Renovation 101: Building a Green Future One Project at a Time

By Rosa Colucci


June 3, 2024

Believe it or not, humans extract more than 100 billion tons of raw material of the planet in a single year. Of that, over 75 percent is currently not being repurposed or recycled — nearly one-quarter of the national waste stream, according to the US Bureau of Transportation.

Transparency Market Research predicts that annual construction waste will reach 2.2 billion tons globally by 2025. It includes concrete, asphalt, wood, metal, bricks and tiles, which by the way are much harder to recycle. 

There are many ways you can prevent contributing to this global problem. Reusing materials in other projects, using companies that do salvage work for large scale remodels, donating unused and purchasing construction materials from local adaptive reuse centers, and purchasing products that are made with recycled materials. 

While this all seems like a lot, don’t forget that the trash is expensive. Every contractor builds in the cost of disposing materials into your bid. In addition, many local trash companies will not haul materials away without an advance order and separate fee.

Let’s look at some projects where you can make an impact: 


- Decks and fencing: This category is jam-packed with eco-friendly recycled materials that are winners for the environment and the homeowner. First up in the luxury decking market is TimberTech. Sustainable, low-maintenance with the appearance of Brazilian wood, it’s made from 60 percent recycled PVC from the U.S. and is fully recyclable at the end of its life. But you won’t have to worry about that, it comes with a 50-year limited fade and stain warranty.

Another player in the market is the well-known Trex Brand. Created by 95 percent recycled material including recycled sawdust and plastic film. It’s been around for 30 years so it is time tested. It has a lower price point and will be more accessible to the average homeowner. 

- Bricks, tile, and stone: When your project calls for these items, it is worth checking out online marketplaces (such as Facebook) to see if any is for sale. You could also put a post of what you are looking for. They are costly to dispose of and hard to recycle by traditional methods. Homeowners are very willing to even give them away for free just to avoid the disposal costs. Oftentimes, you can purchase the remainder of what you need to serve your project. 


- Kitchens: At any given time, you can find an entire kitchen for sale on Marketplace. Sometimes it even has the stone. I once bought a perfectly good kitchen for a rental unit — (including the granite) from a homeowner. I had a great contractor who painted the cabinets and brought in a fabricator to miter the corner. You can also find very good cabinets taken from larger projects and have enough pieces to do your smaller kitchen or use the bases in the garage after you paint them a fun color.

- Lighting and Bath fixtures: You would be amazed at how many people purchase these items, install them, and really dislike them after they can’t be returned. Homeowners also change design styles (Farmhouse anyone?) and will sell perfectly good items for pennies on the dollar.

-Furniture: It goes without saying, there is a ton of it to buy. Lots of crafty people are also painting really solid vintage pieces and will do a color of your choice.

You won’t always be able to seek out adaptive reuse, as a designer, I know that you do have to buy new quite often, but when you do, take the time to make your items available to others. You can save money and make the planet a little greener place with your efforts. And that is priceless.


Rosa Colucci is a regular contributor for The Green Voice and can be reached at