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.
Posts Tagged jobs
Its a boy, no wait, its a girl, no, its a diesel box truck with a lift gate! We have concluded our Truck Fund Raising Campaign that has been going since November of 2012. The new box truck with a lift gate is now serving us well in the Seattle operations. Of course, it is a used vehicle. It even came in a shade of blue. The new truck’s name is still pending but we welcome this beast of burden to the RE family.
This is huge – giving us a more reliable truck fleet to better serve you and communities throughout Washington State. Our salvage crews come to your job site, home, business, storage space or your grandpa’s crazy old barn to pick up and salvage materials. These busy bees visit over 1200 job sites each year. If the trucks break down, the crews end up wasting time and money, losing efficiency and materials. That takes away from the 5 million pounds of material that The RE Store diverts every year from being wasted. Those materials also save you money when you go to buy supplies for your remodel, decoration or art project.
We have been helping transform the building industry’s practices that generate one-quarter of all trash in the U.S.. Our crews are the back up that contractors need to reduce disposal fees on job sites, saving supplies to be reused. This is how we have created our jobs at The RE Store from what would have been garbage. This is how we are moving the reuse revolution forward.
And we thank you for your help.
It is time for you to get out your entrepreneurial hat. Imagine tons of useful construction and demolition waste, sorted and available by the truck load. What can you dream up in the way of fabulous new products that help our dear citizenry? The supply is about to increase because the City of Seattle is shooting for the moon, aiming to reduce the mountain of waste sent to landfills by 50,000 to 100,000 tons annually.
In 2007, Seattle adopted it’s Zero Waste Strategy to help revolutionize waste disposal and recycling in two main channels of the river of waste that flows from the Emerald City: construction & demolition waste (C & D) and food waste. Additional disposal bans have been put in place, including concrete, brick and asphalt paving in January of this year. On December 10, 2012, Seattle City Council took the next step with ordinance #124076.
As of January of 2015, it will be prohibited to dispose of metal, cardboard, carpet, plastic film wrap, and new gypsum scrap (dry wall) in dumpsters or at the city’s transfer stations. The new ordinance establishes “a construction waste recycling facility certification program; requiring the submittal of waste diversion reports by certain construction and demolition waste generators.”
This isn’t just some crazy idea vetted by green building idealists (like us!), but was assessed as achievable based on assessment modeling and a public review process of the industry stakeholders who would be affected by the changes.
From Richard Conlin’s blog, one of Seattle’s most progressive council members:
“Making this effective requires that facilities cooperate, that markets are available, and that we collect data on what construction projects are actually doing with their waste. All of these components are built into the program, with provisions for administrative flexibility if there are problems with market development.
The materials that will be included in recycling requirements by 2016 represent more than 80% of the tonnage of waste generated in the construction sector. Since SPU has forged a cooperative agreement with the businesses involved to make this program work, it is likely that we will be able to attain these goals.”
Dream big because the recycling facilities will be sifting and sorting this stuff by the ton in the next few years. What’s your big or little idea? Come talk to us if you think you have something that could work in the realms of salvage and repurposing.
We 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
Tom Napier has a big brain. He works as a “Research Architect” for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center / Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. He has also served as president of the national Building Materials Reuse Association, and is involved in the Design-Build Institute of America and Construction Specifications Institute. Based on his own research, Napier has concluded that reusing materials could reduce the environmental impacts of water use, air and water pollution, and disposal by as much as 99%. “That’s almost a total reduction of adverse impacts compared to manufacturing new items,” Napier says.
More and more case studies are being accrued in the green building and demolition industry showing the true viability of these practices, increasing jobs, reducing waste and saving money for contractors and home/building owners.
Tom put out a bucket list of changes that would transform the building industry, boosting the reuse industry and green demolition aka deconstruction into the mainstream. The bucket list was reprinted recently on the ReBuilding Center’s blog, The Reclamation Administration, and we thought it was worthy of reposting as well. The following list contains four of the 6 items. If this gets your gears turning like it does for us, read the rest of the list and his further ideas in the original article on Ecohome, a magazine of the American Institute of Architects
Here’s the list:
- The conflict between demolition and deconstruction disappears. The routine is to reuse what can be reused, recycle what can be recycled, and landfill the little bit that’s left.
“Buildings have to be demolished,” Napier admits. “That’s just a fact of life. What we are trying to do, once a decision is made for a building to come down, instead of the default being to put materials in a landfill or recycling the steel, there are additional avenues of conservation that can be practiced that are not as common as the mainstream. We just want to bring those into the tool kit as well.”
- Promoters of “green building” rating systems fully appreciate the impacts of waste and life-cycle benefits of materials reuse, and give full credit to reuse as a major contributor to sustainability.
“The path of least resistance becomes that which the point chasers exercise,” Napier says. “In a perfect world, there would be some kind of hierarchy—the closest use to the original form gets the most points and the farther you divert, or the more resources you put into making something different, then you get fewer points.”
- Architectural and engineering professionals, as agents to building owners, educate their clients and vigorously promote salvage and reuse where practical.
In an ideal world, Napier says the value of reused materials would be ingrained in the construction industry infrastructure, starting with academia. “If I were king and I had a really long-term vision, I would be starting back to the educational systems and architectural programs and civil engineering programs and make this part of the value scheme of people coming up in the building professions,” Napier says. “That’s going to take a couple of generations.”
- Deconstruction, salvage, and used material businesses develop a robust and highly visible infrastructure within the building industry. Services are available for any type of project, any time, and at any location.
According to Napier, this will mean changing up the business model. “When you think about the business model of a demolition contractor, they don’t have a material handling or interim phase between the acquisition of material and the ultimate reuse,” he explains. “Getting those kinds of businesses started and getting them active and working is going to certainly give more options to building owners, property owners, demolition contractors, and designers.”
Read the rest of the list and elaboration on the original article on Ecohome.
What would you like to see to help transform the mountains of construction and demolition trash into reusable materials, green jobs and stewardship of our home?
“How do people really think it is OK to just leave all their trash on the beach?” This question came from a Shuksan Middle School 8th grade student as we came across yet another pile of cans and bottles left from a beach party. The group of four students and their teacher were spending the last Friday of their five-week Service Learning experience picking up and sorting through trash found along Locust Beach. None of them had been to the beach before and upon arrival exclaimed how beautiful and “cool” it was. Their awe soon mixed with disgust as we filled up over 5 huge bags with mostly bottles and cans in 45 minutes. “What would have happened to all of this if we hadn’t cleaned it up” another student asked before his classmate quickly pointed out toward the water showing exactly where it could all end up.
Each year, Shuksan Middle School 8th grade students have collaborated with organizations in Bellingham on service-learning projects that address real needs in the community. The RE Store was excited to host one of these groups again this year for a five-week period. The students arrived each Friday morning ready to work and learn more about how they can be community leaders in recycling and material reuse. Every week they worked on a new task and explored a different aspect of The RE Store. The students got dirty digging trenches in the RE Patch garden or sorting and stocking reclaimed materials. They also got some tool use training, building Mother’s Day gifts with furniture designer Eberhard Eichner from materials found in the store. Armando Rodriguez “It was fun, we made our own chalkboards”
The last part of the student’s service-learning experience is to create their own “take action” piece by organizing and leading a project of their own, incorporating skills and lessons learned while at The RE Store. As we walked back from the beach, it was inspiring to hear them get excited about organizing their own beach clean up or hosting an “art from junk” day at school.
Already this year, volunteers have served over 1,600 hours with The RE Store. In addition to the Shuksan MS group, last Thursday 5 students from a Biology class at Whatcom Community College spent their evening working in the RE Patch garden space, digging trenches, laying down cardboard, mulching, and weeding. During most weekdays, mornings students from Bellingham High School volunteer in the store and receive training on different hard and soft green job skills. Another community member has been assisting the REvision Division in creating furniture.
The RE Store has a place for you, whether you have a knack for seeing the potential in materials, enjoy organizing treasures, need to complete an internship/service-learning requirement, or just have an interest in spending more time with us. There are always a variety of projects to be done and we encourage volunteers to think of their own ways they can partner with us. If you or someone you know would like to get involved please contact Rich Chrappa for Bellingham or Anita Smith in Seattle to find out more.
The Willows Inn on Lummi Island has leapt into the national gourmet food limelight in the last 18 months, under the culinary guidance of Olympia born, 25-year old acclaimed chef Blaine Wetzel. A 2011 article in the New York Times, titled, “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride”, placed the Willows Inn amongst the great gastronomic experiences to be found in New York, London, Barcelona, Singapore, and Sydney. Read more about it’s philosophy and remodel project with reclaimed and local materials below the video.
West Shore Hospitality, a group of Whatcom County and Lummi Island-based investors, took notice of The Willows Inn’s publicity, buying out former owner, Riley Starks, in the fall of 2011. This local investment group opted for a full remodel of the entire facility, restaurant and the on-site accommodations. Nettles Farm lies behind the Inn, still owned by Starks, and is leased by the new owners as a part of the haven for gourmet locavores, growing greens, vegetables and flowers within a stone’s throw of the kitchen. With the restaurant’s focus on locally-sourced food and farm-to-table approach, they applied those same principles to the contractors and artists involved in the project. Many of the tradesman and contributors to the project were sourced from the Lummi Island community, known for its artisans and craftsfolk.
The RE Store’s own Eberhard Eichner lives on Lummi Island and contributed furniture and decor to the project along with others woodworkers Alan Rosen, Tom Lutz. Other locals involved in the project included: Pier Bosma doing fireplace stone work, Houston Foust’s stone and concrete work, ceramics by Ria Nickerson, Mark Bergsma’s photography and digital artwork, and resident artist Ria Harboe. Almost all of The Willows’ staff are Lummi Island residents as well.
As a part of the remodel, they hired Carol Beecher with Boston’s Saltwater Consulting, to be the “designer helping the Willow’s transform itself” for the remodel. Carol is a long-time fan of reclaimed materials, natural materials and old stuff. She wanted the interior of the a 102-year-old Inn to mirror its natural settings. She lobbied successfully for the restoration of the original fir flooring and brought out the original character hidden beneath the many layers of paint.
Carol saw Eberhard’s furniture in The RE Store and was compelled to get him involved. “The RE Store is my favorite place. That is where I always look for cool, funky things. I saw some furniture that Eberhard had done and I said, ‘I’ve got to reach out to this guy. He’s got what is in my mind and he can make it happen.”
The RE Store installed a set of sliding double doors between the main dining room and Blaine’s kitchen, a single sliding door unit made from cabinet doors that can partition off the private dining room, and a side table made from salvaged lumber and glass.
And so The Willows was renewed: the remodel was completed, the geoducks were dug, the local fish were caught, the farm out back produced prolifically, wildcrafted ingredients were harvested from the native forests, and the table was set.
For a truly local, gastronomically incredible experience, contact The Willows and leave behind your previously conceived notions of eating local.
The RE Store asks the folks at Local Source Forest Products, Inc. how they can make the claim to be creating sustainably harvested, locally processed old growth wood products. Old spring board stumps and felled tree remnants from 100-year old historic logging operations are being turned into premium finish grade material in their Whatcom County facility. The Local Source team removes the millable wood via helicopter to minimize on-the-ground impact to the forest. Literally tons of material are left behind to support the natural decomposition, soil renewal and habitat functions of fallen trees.
Loren Tracy, co-owner in TD Wood Recovery as well as Local Source, talked about the source of their wood.
“There is a forest of stumps out there that were logged 80-100 years ago. What our partners specialize in is creating high value products out of those remnants of historic logging operations. We can’t cut any living trees. We are just taking out the useful material that is otherwise left to rot on the hillsides. It hasn’t (rotted) for a hundred years and it is still sitting there. It is still a large volume of material that is sound and is amazingly beautiful and very hard to come by unless you are in other reaches of Northern America where you can cut down live old growth. It is unfortunate that is still happening.”
Simon Petree, owner of Greenleaf Forest Products and co-owner of Local Source, detailed the origins of their focus on salvage logging and why the various partners came together.
“I started out working for a logging land clearing company. We would go to the logging jobs and grind all the logging debris. The mills don’t want “oversized” stuff (trees). They are set up for smaller stuff so I’ve seen lots of oversized logs that could be turned into good finished product, being ground up and sent off.”
“So I bought my first saw mill in the late 90’s just kind of for fun. Then in 2002 it actually turned into a full time deal where started going around and ran a portable saw mill business. I also would sell lumber off of the jobs that I was working on. A lot of my clientele was saying, “Where can I get this wood dried that you just milled. Where can I get it processed?” There was nobody locally that could do that so we got this shop going to do that and also to process the salvaged woods that Ken and Lauren have been doing for years and years.”
Simon continues, “Another one of our motivations for this shop was to keep things in the county. Our wood doesn’t typically travel more than the tri-county area. Its just great. Its all going back to the county where it came from.”
The RE Store is now carrying flooring, trim, quarter round, dimensional lumber, door trim packages and more. All products are sustainably harvested (salvage logged), locally milled and truly worth a trip to come and see the fine quality of this wood.
Hedy Hanni had a crazy idea when she was 19. “I wanted to open up an artisan cafe when I was 19 in Chicago, where I grew up.”
She now is the proud owner of the newly-opened Time In Play Cafe on Holly Street in Bellingham, with a brightly day-lit cafe in the front, a huge play structure and activity zone for families in the back, side rooms that host classes and a soon-to-be local artisan gallery / consignment shop.
“I imagined a community center that could be a multipurpose space, but was beautiful and nourished your senses where everyone in a family could have a good time. That was the original use as the space as the original YMCA from 1906 until 1942 when it was taken over by the Odd Fellows. But now I have brought the space back to its original purpose.”
The idea has been years in the making. Hedy has lived 2 blocks away for 12 years, fantasizing about what could be done with the building and actively visioning on the play cafe concept for two and a half years, “But I had an 18-month old at the time so I just said HALT!” She wrote the business plan in June and opened on Oct 1st of this year.
Hedy bought all of the furniture and almost all of the fixtures used through craigslist, thrift stores and what she calls, “…my favorite store, The RE Store.” The cabinets, lockers, armoire, former kitchen cabinet, book shelf, and signs made from cabinet doors are all from the non-profit’s Bellingham store. She reupholstered and refinished the chairs herself in the front cafe area as well as in the play area and side rooms.
When asked why did she outfit her place with used furniture and fixtures, she didn’t hesitate at all, saying, “That is what I believe in. I am a former Green Peace activist. The whole space is non-toxic, with as much of the furniture, building materials, play structure, pottery, and food as possible are locally sourced, organic and fresh. I bet I saved 75% on the furniture and fixture costs.”
Why did she take on such a large project? She said, “Because I really wanted it. When my son Joaquim was born, we needed a place to go when it was raining and stormy. We haven’t found many places that we both really enjoy.”
How does she feel now that Time In Play Cafe is open? “When I am here and working, I feel really really happy. But as a result of the whole thing, I miss my boy a lot. He really wants to make the smoothies and he is very bummed that he doesn’t get to be a worker. But he’s 4.”
So head down, say hello to Colleen (the name for the stylish espresso machine) and check out the wild espresso bar built from reclaimed lumber by Lucas Walker. Bring your friends, your kids, or just your laptop and enjoy this gem of a cafe in Bellingham, filled with creative reuse.
The 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.
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!