Archive for Why blog about The RE Store?

How The RE Store Was Created 1991-1994

Storefront compilation 1999-2013 The Bellingham RE Store opened its doors in 1993 at the corner of Kellogg and Meridian, and the Seattle location opened in 1999. Jack Weiss, a council member for the city of Bellingham, recently recalled how The RE Store was created. When Jack was working as the Whatcom County Waste Reduction and Recycling Coordinator in the early 1990s, he hired Jeff Brown as a consultant to write the County Solid Waste Management Plan. Jeff Brown was then the executive director of the non-profit Environmental Resource Services (ERS), which later became RE Sources, the parent organization of The RE Store. According to Jack, Jeff was integral in his role as the brainchild of many of ERS’s early endeavors. The same could be said about Carol Rondello, who was Jeff’s go-to for both ideas and implementation. There were a number of others back then who also deserve credit in the evolution of what eventually became The RE Store, but Jeff and Carol carried most of the water. At that time, Jeff’s plan had the weight that state growth management plans do today. A few chapters of that plan provided the framework to counter the business-as-usual approach by the waste management industry. The plan was a couple of years in the making and was finally approved in 1994. The plan went on to become a template for other counties in the state. Jack marveled that he’d “never seen any plan on any subject that was as comprehensive and forward-looking as that one.” Back in 1991, Jeff brought the idea of a reusable material exchange operation to Jack after having seen the initial success of Urban Ore in Berkeley and Hippo Hardware in Portland. During the next 18 months, the two spent quite a bit of time fleshing out the idea to the point of searching the county and city for storefront sites for a county-run operation. The idea in its purest form was to accept materials from the public or contractors prior to disposal but also to scavenge the tip floor at the two incinerators and pull out reusable items. Jack hired ERS to do a survey of what was possible on the tip floor, because the true intent of this type of operation was waste diversion, and ERS knew their stuff. Jack decided to take $30,000 out of a grant award he’d received and apply it toward seed money for a material exchange through a Request For Proposal (RFP) process. They received two responses to the RFP: one from ERS and another from County Construction Recyclers (CCR—a demolition landfill off of Hemmi Road in Bellingham, which is now closed). CCR had a good proposal, but Jack chose ERS because of their philosophical understanding of the RFP purpose. The focus was on waste diversion rather than money. Carl Weimer, now a Whatcom County council member, had at the time become the next director of ERS. After Jack signed off on the contract, Carl secured the site on Meridian where The RE Store now stands and hired Bruce Odom as manager. Ultimately, the launch of The RE Store was the result of many hands. “The one regret I have about The RE Store,” says Jack, “is that it never did fully explore waste diversion opportunities on tip floors of all types of waste, but it did establish a great salvaging operation for building materials.” As we celebrated 20 years this month, we remember Jeff Brown, Jack Weiss, Carol Rondello, Carl Weimer, Bruce Odum and everyone else who made the creation of The RE Store possible.

Posted in: Green business, Reference and resources, Stories about people, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Meet the Fleet – Trucks, Trailers and Moving Stuff Around

Truck collageWe like to move stuff around just as much as any American. The thing that The RE Store does differently is that each load that we carry on our trucks save precious building materials from the brink of doom by way of landfill or incinerator. It is a lot of work and we love it. Our crews drive over 100,000 miles each year if you combine all six of our trucks that roam throughout Western Washington and occasionally East of the mountains.

We have our weekly “truck love” maintenance schedule that insures our trusty steeds stay watered, fed and in as good a condition as we can keep them. Neither of the Seattle trucks have a lift gate. We use ramps or brute strength to get everything on and off and on and off and on and off every day. The trucks have hauled materials from job sites that include homes, businesses and storage facilities. We carry amazing reuse displays to trade shows or haul our Recycled Art Station to community events. The trucks have even hauled tons of trash picked up from our beach clean-up projects as a part of the annual Recycled Arts Show. We utilize biodiesel in our diesel trucks and work to minimize storm water run off from our job sites.

As is true to our car culture, The RE Store’s fleet of trucks all have their own personalities:

Lily the truckLily is a 2000 Ford F250 Crew Cab pickup with over 133,000 miles.
She is lily-white and is the truck that up to six of our Bellingham crew travels in. Lilly witnesses the most progressive conversations and brainstorms, due to her community-building roomy interior. She also carries lots of tools, but not a huge amount of materials. She loves to pull trailers and heave large timbers on her beefy rack. We wonder if she is a pig at heart, as she gets stuck in the mud all too often with her out-of-commission four wheel drive. Lilly has has spent a lot of time on overnight projects out in the San Juan Islands. Bellingham crew member, Charlie Myers, slept in Lilly’s back seat on a Lopez Island job site for four nights. His tent had collapsed under a downpour, so he made due in Lily.

Herman is a 2006 GMC-Isuzu 12-foot box van with over 137,000 miles.
Herman is the heavy lifter with a lift gate, allowing one crew member to do a lot of work and keep stuff dry. Herman is our workhorse and is the newest member of our fleet. He was an exciting replacement, 2 years ago, for our old open bed pickup, Graywolf. He is named after Mt. Herman that located close to Mt. Baker (big and white). Some of our staff wonder if Herman has a crush on Lily.

Blue truckBlue is a 1997 Chevy 3500 with a 12-foot flatbed, the oldest and most tired of our hard-working Bellingham fleet with a whopping 187,000 miles as of October 2012.
Blue has hauled millions of pounds (seriously) of lumber and large items back from thousands of job sites over the years. You name it, Blue has carried it. We have rebuilt the gates twice that close in the sides out of bleacher boards and rebuilt the bed once, out of salvaged 2×6 tongue and groove decking, all on our own. When Blue’s rear steel gates went missing, former crew member Gabe Gonzalez welded up new ones for us.

Possum, the truckPossum is a white, 2001 Isuzu flatbed with over 120,000 miles on the odometer.
We have had Possum for close to a decade. He was named Possum because a possum was living in the Seattle store that evaded capture for weeks. This trusty steed has hauled from more than 2000 job sites. Every brick load over the last seven years came back to the Seattle store on Possum’s strong back. Possums gates are made out of our bleacher board and the deck currently needs replacement, like Blue received.

Fuso, the truckFuso is a white 1994 Mitsubishi flatbed that we put a dump bed on with 175,000 miles.
Fuso has been the main green demolition / deconstruction truck thanks to the dump bed that we installed after buying it in 2007. 15 or more houses have been deconstructed and hauled back to the store in Fuso. This is our only Seattle truck with a working radio, and it rarely is changed from KEXP or KUOW radio stations. Fuso’s side gates are also built out of our favorite wide-plank lumber material, bleacher boards. These bleacher boards sport a patina that could only be created by decades of wiggling and giggling adololescents during their school assemblies and sports events.

Clutch, the truckClutch is a white 1989 Nissan pickup that was donated to our organization in 2002 with over 160,000 miles now.
Clutch is the scout for our Seattle field services and sees the most mileage of all of our trucks. This old friend previews between 1200 and 1500 jobs. Clutch doesn’t have a working radio, so Clutch hears a lot of Joel, our Seattle field manager, talking to himself. Clutch proudly wears the rack that lived formerly on our previous preview rig, Scout.
Before serving The RE Store, Clutch was used by our parent non-profit, RE Sources, for hauling recycling education materials to hundreds of Whatcom County school classrooms.

Visit our Field Services pages to get a free bid from our Pick-upSalvage Strip-Out, and Green Demolition “Deconstruction” Services

Check out this great examples of alternative transportation in the construction industry with local remodelers, A-1 Builders, in Bellingham, commuting to a major remodel job site via bicycle. Read the article on page 16 of American Bicyclist.

Posted in: Green business, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Fire Fighter Forcible Entry Training With Reclaimed Doors

Fire fighter forcible entry training photoThe Bellingham Fire Department was established in 1904. Their well-seasoned department supports fire fighter training for many of the districts in Whatcom County Washington. Annual “Forcible Entry Training” uses props to simulate locked buildings that the crews must break into, in case a fire requires rescue access to the inside of a building.

The Bellingham Fire Department uses salvaged materials from The RE Store and Overhead Door Company to help reduce costs in their training exercises. It also makes good sense to utilize already used doors that will be destroyed anyways in the training exercises. Watch these brave and highly regarded men and women in the following video as they keep themselves fit and ready for the next emergency.

If your community group or business needs materials, The RE Store welcomes your requests for building materials, gift certificates for fundraising events and other in-kind support.

Posted in: Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Video posts, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Notes from the Field Crew – Aerialist and Tetris-style Salvage Techniques

Greetings and salutations from all of us here on the Seattle field crew. Like you, we have also noticed that glowing, round object in the sky, which must mean that it’s Spring. This time of year brings more Salvage Service jobs and more hours spent crammed in the cab of The RE Store trucks. From the islands to the highlands, and places beyond, we cover a lot of ground to recover all sorts of materials around Puget Sound.

Just last week, we found ourselves in scenic Fall City for an aerial entertainment center removal, in Carnation for a pre-demolition house salvage, and ending with a pick up in Duvall.

Seattle field crew lead, James Taylor up on the ladder with the entertainment center

Good things really do come from high places – when they are pulled from second story windows and shimmied down ladders (safely, of course). What am I talking about? Why, removing a three piece, built-in, cherry entertainment center from the second floor of a house. The only practical way to remove this oversized item was through the master bedroom window.  We never said that salvaging reusable materials was easy. Believe it or not, the process went very quickly. Thank you gravity!

After our aerialist act with ladders, heavy cabinetry, and physics, we headed over to Carnation for a more conventional salvage operation at a King County-owned property. This particular home was being razed to restore the adjacent river. Our licensed and bonded salvage crews regularly collaborate on green projects with both the city of Seattle and King County. These ongoing efforts reduce government waste disposal costs and provide a steady stream of reusable materials for shoppers in our two stores in Ballard and Bellingham.

the truck loaded, tetris-style

Before the County’s demolition work began, we were allowed to salvage out a truck load of reusable materials, including: vinyl windows, kitchen cabinets, an electric fireplace insert, and other finish materials. Loading the truck is often the most difficult part of any salvage job. It can be like a combination of Tetris, Jenga, and Twister. However, the pieces are really heavy, have glass in them, and if they fall over, you lose much more than just the game.

Rest assured, dear reader, that we did load everything safely and securely. We even piled on more at a quick Pick Up Service job in Duvall. The final tying-down used our last rope. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, perhaps it’s that things worth doing are often not easy, whether it’s salvaging reusable materials, saving you money on building supplies, or playing a game of Jenga.

Notes and photos by Ryan DeSales, Seattle Field Crew member

Posted in: Notes From the Field, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Why blog about The RE Store?

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The RE Store and Alcoa – supporting construction waste reduction and creative reuse

The RE Store has a long history of bootstrapping its own projects and innovations. We have had very few grants over the years. The few we have been awarded were focused on research and development of creative ways to reclaim more materials from the flood stage waste stream that we are drowning in. We already save the equivalent of 5 fully loaded Boeing 747’s per year (over 4,500,000 pounds) and are constantly pushing for more.

Eberhard with hollow core door demonstration

Eberhard discusses techniques of turning a hollow core door into furniture with Alcoa Foundation members

Our REvision Division program was started in 2012 with our own precious capital in this challenging economy. Now the Alcoa Foundation has seen fit to support our efforts. The injection of these funds will be used to further improve our education and sharing of ideas that will reduce waste, save you money, and hopefully even help you feel good about growing your do-it-yourself attitude, if you aren’t already a DIY rock star.

Watch this short video with Kurt Gisclair, Director of The RE Store, talking about the 3 main goals of the REvision Division. Josh Wilund, Public Affairs Manager for Alcoa, then goes on to talk about how The RE Store is setting benchmarks for other organizations like Alcoa with reuse, salvage, green demolition aka deconstruction, and more. Josh disclosed that he is a regular shopper and donates materials to The RE Store. When Josh and the Alcoa Foundation team looked deeper into the statistics and metrics of our programs and our proposal to move the ball down the field, that they saw how much of an example The RE Store is setting.  The non-profit organization is doing salvage, resale, job training and education and more. The Bellingham and Seattle-based org is continuing to reach out in 2012 with an all-new The RE Store Certified program, the 11th annual Recycled Arts Show, and much more.

Posted in: Green business, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Video posts, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Video – Do it yourself cabinet decoration with scrap trim

In this Quick Tip from our past furniture design/build rockstar, Eberhard Eichner, learn how to turn scrap pieces of trim / molding into creative accents for cabinetry. You could apply these techniques to counters, tables, and other home decor items.

Learn more about The RE Store’s REvision Division, making affordable furniture from reclaimed materials or visit our store in Bellingham.

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Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Reference and resources, Stories about people, Transforming the building industry, Video posts, Why blog about The RE Store?, You can do it yourself

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Fall harvesting in the RE Patch – food and reuse

The RE Patch community garden and demonstration site is enjoying it’s first harvest season.

This urban pea patch lives behind The RE Store in Bellingham, as a part of the The RE Store/RE Sources/Sustainable Living Center compound. It is a fertile and food-bearing example of creative reuse and volunteer elbow grease, guided by the good folks at Bellingham Urban Gardens and Homestead Habitats.  Crucial support has come from many local businesses. Since its first work in April, the patch now sports:

  • eleven garden plots build from salvaged lumber
  • a permaculture native forest edible garden
  • a rack of edible mushroom logs
  • arbor and picnic bench made from reclaimed building materials by The RE store’s REvision Division
  • a rainwater cistern pilot demonstration system with a 900 gallon capacity, thanks to the City Of Bellingham Public Works Department
  • compost system and tool shed

There are currently 3 plots available so contact Jennifer Fredricksen, the RE Patch coordinator, via phone at (503) 528-4664 or via email at

 Thanks to all our sponsors and volunteers

City of Bellingham Public Works

Tree Frog Farms   •   Cascadia Mushrooms,

Growsource   •   Cloud Mountain Farms

Plantas Nativa   •   The Gardens at Padden Creek

Sunbreak Nursery   •   Shelterbelt, Inc.

Sunseed Farm   •   Treemendous Plantworks

Whatcom Conservation District   •   Joe’s Gardens

The Garden Spot   •   Earthworks Tree Service

DeWilde’s Nursery   •   Starkenburg Shavings

Bakerview Nursery & Garden Center

Posted in: Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Video posts, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Furniture made from doors, reclaimed lumber, trim and hardware

Little table from REvision Division

Table made from flooring samples (top), newel post, cabinet door (base), reclaimed lumber and hardware

The REvision DIvision is building functional and affordable furniture in it’s not-so-secret laboratory. Doors, cabinet doors, reclaimed wood, used hardware and other materials are being upcycled into chests, tables, armoires, cabinets and other household items.  Eberhard Eichner is the mastermind behind The RE Store’s long-envisioned program that got off the ground in the spring of 2011.  These pieces are being designed and built locally and are flying out the door as fast as Eberhard can build most of them.

The Seattle Times reported on the new line of furniture – read the article, “Seattle’s RE Store makes junk work” from 8/28/2011

View REvision Division pieces in our showroom. More photos and info can be found about this affordable and beautiful furniture here.

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Posted in: Green business, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Video posts, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Old Friends and New at the Flower & Garden Show

So great to see old friends, and make new ones at the NW Flower and Garden Show this past weekend!  The RE Store crew busted out an “Inside Out” display garden in just two days, with the wonderful plant help and chicken wrangling of Seattle Urban Farm Co.  A special thanks to them – and to all of you that visited us!  Those coveted items that were in the booth – ceramic flue tiles, and the arbor, just to name a few – are back at the Seattle store, and ready to find their way to new homes.  Come use your coupons for some new yard elements – and happy garden planning and planting!

Posted in: Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Salvage statistics to be proud of

Parked passenger jet planesThe RE Store has calculated the total tonnage of building materials and home decor items that we salvaged from being needlessly wasted in 2010. To sum it all up, we saved more than the equivalent of five Boeing 747s. That is also the same weight as 10 locomotive engines or 56 truck semi- trailers or 939 SUVs.

Here is the breakdown for our Seattle and Bellingham retail stores and Field Services.


11 green demolition deconstruction jobs plus hundreds of salvage and pick up jobs
250 tons diverted as recycling
1300 tons diverted as reclaimed materials for reuse


4 green demolition deconstruction jobs plus hundreds of salvage jobs, small deconstruction jobs (includes small garages, decks, etc) and pick ups
55.5 tons diverted as recycling
676 tons diverted as reclaimed materials for reuse

Grand total of 2251.5 tons or 4,503,000 lbs of material diverted from the landfills through The RE Store.

We took that huge pile, which some would consider trash, and we:

  • Employed 25 people
  • Saved our customers over 1.6 million dollars – purchases of items at The RE Store cost people one-half or less of the price of buying new items.
  • Supplied a practical solution to wasting precious resources
  • Hosted inspiring workshops, our 9th annual Recycled Arts and Fashion Show and participated in many other community events
  • Provided work force job training for over 2 dozen people
  • Developed partnerships with building contractors, manufacturers and many other businesses and organizations
  • And we had fun doing it!

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