Fundamentally Green – Reuse and Salvage

March 25, 2009

chicagoalley_1One of my fondest memories of living in Chicago was ‘shopping’ in the alleys.  My quickest walk to the train was down our 3 block alley: on one side were condo buildings and the on the other were single-family homes.  It worked this way – if  you didn’t want something anymore, you left it in the alley, NEXT to the garbage, sometimes with a note, and it was usually gone in a few hours.  Through the years I collected a great variety of treasures.  Among them: lamps, a desk, many many chairs, my now favorite cookbook.  My goal wasn’t to be green, but it really was an efficient (cheap!) and practical system.

Now I use  If you haven’t checked them out, give them a try – it is basically a local list-serve where members post items they want to give away or items they’d like to receive.  It works similarly to shopping in the Chicago alley, but is a bit more civilized.

 In construction, the act of restoring or remodeling a home is a form of reuse and salvage.  Preservation instead of demolition and new construction saves in energy and materials consumption and reduces demolition landfill.  There is a great opportunity in salvaging and reusing materials for remodeling and even new construction projects, if you are aware and know where to look.  I was at a friend’s home the other day who found an incredible farmer’s sink in the basement at an open house, asked about it, and got it for a steal. 

hardwareIn addition to the somewhat familiar architectural salvage companies, who generally offer antique architectural elements (light fixtures, mantels, doors, decorative windows, hardware) there are also deconstruction stores that offer even basic construction items (flooring, plumbing, cabinetry).  Both types of companies also offer an alternative to demolition and waste of unwanted but usable items, either by donation or in some cases buying the item.  See below for some local architectural salvage and deconstruction stores.  Many have searchable websites that make browsing easier.

Architectural Salvage:

Restoration Resources:  1946 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118     617.542.3033

Old House Parts:  1 Trackside Drive, Kennebunk, ME 04043     207.985.1999

Architectural Salvage Warehouse:  11 Maple St, Fiver Corners, Essex Junction, VT 05452     802.879.4221

Nor’east Architectural Antiques:  16 Exeter Road, South Hampton, NH 03827     603.394.0006

Vermont Salvage:  Gates Street, White River Junction, VT 05001     802.295.7616


ReStore:  250 Albany Street, Springfield, MA 01105     413.788.6900


4 Responses to “Fundamentally Green – Reuse and Salvage”

  1. David West Says:

    Nice post! Keep up the good work.

  2. Frances Sheker Says:

    I live in Illinois. My husband is retired and we have seen our retirement savings dwindle these past two years. Let me tell you, I did not expect to use thrift in our later years as we were thrifty enough to save for our “golden years.” We have now decided that we have no golden years — so I went back to work full-time in order to enjoy what I should have enjoyed during retirement. I have now decided “things” are no more important than they were when I was raising a family. I am now a conscious shopper — I do not buy on a whim. I am planning a garden this year; another thing I thought I could give up for a cruise or other lovely vacation. I have rediscovered the thrift shops and my local produce stores. And you know, it’s not too bad a life. I look around my house and find I can live with lots less than we have. In fact, the idea of having less frees us from worrying about “stuff,” and buying “stuff,” and keeping “stuff” updated, and fixing “stuff.” I don’t know who said this, “Less is more” But it points to every part of our lives. Ask yourselves, do we need so much “stuff”‘?

  3. greenbridge Says:

    Thank you Frances for your comments – I just came across an interesting item on retirement that you might find relevant to your transitions and thoughts on retirement:
    Best of luck with your new job and overall reductions!

  4. Salvage goes back millenia, with the Romans using materials from Egyptian temples. Deconstruction is now a thriving industry with national conferences, research and development, and specialized tools. The right company can actually do deconstruction as cheaply as conventional demolition and save up to 50 percent of a building for reuse! With the economy making thriftiness a more common value, reuse and salvage stands to become even more popular than it is. Most cities now have used building material supply stores. Support these folks! Its often a labor of love, but it is creating jobs from what has been seen as trash for the last 50 years or so. in Florida is a great source of info and The RE Store in Washington State has case studies that show the viability of deconstruction on their website as well:

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