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We all know it: Renovations produce a lot of waste. (They contribute to the upwards of 500 million tons of construction and demolition debris generated annually in the United States.) But you can beef up your bungalow or re-imagine your Denver Square while making wise decisions that limit your contribution to the landfill. So says the Good Future Design Alliance (GFDA), a nationwide network of design and building professionals and manufacturers (with a robust Colorado chapter) who are committed to reducing their waste by 50 percent over five years. Founded by California-based designer Katie Storey in January 2020, the group gives its members tools, training, and benchmarks to achieve their low-waste goals. Here, Storey shares her best tips for home renovators seeking to go easy on Mother Earth while sprucing up their digs.
Start the conversation early.
“Right from the start, set the priority of doing a low-waste project so it’s at the top of everyone’s mind,” Storey says, whether you’re just teaming up with your spouse for a DIY project or working with a full design-build team. Better still, you can hire a GFDA designer (visit thegfda.com for a list of members) Ask yourself: Does everything really have to go? Before you take a sledgehammer to the whole house, consider whether you can salvage a few elements. Maybe the kitchen cabinets just need a new finish, or the millwork and trim can be saved and reused. Even the bathtub might be lovely after you update other bathroom fixtures.
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Ask yourself: Does everything really have to go?
Before you take a sledgehammer to the whole house, consider whether you can salvage a few elements. Maybe the kitchen cabinets just need a new finish, or the millwork and trim can be saved and reused. Even the bathtub might be lovely after you update other bathroom fixtures.
Deconstruct and redistribute.
The GFDA provides each member with a city-specific directory of companies that help keep everything from building materials to furniture out of landfills. “It’s more than just the Goodwill,” Storey says. “It’s community groups, PTAs, local nonprofits who are taking donations for the good of the community.” Moral of the story: Your junk is someone else’s treasure—and you can support the work of local do-gooders by calling around to see who might be able to give new life to materials or fixtures you no longer want.
Vet your sources.
No surprise: Building products vary widely in terms of their impact on the planet (and on your health at home). To find eco-friendly materials, Storey recommends searching for products with a label from Declare, a platform that reveals where a product comes from, what it’s made of, and where it goes at the end of its useful life. She also suggests seeking out companies that have received specific certifications. Certified B Corporations, for example, must prove they make business decisions with a commitment to clients, community, and environment, while Forest Stewardship Council certification ensures that wood and paper products are harvested in responsible ways.
Furnish with items from the past.
Storey extols the quality of furnishings made prior to “this era of quick furniture” and suggests finding vintage and antique pieces instead. To get started, try Chairish—an online marketplace for one-of-a-kind vintage, antique, and contemporary pieces—and set your filter to buy within 50 miles of home. You’ll save the carbon “cost” of shipping a piece across the country and find a new-to-you gem.
What Do I Do With My Old…
Paint: National nonprofit PaintCare recycles unwanted paint and operates a Colorado chapter. Visit paintcare.org to find a drop-off site near you.
Mattress: Spring Back Colorado deconstructs mattresses and box springs and then reuses or recycles the parts. Schedule a pickup or locate a donation site at springbackco.org.
Batteries, lightbulbs, plastic, Styrofoam, and more: For a small fee, local company the Happy Beetle picks up your hard-to-recycle stuff monthly or quarterly—as does national outfit Ridwell, which also operates in the Denver metro area. (Happy Beetle serves Boulder and Louisville as well.) Learn more at thehappybeetle.com and ridwell.com.