Everyone is talking about buying “green” or practicing the mantra, “recycle, reuse, and reduce.” Different organizations all over the country started to put all these sayings into practice by creating salvage and surplus building supply centers. Typically, builders order fifteen percent more supplies for their jobs in case some glitch shows up in the building process. Instead of throwing away good lumber, excess flooring, or kitchen cabinets, a builder or homeowner can bring them to their local salvage center. Homeowner can even dispose of their older materials when remodeling. Remember someone’s trash is someone else’s treasurer.
I decided to visit Build It Green!, a salvage and surplus building supply center in Queens, New York (“BIG!”) Since I am always looking for reusable materials for my home, I thought this would be a good road trip. I met with Justin Green, the programming director to survey the salvage center. (It’s just coincidence that the center shares the same name as Justin) Justin told me that BIG! was formed when the Durst organization wanted to environmentally dispose of its excess building materials when they built One Bryant Park and its 125 West 31st Street condo development.
New York City disposes of approximately 13,500 tons per day of non-fill and demolition materials. BIG! has been in existence for two year and in that time period, this small 17,500 square foot facility with 2 full and 2 part-time employees and trusty mouse catching Jack Russell terrier have sold an estimated 400 tons of building material. As Justin stated, “It is equivalent to taking 150 automobiles off the road.” Pretty impressive.
At the facility, there were yards of doors, Prego flooring, sinks, Jacuzzis, and enough kitchen cabinets that could fill up a couple of kitchens. In addition, there was recessed lighting, lumber, plywood, MDF, and two stand-up piano needing homes. In addition, BIG! has the most beautiful ornate fireplace mantel with attached mirror for sale for $4000. It is obvious it is worth so much more. When I arrived even more kitchen cabinets were being delivered.
BIG!’s most impressive donation came from a family that bought a 2 family townhouse fully renovated. This family decided to turn the two- family townhouse into a one family home. So, they donated all of the duplicate building materials to BIG!, which included a magnificent German made stainless steel kitchen retailing for $70,000. It is sitting at BIG! still in its original wrapping. Built it Green sells their products at approximately fifty percent below retail. Their goal is to lessening your carbon footprint on the Earth by reusing something that has already been made. I love a bargain so this store is right up my alley.
I asked Justin what were his favorite materials that he received and he told me it was the lumber. He believes that reusing materials that have already been manufactured is the ultimate “green” since no additional resources have to be expended (such as cutting down trees) to create this material.
BIG!, like every not for profit, has its own wish list. They could use a truck instead of renting one, more full-time staff, and a larger facility so they can take more materials. If you can help in anyway whether to donate or buy, it is one more step towards conserving the Earth’s natural resources and reducing the impact on our landfills.
BIG! is just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country there are salvage and surplus building supply centers just like BIG! Each center is unique in its size and what it has to offer. Construction Junction, a 65,000 square foot center in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania offers a multitude of building materials and salvage items. Their website contains a catchy slogan, “You can reuse, we can help” reminding you of Home Depot’s saying with a recycling twist to it. They provide deconstruction services, offer an old window restoration seminar, and give free building materials away to not for profit organizations including women’s shelters and senior homes. In addition, they provide low income families discounts to buy their building materials.
Maine Housing and Building Material Exchange is located in Gray, Maine. Its founding mission was based on helping low income families and the environment. Eighteen years later, anyone can shop in one of their three stores but low income families receive discounts for building supplies. If you need building supplies, searching for that treasure you have always wanted, or just need a place to donate your unwanted building supplies or materials, contact your local salvage center. Either way, help do your part to “recycle, reuse, and reduce.” Remember, we only have one Earth.
For resources to find a salvage center near you:
Northeastern Recycling Council, Inc: Lots of good information on this website. Also, I noticed Re-do and this website had different information.
Building reuse This site contains both not for profit and for profit salvage centers in Canada and the United States.
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