Construction and Demolition Waste Recovery and Reuse Pilot Gets Positive Results for Businesses

By Ben Zublin, BRING Recycling

Nationwide, construction and demolition waste accounts for about one-third of materials destined for landfill disposal. In addition to costing owners and contractors needlessly and straining the capacity of municipal waste-disposal systems, this category of “C+D” waste often includes a lot of reusable and reclaimable materials.wood-877368_1280

BRING is tackling the problem of C+D waste disposal with a pilot program designed to recover waste at its point of origin and find ways to reuse it. In much the same way that recyclables are diverted from regular refuse at the home and individual business level, waste materials generated during the deconstruction and new construction of buildings can be diverted at their source. This approach avoids the cost, time and trouble of disposing of C+D waste through traditional means.

Benefits of this approach include:

  • Cost savings. Our staff divert materials from job sites at no expense to the contractor. This saves them money on the cost of disposal, and decreases the cost and energy required to sort the items at traditional material recovery facilities.
  • Contractors benefit from our knowledgeable staff, becoming more informed about opportunities for salvaging and diverting reusable building materials.
  • Tax credits. Salvaged materials may be tax-deductible when donated to a federally-recognized nonprofit organization.
  • Certification points. We inventory and report to our partners volumes and weights of materials diverted for reuse, as well as the resultant carbon-equivalents and energy-offsets, potentially assisting with green building certification.
  • We look for opportunities to highlight the diversion efforts of our partners, using electronic, print and social media platforms to showcase impressive waste reduction accomplishments.

drainage-pipes-2471293_1280Since BRING launched the C+D pilot earlier this year, we have worked with a number of construction projects in Eugene to divert reusable C+D materials from the waste stream. Here is a snapshot of the materials we have saved from the landfill:

  • Over 5,000 pounds of reusable dimensional lumber
  • Over 7,300 pounds of reusable plywood
  • 700 pounds of steel roofing and finish material
  • 150 cubic feet of polystyrene insulation
  • Over 30,000 pounds of concrete aggregate material

Is your business interested in getting involved? Arrange for a no-cost consultation, where we will provide more details about how the C+D waste recovery and reuse pilot program works and how your company stands to benefit. Our knowledgeable staff will visit your site to assess the potential for salvaging deconstruction wastes and remnants from your project. We will help guide and educate your contractors and subs to maximize the efficiency of your waste and recycling disposal system. After that, we will help to source reclaimed and “charismatic” materials for your build-out following the vision and details of your design.

Contact us today for more details.






A Glimpse into a BRING Educational Tour

emily3Educating community members about where our waste goes and why it’s so important to generate less of it has always been an important part of BRING’s work. That’s why we offer a range of educational programs and tours to schools, community groups and civic organizations. Have you ever wondered if one is right for the kids in your life? Here’s a glimpse at what happens on one of our most “popular” tours.

Every year BRING takes hundreds of local students to Lane County’s Glenwood transfer station and Short Mountain Landfill. Although each trip generates plenty of complaints about bad smells and dirty surfaces, teachers and parents realize that it’s important for kids to know that when they throw something away, it doesn’t go away – it just goes somewhere else. Where it goes and how it’s handled can have a huge impact on the health of our community and our planet.

One a recent tour, education and events coordinator Emily Shelton led a group of Creswell Middle School students up the concrete walkway that leads to the transfer station’s trash and recycling areas. “This facility does exactly what the name implies – it transfers all the garbage we generate at various places in our community to its final resting place,” she told the group of youngsters wearing bright orange and yellow vests. “Where do you think it goes from here?” The landfill, students confirmed.emily2

“Does anyone know how long trash lives in the landfill?” Shelton asks. There are guesses of 20 years and 30 years before someone guesses hundreds of years. “Forever,” Shelton confirms. Once waste goes into a landfill, it’s compacted tightly against the layer below it. The bottom of the landfill is capped by a sophisticated composite liner system so nothing can escape, and at some point another system of liner layers will go over the top, locking in everything in perpetuity.

Although some methane escapes from the anaerobic environment that results, most materials don’t break down. If you dug up a copy of the Eugene Register-Guard from 50 years ago, you’d still be able to read every story.

Shelton points to the nearby guard stations and tells the students that people come to Lane County’s transfer stations to throw away their unwanted items, but they also come to recycle. The scales ensure they’re only charged for what they throw away and not what they recycle. “When you drop off all the recycling, that’s weight you’re taking off,” she explains. “That’s weight you’re not paying for. So by recycling materials you’re saving money, in addition to saving resources and reducing pollution.”

emily1Before she takes the group to the containers holding electronics, wood and other materials for recycling, Shelton leads them to the trash pit. It’s a warm day, which makes the smell worse, something the students don’t hesitate to point out. A few noses are quickly tucked inside of shirts, and there are lots of exclamations of “Ewww!” and “Gross!”

But once they’re on the catwalk that runs over the top of the cavernous space, the focus changes. The young people quickly begin pointing out familiar bits of detritus: a stuffed animal. A pizza box. A deflated and discolored basketball. A group of boys is particularly excited about a bulldozer flattening pieces of furniture.

When they’re standing back in the sunshine, Shelton asks, “Did you see anything that could be reused? Or did you see anything that could be recycled?” Shelton asked. There’s a chorus of suggestions: Furniture. Cardboard. Plastic soda bottles. Paper.

“We can’t control what goes in here because we don’t pull things out of the trash,” Shelton says. “It’s really up to us as community members to know what can and can’t go into our landfill.”

Shelton reviewed the things that legally aren’t allowed because they’re too dangerous or bulky. Items on the list include motor oil, car batteries, fluorescent bulbs containing mercury, car tires, electronics, mattresses and appliances. She points these items out as the tour goes on to emphasize that some things that can’t be recycled curbside can find a home at the transfer station.

emily4The tour provides a good opportunity to educate the students on how to be better curbside recyclers. Glass needs to be separated from other materials because broken shards can injure workers or get into other recycling streams. The only type of plastic containers that should go in are bottles, tubs and jugs.

Shelton also uses the tour as a chance to discuss the importance of the other “R.” Reducing the amount of waste we generate is the best thing for the planet because it extends the life of the landfill and cuts down on the amount of raw resources that must be harvested from the earth. Reusing materials does the same thing but to a lesser extent because goods still have to be transported to a reuse facility and find a new home with a buyer. If they can’t, they may end up in the trash as well.

“We say ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ in that order for a reason,” she says to emphasize the waste management hierarchy. “Reducing your consumption is the best way to lessen your personal impact on the planet.”

Teachers: If you’d like to schedule a transfer station and landfill tour for your students, or take advantage of any of BRING’s other educational programming, please contact us.

Parents: if you care about teaching children about waste prevention, resource conservation and where our waste goes, please check with your child’s school and encourage them to contact us. All of our programming is available year-round.

Driving Electric Is Now Easier than Ever

By Zach Henkin, Forth

If you missed the electric car test drive event at our recent Home and Garden Tour, here’s your chance to learn more about how fun and easy it is to drive an electric car. Read to the end to learn about local incentive programs that make owning an electric vehicle more affordable. 

car-1209912_1920Imagine never having to go to the gas station again, cutting your car maintenance bills in half, and enjoying the quietest ride on the road. Impossible? Nope, that’s what electric vehicle (EV) ownership is all about and it’s more accessible than ever! Oh, and did we mention zero carbon emissions?

When EVs first made their appearance on the car market, ownership was a bit complex. With only a few models to choose from, limited battery range and mystifying charging options, prospective EV owners faced numerous obstacles.

Fast-forward 20 years and the future is bright!  Buyers now have a choice of three different types of EVs:  100% battery-powered electric, Plug-in Hybrids, and Extended Range vehicles, which primarily run on electricity but have a small gas motor to charge the battery. All have the bells and whistles (and safety features) of a gas-powered vehicle and are fun to drive.

More than 20 different models of EVs are available, with mini vans, SUVs, compacts, sedans and more to meet the needs of a diverse market. Range has improved drastically, with some cars able to go 70-200 miles on a single charge. The West Coast also has one of the most extensive charging networks in the world. DC fast chargers can be found in many convenient locations and most can fully charge your car in about 30 minutes.  Websites and phone apps will show you where your closest available charging station is located.

Home-charging options have increased as well. The average price of a Level 2 unit starts at around $500 and manufacturer’s rebates are widespread.  EWEB offers a $200 incentive to help offset these costs. However, many EV owners find that a standard, dedicated 110 outlet, is sufficient for their charging needs.

With our ample and green power supply, transportation electrification is a smart solution to make real progress on our community’s carbon reduction goals. Increased EV usage means we optimize the investments made in our existing electric system, which helps all our customers economically. Visit EWEB to learn if an EV is right for you and to find current program offerings that support electric vehicles.

Green and Graceful Aging in Place

aging in place

When we think of green building, we tend to think of the built environment’s impact on the planet. But there’s a human component to crafting sustainable dwellings. An eco-friendly home should be one that maximizes a person’s health, well-being and productivity at every age.

As the U.S. population ages, and as more people choose to live in multigenerational households, there’s increased attention to creating homes that allow people to “age in place.” The idea is to build structures that can accommodate people’s changing mobility as they age so people can stay in their homes as long as possible.

The principles of “universal home” design are well aligned with many green building principles. People are more affected by toxins as they get older. As a result, it’s important that they age-in-place.jpglive in homes crafted with materials that will not leach chemicals. Older folks are less able to perform maintenance tasks on their homes. Homes built with quality, long-lasting materials will require less labor. Homes with universal design features don’t need few resource-consuming (and expensive) modifications such as wheelchair ramps or lifts.

There are numerous qualities to consider when building or remodeling a home so it’s appropriate for aging in place. They include:

  • Creating zero-step entrances from inside to outside, as well as within the house
  • Installing a curb-less shower and hand-held shower head in at least one bathroom
  • Making doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair
  • Designing rooms large enough to do the same
  • Installing blocks behind the walls of bathrooms and other rooms so it’s easier to install grab bars at a future date
  • Designing gardens and other outdoor spaces with adaptive gardening and mobility in mind

If some of these tasks seem impossible – for example, if your green ethos involves built up rather than out because of a desire to preserve land – include these components in the downstairs portion of the house only. That way, should a resident eventually become unable to use the entire house, they’ll still have a place they feel comfortable.

By incorporating some of these principles, homeowners stand a better chance of being able to stay in their homes and communities longer. They’re less likely to become isolated (a real concern for older folks) or suffer injuries, and they’re more likely to carry on with planet-friendly tasks such as gardening, cooking from scratch and walking to places they enjoy. Healthy, happy people make for a healthy, happy planet. And that’s a good thing for everyone.

Wabi-Sabi: What It’s All About

bring tourThe annual BRING Home and Garden Tour provides inspiration and ideas for simple living. We want to demonstrate that simple is beautiful, that imperfection can be something to find peace with rather than fighting. The concept of wabi-sabi is a perfect fit with that.

We hope you’ll learn more about the Japanese philosophy by reading this article, and we look forward to seeing you at this year’s BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $14 at the door. The tour will feature seven green homes, two organic gardens and one new business that emphasized reuse when designing its new facility. Get a preview of each property here. Buy your tickets on our website or at Down To Earth, Lane Forest Products or the Planet Improvement Center. We also hope to see you at Hot Mama’s Kitchen + Bar, 23 Oakway Center, for the tour afterparty.

What is wabi-sabi and how does one go about living in this way?

Wabi-sabi, the art of finding beauty in imperfection, emerged in the 15th century as a reaction to the lavishness, ornamentation, and use of rich materials that was popular during the time. In Japan, the concept is deeply ingrained and it is difficult to translate to Westerners.

In broad terms wabi-sabi is flea markets, not high-end boutiques; aged wood, not glossy finishes; a chipped cup instead of a new one. Understated, natural materials, and items that are cracked and used, are all wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi values simplicity, uncluttered, understated, and modest surroundings. Authenticity is key to the philosophy and the aesthetic: the presence of cracks and frayed edges are considered to be symbolic of the passing of time, and should be embraced.

For example; In Japan, broken pottery is mended instead of thrown away. Kintsugi or kintsukuroi, is a centuries old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum colored lacquer. Beautiful seams of gold fill in the cracks, giving a unique appearance to the piece, one that celebrates and emphasizes the fractures and breaks instead of hiding them. Kintsugi often enhances the repaired item making it more beautiful for having been broken.

When it comes to creating a wabi-sabi home it doesn’t require money or a set of special skills. Wabi-sabi living inspires minimalism that focuses more on the people who live in the space than anything else. Possessions and other items are pared down to the essentials based on utility, beauty, and emotional connection. The idea is to live modestly, and learn to be satisfied with life once the unnecessary is stripped away.

Collections of wabi-sabi possessions are well curated. They are continually pared down to those that earn their place. What makes the cut?

1) Useful things: Tools, essential kitchen utensils, and even a personal computer. The idea here isn’t to live without, rather to live with less and with things that are used regularly.

2) Loved things; Your grandmother’s quilt, a rickety chair from your childhood home or a piece of art from a recent vacation are all things that offer memories or nostalgia. If you love it, keep it.

3) Quality things, built to last:  Quality over quantity is the key to wabi-sabi. Choose high quality goods that are made to stand the test of time. Items that grow in their character when lovingly used.

Wabi-sabi is both an aesthetic and a state of mind.  It encourages us to find the beauty in what exists and, to be at peace with the natural processes of life and with the eventual decay and deterioration that comes from use. Wabi-sabi also teaches us the impermanence of all things and requires us to shift our thinking to appreciating rather than perfecting.

Home and Garden Tour Focuses on Human Side of Sustainability

A focus at this year’s BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 is how reachouthouse2local nonprofits are bringing sustainable housing to low-income people. Because eco-friendly materials and systems are often more expensive than their conventional counterparts, we typically think of green housing as only being available to people with resources. But working families, veterans, people with disabilities and homeless youth also deserve to live in high-quality, healthy homes that tread lightly on the earth. It’s exciting to see this happening in the Eugene-Springfield area.

The Youth House, developed by St. Vincent de Paul, is one project that showcases how green homes can be affordable to people at all income levels. The local nonprofit is “recycling” a former church on Willamette Street into studio apartments for young women between 16 and 18. Residents in the target age range can stay as long as they remain in school. By keeping the existing building instead of tearing it down, St. Vincent de Paul will greatly decrease the amount of waste sent to our landfill.

The other affordable housing development featured on this year’s tour is Emerald Village Eugene (EVE), a community of micro-homes for people transitioning out of homelessness. The project, supported by SquareOne Villages, will feature 22 homes for adults, many of whom are currently living in Eugene’s Opportunity Village.

The majority of the homes in EVE are being donated by local designer-builder teams. Two are being spearheaded by student teams, including the innovative ReachOUT House. The house is the brainchild of Lyndsey Deaton, a Ph.D. student in the University of Oregon’s architecture program. Deaton has a keen interest in homelessness and wanted to design a house with the needs and desires of future residents in mind.

As part of her dissertation research, she and research partner Christina Bollo interviewed people experiencing homelessness and asked them what they’d want in a permanent home. Many of the features they described will be included in the ReachOUT House.

“A lot of people told her they wanted a bathtub,” explains Paige Portwood, a public reachouthouse1policy, planning and management master’s student and member of the three-person leadership team that also includes architecture student Samantha Freson. “At missions they can only take brief showers. A bathtub symbolizes relaxation and safety.”

Homeless people tend to live in very cramped spaces like cars or single-room apartments, Portwood says. Although the ReachOUT House is only 180 square feet, it’s designed to have an open and spacious feel.

EVE is intended to be a close-knit community, and Deaton designed the ReachOUT House with that in mind. The living space has French doors that lead to an outdoor living space and the common area. This will make socializing and gatherings more convenient.

Deaton and her team are committed to using recycled materials in the house whenever possible. They estimate that 70 percent of the building materials – including the wood, windows, interior finishes and paint – are post-consumer products, many of which were donated by or purchased at BRING. The home is designed to consume 45 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than a typical tiny house.

“Micro-housing is already using less materials and leaving a small footprint on the earth,” the group shares in their promotional materials. “The ReachOUT House wants to make the eco-friendly gap even smaller with the innovative and creative use of recycled goods.”

Much of the labor for the ReachOUT House will be donated by University of Oregon students. Portwood emphasizes that the leadership team is interested in engaging students from Lane Community College’s construction program, Oregon State University’s engineering school, or anyone else who would like to get involved in a meaningful and worthwhile project.

Construction on the house will begin in September and is expected to be finished by October. EVE has already interviewed and selected tenants for the property, so Portwood and her team already know who will occupy their house: a 66-year-old woman named Alice Gentry who has lived in Opportunity Village for the past year.

“That’s where we get our motivation – the knowledge that we’re giving her a house,” Portwood says, ebullient at the knowledge that in a world filled with some many problems, her time and effort really can make a difference in a person’s life.

Professionals willing to donate services are encouraged to contact the volunteers at ReachOUT House through their Facebook page. The leadership team is hoping to secure onsite construction managers who can lead students at a couple of key times during the construction process.

Anyone willing to support this project financially can make a donation through ReachOUT House’s YouCaring account. Portwood offers thanks to the Rotary District 5110, Rotary E-Club of the State of Jefferson (D5110) and other local Rotary Clubs, which have made significant donations of money and volunteer labor.

Don’t miss the ReachOUT House, Youth House and other homes, gardens and businesses on the ninth annual BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the Planet Improvement Center, Down to Earth and Lane Forest Products.

Working Upstream: Why Extended Producer Responsibility Makes Sense

Older televisions and computer monitors are notoriously difficult to recycle

The benefits of recycling are well known. By diverting useful materials from landfills and incinerators, we save raw resources, reduce toxins in the environment, create jobs and save money. It’s good for the planet and good for us.

Many of the products we interact with on a daily basis are made of materials that are fairly easy to recycle, such as paper, bottle glass and aluminum. But others – things such as hard plastics, computers, furniture, and clothing and shoes – cannot be recycled so easily (and in many cases, can’t be recycled at all). This creates a real problem in the waste stream.

In addition, some consumer and environmental advocates believe our whole system of recycling needs some tweaking, especially when it comes to dealing with those hard-to-recycle products. Why do products have to be made with so many materials that have no second life, or made in a way that makes them expensive to recycle? And why do our tax dollars pay for waste disposal and recycling programs instead of the company that created the problem in the first place?

For decades there’s been a small but vocal group of people advocating for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), a policy approach that puts the onus for reducing waste in the hands of the people who have the greatest ability to do something about it: producers. Companies who manufacture consumer goods have the best shot at reducing product’s adverse impact by changing product design, manufacturing and packaging.

According to UPSTREAM, a national organization that focuses on the root causes of environmental harm, EPR policy has two related features: (1) shifting financial and management responsibility, with government oversight, upstream to the producer and away from the public sector; and (2) providing incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and packaging.

Europe is way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to EPR. The European Union (EU) has been working on making producers more responsible for the waste they create since the 1980s, when it set rules on the “production, marketing, use, recycling and refilling of containers of liquids for human consumption and on the disposal of used containers,” according to its website.

In addition, some Member States set rules to address the environmental aspects of packaging and packaging waste. Since then, the EU crafted EPR legislation to “harmonize” what individual Member States had already been implementing and maintain a level playing field for manufacturers across the EU.

According to a 2012 report by the environmental group As You Sow, fifteen EU countries require that producers finance all costs of collecting and recycling packaging, and in 10 countries, governments and producers split the costs.

Although bottle glass can be recycled and made back into bottles, window glass cannot be made into windows or many other things.

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brought together large retailers and consumer goods producers, with state governments, city officials, and NGOs, to start a dialogue on how to pay for recycling. While companies pushed back against the notion of regulation, a few participants such as Walmart and Coca-Cola have since started offering grants and low-interest loans to municipalities to improve recycling. Product stewardship advocates say that’s not nearly enough. Companies, they believe, should be footing the bill for the whole system.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) “supports product stewardship principles” as a way to reduce the environmental impacts from a product’s life cycle, and shift the cost of managing waste products from government agencies to those who produce and use the products. But it’s been largely up to state governments to enact laws. According to the Product Stewardship Institute, there are dozens of EPR laws in 34 states, often covering products that are difficult to recycle, like mattresses and paint.

Oregon has EPR programs for electronics, mercury thermostats and containers (bottle return programs are not managed by manufacturers, though). Oregon was the first state in the nation to enact a law requiring paint manufacturers to start a product stewardship program “to reduce waste, increase reuse and recycling, and safely dispose of remaining unusable paint and other coatings.”

In 2012, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission adopted Materials Management in Oregon: 2050 Vision and Framework for Action. According to the DEQ, “The 2050 Vision takes a holistic approach to reducing the environmental impacts of materials across their entire life cycle–from resource extraction and design through production, consumption and management of discards.”

SB 199, a bill introduced in the Oregon Legislature earlier this year, would have required EPR for household hazardous waste, a category that includes solvents, pesticides and herbicides, and pool chemicals. The bill died in committee, but it shows that Oregonians are still thinking about ways to hold manufacturers responsible for what they create.

Consumers have a role to play in making EPR a reality for more materials. You can use your buying power to help encourage retailers and manufacturers to make products that are less toxic and easier to recycle, the Northwest Product Stewardship Council says. Here are their suggestions for making your voice heard:

  • Before buying a product, find out if the manufacturer or retailer takes back and recycles their products.
  • If you’re buying a product to replace one, ask if they will recycle your old one.
  • Let manufacturers know you would like them to offer a take-back program.
  • Share your knowledge and choices with your friends and family.