to Reuse City Refuse
By Kymberlie Adams Matthews
I am a trash connoisseur.
Dozens of scary dolls, vintage pins, random beads and buttons, pencils,
stencils, books, furniture and other flotsam
have found their way into my home. It turns out, I am not the only
While stats on the popularity of yard sales, garage sales, junk stores, thrift,
secondhand and consignment shops are hard to come by, one need only look at how
busy they are on a Saturday morning to know that shabby chic is truly trendy.
It’s also ethical. Using things many times over instead of just once keeps
them from becoming waste. Plus many pieces, parts and scraps can be recycled
into something new. With the help of the following groups it couldn’t be
easier to do.
Are you a stoop sale addict? A collector of knickknacks, bric-a-brac and keepsakes?
Do you stop every time you pass a piece of furniture discarded on the side of
the street? Well, if you are anything like me, Garbage Scout is a dream come
true. I’m in a state of bliss over this model of sustainable swapping.
The world is your dumpster. And now you can share the wealth. Camera phone snapshots
and text messages are added to an interactive online mapping system that allows
you to alert other bargain hunters to go and fetch. So, take a phone photo and
send a description to email@example.com or see what treasures await at
Build it Green at the BIG! Warehouse
Did you ever wonder what happens to all the material left after a building is
demolished? Or the surplus of supplies after they build a new one? Well, Build
it Green, New York City’s only nonprofit retail outlet for salvaged and
surplus building materials, works to reduce construction and demolition waste,
while providing low cost building materials to the general public. In addition
to salvaged materials, this spring the BIG! Warehouse will become a source for
green building materials, including non-toxic paint, cellulose insulation and
lighting and environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies. Co-sponsored by Habitat-NYC
and the Community Environmental Center, all proceeds from Build it Green support
the environmental education center Solar One. From kitchen appliances to plumbing
and lumber, visit the BIG! Warehouse at 3-17 26 Avenue (at 4 Street), Astoria,
Queens, (718) 777-0132, www.bignyc.org.
Materials for the Arts
In the late 1970s a young artist, named Angela Fremont, heard the Central Park
Zoo was looking for a refrigerator to house medicines for the animals. She made
an on-air appeal through a local radio station securing a new refrigerator within
minutes. From that, the idea for Materials for the Arts was born. Today, 3,224
arts programs are supplied with materials gathered from companies that no longer
need them. Registered recipients can shop at their Long Island warehouse for
hundreds of items, including office furnishings, computers, household items,
ladders, telephones, answering machines, etc. They also improve arts education
by supplying schools with materials. To become a recipient or a donor, contact
(718) 729-3001 or www.mfta.org.
Grassroots, nonprofit and free. Three words that ring a bell with me. The Freecycle
Network—started in May 2003 to promote waste reduction—provides members
with an electronic forum to “recycle” any unwanted items. When you
want to find a new home for something, or acquire something new, simply send
an email. The Freecycle concept has since spread to over 50 countries, where
there are thousands of local groups with more than a million members—truly
a grassroots wildfire of people “changing the world one gift at a time.” As
a result, they are keeping approximately 50 tons a day out of landfills! Freecycle
lives the motto, “Think globally, recycle locally.” Visit www.freecycle.org.
From treadmills to scrap lumber, couches to an extraordinary list of stoop sales,
no one can deny the power of Craigslist. Whether it’s an apartment for
rent or a Mr. Potato Head to part with, you are sure to find a taker. And if
you are looking for something in particular, simply search the item lists or
put an ad in the Wanted section. Visit Craigslist at www.craiglist.org.
Founded in September 1995, eBay is now the world’s hot spot for secondhand
goods. Today more than 100 million members from around the world come to eBay
to buy and sell items in thousands of categories. From toasters to tools, dolls
to disco balls, cars to clothing, members have the option to purchase and sell
items in an auction-style set-up. Beware, it’s addictive. Log on to www.ebay.com.
RecycleNet Corporation has launched Waste.Net, an umbrella network of regional
waste exchanges designed to aid companies, governments and private citizens in
waste minimization efforts. This free exchange system allows you to buy, sell
or trade waste or byproduct materials such as acids, chemicals, solvents, plastics
and rubber. Over 2.5 million people use the Waste.Net exchange each month from
over 150 countries. Check out www.Waste.net.
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