Nominate for the Entreprenurial Awards

2021 Socially Responsible Entrepreneur: Junk in the Trunk

Finding new life in old things

If anyone in Greater Lansing has what can be considered a green thumb, it may be Audra Ellis.

Yet instead of reaping what she sows, she recycles what you sow as the founder and owner of the Grand Ledge-based Junk in the Trunk. Combining her passions for making positive contributions toward community change and positive repurposing, Ellis started Junk in the Trunk in 2015 as an eco-friendly estate liquidation and clean-out service that not only recycles but also breathes new life into discarded treasures through reasonable resale and donations to community causes.

In essence, before you chuck it out, Ellis wants to check it out.

That salvage sensibility helped Ellis and Junk in the Trunk secure the Socially Responsible Award in the 2021 Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Awards.

“This award means everything to me. It’s not just an award, it’s an opportunity to not only grow my small business but also make positive change to our community,” Ellis said. “I’m someone who believes in leaving this world better than when I found it. My hope is that this award will give me the key to open doors that were once locked. It also means the saying ‘You can do anything you set your mind to’ is still very true. Our hard work is finally paying off.”

Run with the assistance of Ellis’ fiancé, Aaron Winegar, Junk in the Trunk is more than a business. It’s also a community resource. With free recycling drop-off available by appointment, Junk in the Trunk provides a location for residents to unburden themselves of cardboard, plastic bottles, paper and metal as well as nontraditional recycling items such as jeans, shoes, pens and Rubbermaid food containers. Junk in the Trunk partners with a number of regional businesses to help almost any item stay out of a landfill.

“Anyone can contact us about recycling oddball items,” Ellis wrote in her nomination. “If we know how to recycle it, we will provide information on how to do so. If we can recycle said item, they can set up an appointment to drop off to us.”

However, it’s the clean-out work that may be most intriguing. Ellis noted that at times Junk in the Trunk liquidates three to four homes a week, working up to 18 hours a day. While some of that effort is geared toward recycling and resale, a significant portion is dedicated toward providing assistance to a variety of local causes and projects. The unfortunate fact is that there will always be an overabundance of items being discarded, which is why Ellis hopes to continue to network and build relationships so Junk in the Trunk can expand its environmentally friendly efforts and achievements into the future.

“We plan to grow our recycling efforts by offering and advertising the free recycling drop-off option as a program,” Ellis said. “We will continue to research new ways to recycle unusual items, hopefully find ways to turn the recycling we collect into a profit by selling it. We plan to expand our business by offering recycling consulting and connecting compatible resources and organizations. We want to get more involved in clearing out abandoned properties and similar situations to keep recyclables and reusable materials out of landfills. We hope to form many new relationships with local businesses and nonprofits to help us find new ways to sell and donate items quicker. Eventually, we plan to open an actual storefront and just use our warehouse as storage.”

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