Archive for September, 2013

Finding the Love of a New (Salvaged) Toilet – A Volunteer’s Story

Lately, I may have been judging my toilet too harshly. At this point, we’re barely even speaking.  But I’m upside-down in my bathroom once again, and it’s literally staring me in the face. My bathroom’s too small; I can’t escape it. I’m trying to not think about it, but there it is again:

My toilet is a ticking time bomb. That thing has got to go.

I finish blow-drying my hair upside-down and set myself right-side up again. Once I’ve broken eye contact, if I’m really honest about it, I’ll admit it: My old toilet’s probably … perfectly fine. It’s adequate for its purposes; everything works, and, although I have no real way to know for sure, it likely does the job just as well as any other average toilet. In fact, it’s probably a little better than average. My bathroom’s done in yellow tile with one thin, pale blue stripe of tile running around the room at about shoulder height. And there, running around the top of the toilet tank, is an almost perfectly matching, thin, pale blue stripe. I mean, whoever installed the toilet went out of their way to make sure it matched. Nice! I’m someone who appreciates attention to detail, but if it were me, I’m not sure I would have gone to the trouble. If I were a little more generous some mornings, I’d at least give my toilet extra points for style.

But then, as I was volunteering down at The RE Store the other day, I saw it: my dream toilet. And unlike the last time I saw it glittering under the hot lights of a showroom floor, it’s at a price I’d actually be willing to pay for something I spend so little time with. And as an added bonus, it’s salvaged, which is one of my favorite things. Unfortunately, the very fact of its existence has begun to make me uncharacteristically discontent. As a result, every time I’m alone in the bathroom, looking at that thin, pale blue stripe through a curtain of damp hair as I move the blow-dryer around, I’m just a little … unaccountably … suspicious.

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The object of Christine’s affection – American Standard Hatbox Toilet at The RE Store: $100.

 

Let me be perfectly clear: I’m not one of those people who buys things for no good reason. Every time I read a magazine article that tells you to replace your fill-in-the-blank with an environmentally sustainable fill-in-the-blank, I automatically edit the sentence in my head to say, “When your fill-in-the-blank is no longer even vaguely useful, not even as a planter (or a coat rack, door prop, garden ornament, etc.), consider replacing it with an environmentally sustainable fill-in-the-blank.”

But then, every morning it’s the same thing: I’m upside-down in my bathroom, blow-drying my hair, and I start to notice things about my toilet that no one should ever be close enough to their toilet to notice. There’s a faint stain on one of the bolts holding it to the floor that just might be the beginning of rust. Is that rivulet of moisture running down the side of it the beginning of a leak, or is that just general moisture from the shower? Is that a hairline fracture starting along the base? I squint at it, swirling my hair out of the way with the blow dryer. Uh, no. It’s just a … well, never mind.

The point is, I’m trying to not let some fancy toilet sway me from my staunch conviction to not consume needlessly. But some mornings, based on whatever imaginary flaw I’m sure I’ve just spotted on my perfectly innocent toilet, I’m filled with less conviction than others. I’m kind of hoping someone will restore my relationship with my tried-and-true by snatching up my dream toilet at The RE Store, so the next time I’m upside-down in my bathroom, my toilet and I will be on speaking terms again.

Come see what might become your object of affection at the stores this week!  Special thanks to Christine Clifton-Thornton for authoring this article.

Posted in: Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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Gary Richardson, Retired Woodshop Teacher – Natural Re-purposer

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Gary Richardson, a twice-retired woodshop teacher, rebuilt an old fire hall using almost all recycled materials. In fact, he says, “You can start with the building itself! It was abandoned, and we repurposed it to begin with.”

Gary’s enthusiasm for his hobby is so engaging that I drove one afternoon from Seattle to a charming little wayside dominated by a classic white church east of Bellingham to see his fire hall in person. The front of the old fire hall, on Mount Baker Highway, houses a Subway sandwich shop, and the back of the hall houses a recycler’s dream woodshop.

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Gary’s thoughtful use of recycled materials is truly astonishing. If he hadn’t told me that some of the materials in his shop were pre-used, I never would have guessed it. Some people have a gift for using recycled or repurposed materials in a way that allows their original form to shine through; others have a gift for seeing something brand new in the old. Gary has done both. There are several woodworking tool displays in Gary’s shop that look custom made—and, of course, they are: custom made by Gary himself, out of repurposed materials. The flooring was taken from GarfieldHigh School in Seattle, and some of the cabinets are from the University of Washington. Those, among myriad other items in the shop, all came to Gary by way of The RE Store, while most of the woodworking equipment was purchased at public auctions and rebuilt for a new life in his shop.

“My intended purpose for the shop is to help young people start new businesses,” says Gary. Recently, he finished some cabinetry and a new coffee bar for the Wake-n-Bakery in Glacier, Washington. “The project was built from materials found at The RE Store in Bellingham. The cost to the owners was only for the hinges and drawer slides, which were purchased new!”

He’s always looking for ways to repurpose. “Shop teachers are naturally re-purposers,” he told me with more than a little pride. “And we teach that to our students.”

He has a long history in the Bellingham area. “As a child growing up poor in the Happy Valley neighborhood of South Bellingham, to re-purpose and re-use other people’s ‘throw-aways’ was a way of life,” he says. “My favorite class was woodshop, taught by Mr. Calhoun at Fairhaven Junior High. He taught me to use woodworking tools and build small projects. I guess I never stopped building!”

Gary and his shop

Gary and his wife, Janet, just celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. With the help of friends, they built their first home in Bellevue in the 1970s, and they still reside in the same home today. A testament to his lifelong pursuit, it too, was built with many re-purposed materials.  Gary agreed to do this article with the hopes of inspiring others to be creative and use other peoples ‘throw-aways’ in new ways.  In other words, he is still a teacher!

If Gary has inspired you to make something of your own – check out our DIY tips on our REvision Division page of our website!

Special thanks to Christine Clifton-Thornton for authoring this article.

Posted in: Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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