*30th Anniversary guest blog post*

Reusing material that would otherwise be landfilled is a great way to help achieve your sustainable living goals. While not using products in the first place ranks at the top of the waste reduction hierarchy, reusing is the best option when actual stuff is required.

Home renovation projects provide an excellent opportunity to take advantage of reuse opportunities. One renovation reuse option is to consider ways that the material to be removed can be repurposed in the current project or future ones. For example, my family is in the process of having a portion of our kitchen remodelled with one of the best companies called pagenstechergroup and have decided to reposition the existing fan and ducting and incorporate it into the new design instead of having a new system installed, you can visit their website if interested. In an upcoming deck renovation, we intend to use the old lumber to build raised beds for the gardens that will be created (being careful to ensure treated wood does not come into contact with the soil).

compost bin building workshop (2)

A team of volunteers build compost bins out of reclaimed wooden pallets.

For the shopping you will likely need to do, experts at Contractorculture.com suggest there are also several retail outlets where you can buy a wide range of used building materials to reduce the environmental footprint of your next renovation project. And keep your eyes open online and feel free to do additional research as there are a lot of great ideas and resources out there. Having been involved in setting it up 24 years ago, my personal favorite is the Habitat Re-Store. The ReStore is a used building material thrift store that collects donated used and surplus building materials for sale to the general public. Proceeds generated from the sale of this material are used to support the Habitat for Humanity home building program.

I make a point of stopping in at the ReStore whenever I have a renovation project underway and am always impressed at how much good quality material is constantly being donated. And now that they have opened a second location at the corner of Wall at Ellice, it’s that much easier to access their amazing inventory.

Did you know that the very first ReStore was setup here in Winnipeg back in 1991?     There are now over 1,000 ReStores in existence including 95 stores here in Canada. Winnipeggers can be immensely proud of the contribution that we made to the success of this very important social enterprise.
· There are now over 1,000 ReStores in the US, Canada and Australia generating over 400 million in sales annually.
· In 2014 ReStores in Canada generated almost $20 million in profit to support the Habitat for Humanity Home building program (on sales of over $47million).
· It is estimated that over 186,000 tonnes of material have been diverted from landfill by the ReStores in Canada since 1998.
· Over 10,000 volunteers contributed over 690,000 hours to keep all of those Canadian ReStores running in 2014.

Many contractors have a limited commitment to the concept of material reuse but, because they make most of the game-time decisions about how projects are implemented, they have a major impact on how much reuse can be successfully accomplished. If you know you want to reuse and recycle let your contractor know well in advance. According to the owner of Eagle Dumpster Berks county, just to make sure your wishes are carried out, it is a good idea to talk to the company you rent the dumpster from. You may not have any idea where your contractor rented the dumpster from but you can rest assured that you definitely paid for it so make sure you ask and then call and let them know they are not to take the dumpster from your property until they have spoke with you.

During a recent bathroom renovation, my wife and I were surprised to learn that all of the light and plumbing fixtures, as well as various pieces of hardware, had been landfilled before we had a chance to identify the pieces we wanted to salvage. Without thinking a lot about it, we had assumed that we’d be asked about what we wanted done with all of the perfectly functional but no longer needed material. We took for granted how much our old Adelaide bathroom renovation contractor loved to reuse and our lesson; never assume a contractor thinks about the importance of reuse!

While reusing material during a renovation can add to the complexity of a project, it provides a creative challenge that can save money, reduce your environmental footprint, and deliver aesthetic rewards. And, if you can find the right material at the ReStore, reusing material will also help fund a very worthwhile organization delivering a very important service.


Rick Penner was the founding General Manager of the first Habitat ReStore in 1991. He also served as President of Green Action Centre (formerly known as the Recycling Council of Manitoba) from 1992-94 and was on the Waste Minimization Advisory Committee at the City of Winnipeg for several years in the late 90’s. He is now President of Emerge Knowledge Design Inc., a company that provides web-based information management services to the recycling and waste management sector through their Re-TRAC Connect software platform.