Reuse and Recycle

January 30, 2012

I want to roll back the calendar a couple of months to share some thoughts on re-use, recycle and diverting waste from landfill.  You know, it takes resource and energy to make “stuff” whether it be kitchen appliance, table, chair, television, clothing, etc.  When we throw stuff away because it is broken, old or got replaced with a newer model the stuff becomes trash taking up space in a landfill.  On both ends of the lifecycle of “stuff” there are some cost and some limits.  Natural resources are limited and the space for storing our trash is limited too.  In fact, when I look at our utility bill from our local municipality the largest component of the bill is for garbage — It costs more to have my garbage hauled away than the cost of clean water and sewer service!

By the way, in chapter 7 of Scott Huler’s book, On The Grid, you can satisfy your curiosity on what happens to the trash and recycling material after they are picked up by the garbage truck.  If are really curious about systemic impact of the stuff we consume I invite you to take a look at The Story Of Stuff.

So, if we can maximize the use of our stuff or lengthen its life we can avoid taking up space in the trash dump site and also reduce the demand on natural resources.  Makes sense, right?  This means re-use of stuff is good and recycling of stuff is good.  Reuse means that the stuff gets a new life under a new owner.  For example, the cute antique O’Keefe and Merritt gas oven/stove has a new life in someone else’s kitchen rather than going to a landfill.  Recycle means that the item is processed and transformed to another useful item.  For example, some of the wood removed in the deconstruction of the house will be mulched and will begin its new life on someone’s landscape.

Again, reuse is good, recycle is good and we want to avoid sending stuff to the landfill.  [end of rant, thanks for your patience]  Below are some examples of reuse and recycle of of stuff in our project.

Furniture
The non-profit organization, Furniture for Families, took our dining room table, chairs, bed, dresser, television and microwave oven.  This all volunteer furniture bank provides qualified clients who are referred to them by caseworkers from social service agencies familiar with the specific needs of the clients.

Dining Room Table and Chairs

Appliances
We gave away the washer and dryer to someone we knew that had a broken one.  Listing the items for $5 each on Craigslist was quite effective in getting the refrigerator and gas oven/stove sold and hauled in a couple of days.  The toaster was donated to Goodwill.

Refrigerator and Antique Oven/Stove
Window and Door
One of the people who came to take a look at the antique gas oven/stove, an antiques dealer, didn’t like the stove.  But he ended up buying the front door, window and the desk.  You just never know what they’re interested in.

Front door

Reuse
Some of the lead weight removed from the double hung windows went to our Passive House air sealing consultant, Terry Nordbye, for use in one of his projects.

Lead weights from double-hung windows

Recycle
The recycled wood is mulched at the dump. The reclaimed wood is still on site in the form of skip sheathing that we can use for this project or others.  All the interior trim was salvaged and is now in the shed.

Wood for mulching

Deconstruction
The crew of Santa Cruz Green Builders did a terrific job of deconstruction and separating various items to be recycled.  Huge dumpsters were delivered to the job site.  The summary from the receipt from the city of Santa Cruz shows 82.6% recycle/reuse percentage by volume.  Details in cubic yards are:

Recycle/Reuse  (95 cubic yards)
20 concrete and plaster recycled
42 clean wood recycled
4   metal
3   sheetrock recycled
3   concrete rubble reused
20 dirt reused at another site
3  wood reclaimed

Garbage (20 cubic yards)
20 painted wood (cannot be recycled) and garbage

Wood for recycling
Trash

Salvage Company
Whole House Building Supply and Salvage runs a pretty neat operation where they offer 3 different options for helping you give your stuff a new life.  It’s a good source for reuse items.

About the Author

Chie Kawahara

Chie is one of the co-creator of Midori Haus. When she is not sharing her stories of transforming an old house and giving tours, she enjoys trail running and hiking.

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