Dear Lazy Environmentalist,

Where can I find high-quality, affordable, recycled building elements?

Reusing is a core Lazy Environmentalist tenet — as long as it’s easy and convenient to do. And when it comes to home renovation, the easiest places to turn for high-quality, affordable, recycled building elements are the retailers that specialize in these salvaged materials.

The Building Material Reuse Association maintains an extensive online directory of salvage retailers throughout the United States. A quick search reveals providers in every state who offer everything from walnut flooring to granite countertops. Remember, just because a material is reused doesn’t mean it will necessarily look reused. And installing reused materials in your home means you are respecting your wallet while extending the useful life of quality products (and keeping them out of landfills).

Necessity is the mother of invention

The Green Project, a nonprofit organization based in New Orleans, La., shifted its salvaging operations into high gear after Hurricane Katrina inflicted unprecedented damage on the city. In many neighborhoods where abandoned houses have been condemned, the Green Project sends trained deconstruction teams to recover as much reusable building material as possible before the houses are wrecked. As much as 70 percent of buildings are recovered. The high-quality materials are sold back to community members, usually at drastically discounted prices through the company’s local warehouse store to aid in the city’s reconstruction.

Like MetroPaint in Portland, Ore., The Green Project also recycles and reprocesses leftover paint and makes it available to residents for $5 a gallon. Other major salvage warehouse retailers like Second Use in Seattle, Wash., divert as much as 60 to 100 tons of quality reusable building materials from the landfill each month. You’ll find items such as appliances, cabinets, sinks, countertops, doors, flooring, lighting fixtures, lumber, tiles, plumbing fixtures, windows and more — all at reasonable prices. Driftwood Salvage, based in East Palo-Alto, Calif., not only sells salvaged materials, but also uses reused materials to create its own line of affordable reclaimed products. Reclaimed wood butcher block countertops sell for about $20 per square foot. Finely crafted garden trellises are available for $179.99, and a sturdy reclaimed wood compost box sells for $199.99. 

Don't forget Habitat's ReStores

Habitat for Humanity also maintains a chain of salvaged material retail warehouses throughout the United States and Canada called ReStores. Retailers such as Home Depot often donate surplus materials to ReStores in exchange for tax deductions, as do local contractors with excess materials from job sites. Proceeds from sales support Habitat’s mission to build low-income affordable housing. As such, ReStores deliver value to you, the environment and community members who are most in need — a triple Lazy Environmentalist win!

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Excerpted from Josh Dorfman's latest book, The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget.

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Where can I find high-quality, affordable, recycled building elements?
Beautiful recycled materials such as countertops, flooring and paint help your wallet and the planet.