Planning on sprucing up your humble abode with a little paint, some new kitchen cabinets, hardwood floors and maybe even some energy-efficient windows? How exciting! Although the process typically takes a bite out of your wallet and is notorious for cutting into your free time (particularly if you take on a DIY weekend warrior role), it’s all worth it in the end if you appreciate an increased property value and a fresh, new living environment. But what about the environment right outside of your window? You know, the one with all of the birds, trees and streams? Sure, it looks pretty right now, but what happens when you (along with 60 neighbors located within a 10-mile radius) decide to hammer, strip, install and gut your homes of yesterday’s must-haves since they are officially regarded as today’s has-beens? This homeowner rite of passage typically plays out across the country and globe in an endless cycle of building and purging, but despite being able to put our cast-asides out of sight and out of mind, they never really go away. Here’s the real problem: Our society becomes weak at the knees when we learn about new trends. It doesn’t matter if they’re of the fashion, food, electronic or household variety — all we know is that they’re exciting and we want them. Ultimately, we ditch the old and make way for the new, which perhaps makes us feel spiffy for a fleeting moment in time, but before we know it, that nagging sense of longing for the latest-greatest thing creeps into our consciousness once again. Remodeling is the grand-scale version of daily consumerism, prompting us to give the heave-ho to an astoundingly large volume of materials at one time. If you’ve ever seen what comes out of a house during the process, suffice it to say that several dumpster loads end up being carted off to the landfill. What’s the big deal, you ask? Yes, it’s been done endlessly throughout the decades and centuries, but with our continued technological advances, what we’re chucking these days contains increasingly higher levels of toxins that end up contaminating landfill sites and migrating into the local ecosystem and waterways. Plus, so much of what we consider trash is really perfectly usable. We all live just once, so this is not to suggest that anyone sacrifice his or her opportunity for lifestyle enhancement. However, there are far more responsible ways to indulge our remodeling desires. The next time you’re ready to give your home a facelift or full-throttle makeover, ask yourself if someone else can possibly use your unwanted items. If the answer is yes (which most often is the case), then take a few minutes or even an hour making a sincere effort to find your cast-asides a new home. Whether you prefer using a telephone book or Googling a solution, you’ll discover that there are infinite outlets that gladly welcome salvaged building materials such as Habitat For Humanity and the Building Materials Reuse Association. You might also want to consider contacting “deconstruction” companies that enter your home with the sole purpose of removing the items that you no longer want so they can be repurposed. Just bear in mind that this type of service does come at a cost and is perhaps better suited to those with large budgets who appreciate the convenience of someone else taking care of the green details for them. For the average Joe who has the best of eco-intentions but lacks the fiscal muscle, there’s nothing wrong with giving your local underground DIY community first dibs on your remodeling cast-asides. Just photograph and post your unwanted items on Craigslist or Freecycle and watch how fast they’ll be snapped up. (Deal hunting and a liberal dose of creativity tend to go quite far in a recession!) If you find yourself stuck with a bunch of garish ’50s-style cabinets or piles of gutted studs, then tuck them away in your garage for a rainy day project or enlist the help of artsy family members to breathe new life into them. (You like free storage solutions and/or wood for that kiddy tree house you’ve wanted to build, don’t you?) As it turns out, garbage is in the eye of the beholder and can definitely be transformed into unexpected new treasures, so take a deep breath and try viewing your remodeling cast-asides with a fresh perspective. You may just realize that you have a veritable treasure trove of handy-dandy supplies at your fingertips!
Remodeling Our Perception of Dumpster-Worthy Waste
Remodeling is the grand-scale version of daily consumerism, prompting us to give the heave-ho to an astoundingly large volume of materials at one time.