Business Articles - Specialty and Trade

Going Green: Recycling and Waste Disposal

When most homeowners think green, their thoughts naturally turn to things like increasing energy efficiency and using alternative sources of energy. What they often fail to realize, however, is that there is equally as much green potential in using recycled building materials and adopting eco-friendly waste management practices. This guide is here to provide you with the information you'll need to incorporate recycling and green waste management into your home improvement plans.

Going Green with David Johnston
ServiceMagic understands that it can be tough for homeowners to wade through all the "green" remodeling information out there, which is why we've teamed up with green remodeling expert David Johnston to provide you with the best, most accurate, green remodeling advice in the business. Johnston is the founder of the green consulting firm What's Working, Inc., the author of multiple books on green remodeling (including the Nautilus Award winner Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time), and he's an expert on going green, especially when it comes to the old mantra: "reduce, reduce, recycle." Here's some cutting edge advice, drawn directly from the experience, wisdom, and writings of Johnston himself, to help guide you in reusing and recycling old building materials, reducing waste production, and embracing smarter waste disposal practices.

The (True) Costs of Going Green
First of all, let's talk finances. Budget is a big concern on any major remodeling project, and the prospect of spending more to go green can cause some homeowners to take pause. However, the truth of the matter is that by adopting a "reduce, reuse, and recycle" philosophy when it comes to building materials and construction waste, you can reduce project costs and make a positive environmental impact, no matter what type of home improvement you're facing.

In addition, Johnston stresses the fact that the true value of going green extends far beyond calculations involving dollars and cents. Going green when it comes to waste production and disposal means more efficient job sites, less material waste (which translates to lower costs for materials in the first place), and higher quality projects. Furthermore, going green allows you to sleep well at night knowing that you're doing your part in creating an environmentally responsible and sustainable world for future generations. When you put it that way, it's easy to see what Johnston is getting at when he notes that the real value of going green is worth every penny, and then some.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle the David Johnston Way
What exactly can you do to embrace the three Rs on your job site or home improvement project? According to Johnston: plenty. Whether you use reclaimed building materials, purchase products that contain recycled content, or make sure that you keep as much of your construction and deconstruction waste out of the landfill as possible, here's a list of things you can do to reduce, reuse, and recycle once your project gets underway.

  • Avoid Wasteful Building Products—Due to low costs, short lifespan, and limited potential for reuse or recycling, some of the most popular building materials on the market, such as carpet and asphalt shingle roofing, account for a surprisingly high percentage of construction waste sent to landfills each year. Avoid these materials if possible, and choose a longer lasting, greener alternative in their place.

  • Reuse Old Materials—Lumber, trim, and door and window casings can all be reused if they are removed carefully, especially in the case of major remodels or additions that require deconstruction prior to building things up again.

  • li>Recycle Construction Waste—As much as 85 percent of the construction and deconstruction waste sent to landfills every year is reusable in some form or another. If you can't find a use for something that you think has potential, find someone who can. Private parties are always an option, or you can hire companies who specialize in reclaiming, recycling, and re-selling used building materials. Some of these businesses will pay to take waste materials off your hands, while many others will give you a detailed receipt for what they haul away so you can write your donation off on next year's taxes.
  • Use Reclaimed Building Materials—If you can be flexible when it comes to home design, then there are a host of perfectly good, reclaimed building materials out there for the taking. You can purchase them from retailers who specialize in reclaiming and recycling old building materials, or look for private parties looking to clean out the garage. As an added bonus, using reclaimed materials is almost guaranteed to save you money.

  • Use Materials Manufactured with Recycled Content—The number of building materials you can purchase that contain recycled content includes (but isn't limited to) cellulose insulation made from recycled paper and cardboard, recycled content ceramic tiles, recycled content carpet, recycled content asphalt roofing, and recycled content plastic lumber for decks and porches. Choosing these materials helps to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, and reduces overall energy consumption since these products almost always require less energy to manufacture than "virgin" counterparts.

  • Adopt Low-Waste Building Techniques—One of the best ways to reduce the amount of waste you send to the local landfill is to produce less of it in the first place. Advanced framing techniques, building with structural insulated panels, and remodeling for efficient use of space, are all examples of green building techniques that can drastically cut down on the waste your project produces (as well as the materials you have to purchase).

  • Shop for Less Wasteful Products � Last, but not least, homeowners might want to consider that there's a lot of waste produced by your remodel, addition, or other home improvement project that you never lay eyes on. For example, the average lumber mill discards up to 50 percent of each tree used in creating standard studs for framing. By shopping for less wasteful alternatives (for example, engineered wood and oriented strand board utilize anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of the tree), you'll be helping to support a less wasteful industry, top to bottom.

Which Shade of Green is Right for You?
While thinking green when it comes to building materials and waste disposal is a smart choice for your pocketbook, your home, and the environment, it's not unusual for homeowners to feel a little overwhelmed when presented with the full scope of green remodeling options. If you're feeling unsure about how green you're willing to go with waste disposal and recycling, there's no need to worry. Going green is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and any step you take in a green direction is a smart one, whether you choose to reuse some old trim in your kitchen remodel, or go all the way by using reclaimed building materials and recycling as much of your construction and deconstruction waste as possible.

If you do think green is the right choice for you, be sure to talk with your contractor about adopting a green remodeling philosophy for your project, find a contractor who specializes in green building and remodeling, or seek out the services of a green consulting firm so that you can be sure your home improvement ends up being as green as it gets, including how you take out the trash.

David Johnston
We are proud to partner with David Johnston, internationally recognized green building expert, to provide our homeowners and service professionals with the information necessary to "green" their projects.
• To learn more about David Johnston, click here.
• To learn more about Green Certification training, click here.

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