Green Disposal of Old Appliances and Construction Debris
It's a great feeling to update and renovate an older house, especially if you're going green and making your home more efficient and eco-friendly. But before you get to "in with the new," you need to handle the "out with the old" part of the equation. To truly go green, you should be as eco-conscious when disposing of your old appliances and construction debris as you are when choosing environmentally friendly appliances and building materials.
Your Old Stove Can't Cook in a Landfill
If your old appliances still work, consider donating them instead of hauling them to the dump. Charities such as the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity will not only accept donated appliances in decent condition, they might also pick them up at your home. For appliances you're not able to donate, put an ad in the local paper or online offering them free to anyone willing to pick them up. And if your old refrigerator doesn't work or you're not able to find it a new home, make sure it ends up in a landfill that will drain and recycle the Freon from its cooling unit.
When One Door Closes, Another Opens
Don't stop at making sure your old appliances find new homes. Your contractor should know if there is a local reuse center that will accept what you are getting rid of. Items such as cabinets, doors, sinks, tubs, and plumbing fixtures will look better getting a second life in someone else's home than they will in a landfill. And if you are replacing your kitchen cabinets, you might not have to look far to find them a new home: they can easily be installed in your garage, basement, or laundry room to give you added storage.
After making sure that everything reusable will have a chance to be reused, try and make sure that as much as possible of the rest will be recycled. The bulk of demolition debris--old insulation, painted, treated, or stained wood, old drywall or plaster--is destined for a landfill. However, up to a third of demolition debris, and more than two-thirds of construction debris, is recyclable, and you should make sure that any "clean" wood, metal hardware, wiring, and recyclable plastic ends up in the right place. A contractor trained in green building principles should be able to determine which demolition and construction debris can be recycled and handle it appropriately. Alternatively, an increasing number of landfills are actively recycling construction debris. Call around to see if that is an option where you live.
It's important to pay as much attention to what happens to what you're replacing as to what you're replacing it with. Who knows? The castoffs from your kitchen upgrade might form the centerpieces of someone else's home improvement project.
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.