Other People's Junk Becomes Non-Profit Treasure

Across the nation people are using creative solutions to deal with their tighter budgets. Workers have lost jobs and non-profits have lost funding, but going green may be a step in the right direction. From the KUHF Newslab, Wendy Siegle reports.
There's no question that most people have suffered somewhat from the economic downturn. But some people and even some non-profit organizations have discovered that by recycling and reusing, they'll not only help save the environment, but some much needed money as well. Lourdes Hernandez is one of them. She went to a community event in Katy recently, where residents swapped unwanted clothing and household items with others who could really use them.

"I was able to pick up a coffee pot which I needed, a microwave, and some blankets. Yeah, I was able to do a lot. I picked up quite a bit stuff that we can definitely use."

And Hernandez isn't the only one. Leticia Garcia says she was thrilled by the amount of baby clothes she was able to pick up for her little boy.

"My husband, he's the type of person with the economy the way it is and everything, he doesn't make that much money to go get him clothes and it helped a lot here."

Hernandez and Garcia are certainly feeling the pinch. And they're not alone. Non-profit organizations including churches, youth centers, and even schools are tightening their belts. The Monarch School—which provides innovative education for children with neurological differences—is one of them. Richard Klein, is a teacher there and says he's turning to the City of Houston Reuse Warehouse to get some quality building materials for the school's new property in northwest Houston.

"Yes, you can get very nice doors like we have here in the building, but those are expensive. Why not save a door from going to the land fill."


Keith Koski is the Project Director of The City of Houston Building Materials Reuse Warehouse. The warehouse takes donations of used building materials and hands them over to non-profits. When I met up with him, he had just returned from collecting a load of timber he was saving from being chipped and thrown away.

"What you're looking at here, we can have volunteers come over and help us de-nail it. This is good lumber. We have non-profits who can actually build houses out of this. This is good quality stuff."

People also drop off new windows, cabinets, tiles and more. David Barrows, one of the equipment operators, showed me around the place. He says that even if the recycled materials aren't in good condition he can refurbish them to make them usable again.

"And that's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna put this stone on here. I'm gonna go all the way around with it. It's gonna look like a nice custom tub. I do that, it's gonna be gone that day."

Koski says he's happy non-profits can rely on the Reuse Warehouse to get free recycled material, especially now when they're really stretching the dollar. He says the benefit of reusing is two-fold.

"It's also good for the economy and the environment, they're connected. And so, by polluting less we're going to pay less in the long run and by bringing material here we're polluting less."

Back with Lourdes Hernandez, she enlightens me on the way her family saves pennies and the environment.

"We reuse a lot of things and we pass down, you know. I come from a generation of hand-me-downs, what they called hand-me downs. We're always passing things on so not a lot of things go in the trash. We just pass it on to the next person."


Now that's a mentality we could probably all learn from.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I'm Wendy Siegle.

For directions to the City of Houston Building Materials Reuse Warehouse

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