Monday, December 11, 2006


I realized that this was going to be a different kind of project when my neighbor asked me if I was going to have a debris box in front of the house. He wanted to take advantage of it for some disposal of his own. I didn't know the answer but said I would ask Cemil, my contractor.

And that's when I realized that this was a "green" project and that didn't involve a debris box. Of course, it makes sense when you think about it. How can you feel good about creating a sustainable and healthy environment when you are adding to a community's landfill. "Think different" in green means to recognize that out of sight is not out of mind. To be eco-aware means to think about everything that happens to the environment even when it isn't in your backyard.

Unfortunately it takes some ingenuity to recycle with today's resources. Less difficult now than a decade ago, but not what we need in order to assist sustainable practices. We need to build a greater infrastructure and channel to recycle unused items. I hesitate to use the word trash, because in the renovation person's trash is another person's find. As my Texas friend likes to label her finds, treasures.

Luckily Cemil is quite practiced at responsible disposal. He takes care in removing materials so that they can be used again. And we are also lucky to have the resources from being co-located to land of early adopters, Marin. For example, there is a very sophisticated recycling program, Marin Resource Recovery Center and from the sounds of it seems to be an efficient system of machines and manpower to divide and categorize any waste material immediately. As Cemil describes it to me, I envision a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

But after the baseboards, drywall, flooring were all removed to the resource center, we still had to dispose of the oven, refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, lavs, and lights. All worked, but they just weren't up to the standards and aesthetics of the new design. Cemil suggested Craig's List I knew of its charm as I've posted there for employment opportunities and occasionally would check it out for specific pieces of mid-century modern furniture. A friend of mine who owns a fabulous home store in San Francisco, Ma Maison, swears by it as a virtual flea market for pieces that she uses in her store for display purposes.

I just never thought that used kitchen cabinets would be something that dozens of people would be searching for on a Monday. Sure enough, they are..... apparently. Cemil reported back that within 1 hour of posting the cabinets, he got 30 e-mails. And his first phone call was to an older woman who lives within 20 miles and she helps non-profits in her retirement, it seems. So I feel good that these cabinets will go to a some worthwhile endeavor and will have a fitting second life, so to speak.

I was aware of how to recycle computer parts and old electronics. Since that was the theme of the day, I dropped off some inoperable laptops and printers that I'd been storing in the garage on my way to see the job site. Again, I used a Marin location, Marin Computer Resource Center, that takes any electronics that you can carry in and they break them down for parts in a kind of Mad Max way and fix up systems for non profits and the like. ( In San Francisco, check out

I'm now fully initiated into this new informal channel of "re-users" and I might even be tempted to become one myself. Terri, the treasure hunter, would be delighted. Of course technology has made it possible for treasure hunters and "distributors" to be put together in a wider area. Of course, it needs to be easier. I'm advantaged by my sustainable sherpa that I have in Cemil. Without him, I would have been at some considerable loss as to where to go. But imagine, if you will, a future where distribution points are clearly available in the most convenient locations: parking lots of large retail giants, for example. And knowing that the products will be reclaimed and reused by such organizations as Habitat for Humanity, big users of gently used cast-offs from home renovations.

Another northern California resource is here

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