Larotonda, 54, sees this effor t as a natural progression of his social and environmental activism. His “first love was environmental science,” working earlier in his career as a field inspector for the state Department of Environmental Protection. Later, utilizing his IT background, he worked for the Federal Aviation Administration at its facility at the Atlantic City Airport and then as an assistant instructor at Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, managing the college’s environmental computer lab. Along with those efforts he felt driven to work with environmental groups and political organizations, working to break the monopoly the two major political parties have over the political system, because “I didn’t see I was having enough of an impact,” he said.
His most recent effort, he believes, will rethink the way we shop as well as allowing individuals support organizations they deem worthy. “This is something whose time has come,” he said.
– By John Burton