The High Cost of Natural Disasters

High demand and high prices for building materials after floods, hurricanes, fires, and other disasters help illustrate why reuse is so important

wood-877368_1280As Americans, we all feel the effects of natural disasters in places like Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico. We fear for families and friends in the impacted regions; our hearts ache for the people lost; and we give generously to support rebuilding efforts.

Even in the Northwest, we pay a steep price for hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes in a very real way when we go to the hardware store. As people rebuild their homes and businesses, they need raw materials. As demand for those materials goes up, so does the cost. If demand goes up too much, or if material manufacturers are among those who have to rebuild their facilities, the things we need may not be available at all.

All of this highlights the importance of being good stewards of the resources we already have. Utilizing reusable building materials in a construction project, or saving whatever you can during a demolition process, will get even more important as climate change makes disasters like these more common. Reuse is also a great way to save money, support your community, and maybe even get a little creative around your home.

Supply and demand affect pricing

Debbie Dersham is director of sales for the region west of the Mississippi at Atkore Plastic Pipe Corporation, which has a seven manufacturing plant throughout the United States (including one in Glenwood). She’s definitely seeing an uptick in business after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. “The hurricanes have tipped over the PVC market,” she says. “Usually this time of year we’re slowing down and beginning to go to sleep for the winter. Construction material sales are very brisk right now.”

The reason? When something happens that could affect supply – like a hurricane and the resulting building boom – distributors have been known to panic and begin hoarding materials. This is especially true since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina led to long periods of time when materials were hard to come by. Not only does this market climate stimulate demand, it also pushes up costs. PVC conduit prices across the country have increased four times since the end of August.drainage-pipes-2471293_1280

Nationwide, recent supply of PVC has been tight. Many plastic pipe manufacturing facilities are located in the southeast, which meant many operations were temporarily closed in advance of Hurricane Irma. “We figure from a national perspective there were probably 10 plastic pipe plants in that area that saw down time,” says Dersham. “Curtailing production for just three to five days may have taken five million pounds out of production.”

In the aftermath of Harvey, two Houston-area PVC resin or ethylene manufacturers evoked the Force Majeure clause saying they might not be able to supply their existing contractual customers. “Calling Force Majeure can create an immediate perception of tight supply or rising prices,” Dersham says. “It put everyone on high alert.” Large incoming order volume stretched out delivery lead times from some pipe manufacturers.  “Some customers, with orders committed with our competition, have complained of waiting for up to six weeks to get product that would usually ship within two or three days.”

So far, Atkore has received an uninterrupted supply of PVC resin and all seven facilities are operating at full capacity. And to be clear, it’s highly unlikely that any Oregon-made PVC pipe will end up in the rebuilding efforts in Houston or Puerto Rico. “Freight costs are huge for PVC pipe. Usually it is cost effective to ship a maximum of just 500 or 600 miles,” Dersham says.  Larger market forces, however, have put a pinch on supply and demand all the way out here in the Northwest.

Rebecca Taylor, corporate communications director at Roseburg Lumber and BRING board member, says the lumber industry is in a similar situation. “There are no real concerns about a shortage or lack of availability of wood products,” she says. “However, a number of factors will put upward pressure on the cost of those products in the market. Housing starts are reasonably healthy right now, so order sheets are already pretty full at manufacturing facilities like ours. Forest fires in the western U.S. are affecting the flow of logs to western manufacturing facilities.” (However, most lumber companies keep an inventory of logs on hand, so they aren’t desperate for logs just yet.)

“The market may see additional impacts in a couple of months, once the clean-up phase [from the hurricanes] is done and reconstruction begins,” she continues. “That’s when you’ll see greater demand for lumber and structural panels, both of which we supply. I’m not sure how it will affect Roseburg, but our team expects higher demand and increased prices for building materials to stretch well into the fourth quarter of the year, when demand typically ebbs and slows.”

Again, it’s unlikely that much Northwest lumber will end up in the southern United States. The region has plenty of plywood manufacturers there, and builders are much more likely to source material from them. But, Taylor says, “We are, to a certain degree, affected by the increase in prices for plywood across the market. A key indicator, ½-inch Western plywood, has gone up $27 per thousand square feet. Southern pine… has gone up $50 per thousand square feet.”

There are also the northern California wildfires to consider when watching the cost and availability of building materials. Over 5,000 homes have already been lost, along with many more offices and stores. California companies may be more likely to source materials from Oregon given its proximity.

Disasters highlight importance of reuse

“The recent spate of natural disasters drives homes how important it is to conserve resources and use them wisely,” says BRING executive director Carolyn Stein. “There’s going to be a huge boom in the construction industry as people rebuild their homes and lives.”

Now more than ever, it’s easy to see how all materials – even those that have been gently used – have tremendous value. When things like lumber, piping, windows and doors, fixtures and wiring are in short supply, or are suddenly very expensive, homeowners and home builders must utilize every resource that’s available to them. “By shopping at BRING and reusing building materials, you’re putting less pressure on resources overall,” Stein says. “It’s affordable and practical. It makes sense that we would use these things, particularly now, when concerns about scarcity and pricing are so real.”

There’s another big reason reuse makes so much sense. While no expert will say that climate change caused Hurricane Harvey or Irma, or started the wildfires in Oregon or California, most agree that it made them worse. Warmer oceans and rising seas make hurricanes bigger and more dangerous. Things like drought and insect damage make trees more flammable and fires burn hotter. Our only hope to stop natural disasters from getting bigger and more frequent is to stop or reverse the planet’s warming. Reuse (as well as reducing consumption, recycling and composting) are a very important part of that.

Now is a great time to make a change in your buying habits – in part because you may have to, and in part because this year’s catastrophes have made the dangers of climate change seem even more dire. “People need to get into the habit of looking for used materials before they pop over to a store to buy something new,” says Stein. “As with anything, it becomes more of a habit if you do it frequently. We want people to change their behavior and see used materials as not only valuable, but also better for the climate and their pocketbook.”

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Seeking Sites for the 10th Annual BRING Home and Garden Tour

bring tourPlanning is underway for the 10th anniversary of the annual BRING Home and Garden Tour. We are on the lookout for leading-edge new homes, remodels, gardens, and urban farms that demonstrate sustainability. We’re especially interested in projects with the following features, whether designed and built by professionals or the do-it-yourselfer:

  • Aging in place
  • Creative reuse of materials
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy
  • Graywater reuse
  • Green roofs
  • Innovative storm water management
  • Nontoxic, sustainable materials and finishes
  • Solar – active (PVs), passive, and solar hot water
  • Sustainable landscaping, gardens, and Permaculture
  • Urban agriculture – chicken, bees, food production, etc.
  • Urban density – small homes, co-housing, and accessory dwelling units
  • Waste prevention, composting
  • Water efficiency – xeriscaping, rainwater harvesting, and low-flow fixtures

Check out these photos from last year’s tour to get ideas of what we’re looking for.

If you have suggestions for tour sites or would like more information, please contact the tour coordinator at BRINGHGtour@gmail.com. Please include an address, description of the site, and any photos you might have. Submissions are due by March 31.

 

How to Have a Low-Waste Holiday

box-2953722_1920Christmas, Hanukah and the other December holidays are a time for giving and generosity. But when we give physical gifts, they come with a price beyond what we pay for them. The amount Americans put in the trash goes up by about 25 million tons in November and December. That’s a 25 percent increase over the rest of the year.

This season, instead of giving everyone the gift of a brand new item, are there people on your list who would like something else? Maybe a special hand-made gift, an experience, or a donation to a cause they care about? Here are some ways you can lower the waste associated with gift giving this holiday season.

Make a gift using upcycled materials

You handy and crafty types have this one covered. Buy some building materials from us, or some second-hand fabric or yarn from MECCA or St. Vincent de Paul, and churn out creative projects your friends and family will love. Not crafty? There are lots of things anyone can make with a little time and some good instructions. Bake treats, make cookie or soup in a jar mixes, stir up a spice mix, or create homemade body scrubs or soaps.dscn2493-e1511981605855.jpg

Share an experience

Many of us have enough stuff. Instead of buying dad another tie or your child another stuffed animal, plan a family vacation, purchase a membership at a favorite museum, sign up for a class, or buy tickets for a concert or theater performance.

Donate in someone’s honor

If your loved ones are as concerned about charitable causes as you are, honor them by making donations to their favorite nonprofits. Bonus for you – contributions to many charities are tax deductible, so it’s a gift for you too.

Buy second-hand

Not all gifts have to be new. Many of the folks on your list may be just as happy to receive a high-quality second-hand sweater, bicycle or scooter, or elegant serving dish. One of the benefits of buying used is that you can afford to buy more. If your recipient finds a stack of books rather than one or two tomes under the tree, it’s doubtful you’ll get any complaints.

Look for items made with local products

Instead of ordering steak from the Midwest, pick up some fresh meat from a Lane County rancher. Instead of mail ordering fruit in a fancy box, buy local apples and pears at the farmers market and wrap them yourself. If you have a real foodie on your list, think about purchasing them a subscription to a local CSA.

Foods that are grown or raised locally don’t have to travel as far, and you support a community member instead of a company in another state. In addition, by wrapping these items and skipping the shipping box yourself you cut down on the amount of packaging material your gift generates.

Support businesses with low or zero waste

Buying from low or zero waste-certified companies takes your waste reduction to the next level. Find out which Lane County businesses are working to reduce their carbon footprint with our list of companies that are RE:think Business certified.

Rethink wrapping

Instead of purchasing wrapping paper this year, buy reusable gift or shopping bags. If it wouldn’t be Christmas without watching the kids tear into loads of paper, rethink your wrapping. Can you reuse wrapping paper or tissue paper you already have? Can you buy wrapping paper at a thrift store? Can you make your own wrapping paper with the Sunday funnies, newsprint roll ends, or brown paper grocery bags? Decorating your own wrapping paper can be a great activity for kids.

Other alternatives are to cut down on the amount of bows and ribbon you buy, and make your own gift tags using old holiday cards or unneeded office supplies.

dscn2488-e1511981889182.jpgGo electronic (or homemade) with your greeting cards

Americans purchase about 2.6 billion holiday cards every year. That’s enough to fill a 10-story football stadium. E-cards let you spread the spirit of every holiday without sending mountains of paper that may or may not be recyclable (cards with lots of foil, glitter or embellishments often shouldn’t be placed in the comingled recycling bin).

If you’re committed to sending paper cards, consider making them yourself using last year’s Christmas cards or other materials you already have around the house.

 

Support BRING This #GivingTuesday

skull craft workshop participantThe new year is bringing a new direction for BRING. For the past 12 months we’ve been asking our stakeholders what they appreciate about BRING and how we can expand our many programs. The answers we got – and if they came from you, thank you! – are helping us chart an exciting new course.

Over the coming year, BRING will continue to provide the services you love.

  • Our community education programs reach thousands of people through schools and community outreach. These fun, interactive presentations, workshops, and field trips emphasize the importance of waste reduction, creative reuse, and recycling. These programs are more important than ever, as the recent ban on plastic recycling in parts of Lane County demonstrates. Americans desperately need to rethink what they use and what they throw away.
  • Our retail store gives materials a chance at a second life rather than a slow death in the landfill. Our gently-loved building materials provide inspiration to artisans, resources to low-income people looking to make home repairs, raw materials for home construction projects big and small, and resources for student and adult makers.

Over this next year, we will build on our existing programs and add new ones.

  • Our goal of putting people with barriers to employment back to work was further met when we began hiring residents of Opportunity Village to be part of our waste assessment team. All of our team members are gaining transferable skills while providing for their families.
  • Our RE:think Business program now offers zero-waste assessment services and sustainability reporting. Both services were requested by local business leaders who want to do more to reduce waste and improve their environmental performance.
  • We have a new construction and demolition (C&D) waste recovery and reuse program that’s saving precious materials from construction sites and making them available to you.

emily2We live in a time when it’s hard to feel like you can make a difference. At BRING, we believe small actions taken at the local level make the biggest difference of all. When you reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost, you’re part of the solution to reducing the impacts of climate change. And when you make a contribution to BRING, you’re part of a larger network that keeps our educational and action-oriented programs going. Please make a tax-deductible donation today. You’ll find it’s surprisingly fulfilling to take even small steps toward positive change in our community.

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.