A home improvement project may improve your home, but the deconstruction process does nothing to improve the environment. Even if you’re not remodeling to “go green,” you can manage your renovation project to keep debris and waste to a minimum. Just a kitchen makeover can easily result in five tons of debris. A whole house remodel can add thirteen tons of waste to a landfill. To keep your environmental impact minimal during your home improvement project, manage the three “R’s” of the pollution solution – reduce, reuse and recycle.
Reducing waste starts in the planning process. Maximizing the efficient use of space goes a long way to reduce construction waste. Review your plans to see where it’s possible to rearrange rather than remodel and take advantage of under-used rooms. Try to upgrade or put a new facade on fixtures rather than replacing them. You can also lessen your environmental impact by reducing packaging. Spend a little time researching companies that use eco-friendly packaging, or request packaging material that is reusable or recyclable.
Reusing material is the most environmentally friendly way to reduce home improvement leftovers. From an environmental standpoint, it is generally ideal for you to reuse what items you can within your own home. From a charitable standpoint, it is ideal for you to donate items to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and/or local clubs, churches, schools and/or individuals in need (or want). If you’re budget minded, plan on listing and selling your salvageable material to recoup some of your initial expenses. To make your save-the-environment job easier, designate areas in your garage, basement or outdoors for salvage and separate items by material before you start dismantling your home.
Don’t forget to look at the little reusable items. Hinges, doorknobs, pulls and even electrical wall outlets can be salvaged and reused. Saving big items will save the environment from big waste. In most cases, solid wood flooring, walls, lumber, roof tiles, brick and stone can all be reused. Bricks and stone can be used to pave a new landscaping project, and chemical-free gypsum plaster, wallboard, clean sawdust and cardboard can be used for landscaping and compost piles. Wood can be used for carpentry work that ranges from a new birdhouse to a new floor in someone else’s older home. If you look around the corners of your home, you might find trim and molding and maybe even architectural detail such as mantels and columns that can be saved and reused. And of course, windows, doors, and bathroom and kitchen fixtures can easily find a new home to be reused in.
What can’t be reduced or reused can hopefully be recycled. The investment in recycling hasn’t hit all city and town budgets, but many areas provide curbside pickup or a drop-off location for recyclables. Calling your city waste management department or town clerk can help you find local recycling resources. A salvage yard will take care of scrap metal. Bringing it in yourself can net your pocket a few extra dollars to reduce your remodeling expenses. Construction and waste management companies might be able to direct you to larger companies that turn asphalt shingles or crushed tiles into roads or sawdust and wood scraps into particleboard.
Home improvement renovations will create waste. Minimizing waste will minimize the environmental impact of your project. Renovate with reduce, reuse and recycle in your construction plans. A healthy environment for your future generations will be your reward.