MATERIALS

What’s the problem?

60-70% of debris collected by the NYC Department of Sanitation is directly attributable to residential demolition, construction & renovation.

Post-consumer waste is filling up landfills faster than decomposition can make them available again.

While fossil fuel-based transportation is relatively inexpensive, the impact on the environment is huge, particularly with regard to air quality, global warming, loss of natural habitat due to roads and oil drilling and contaminated groundwater.

We are using materials faster than they can be replenished by nature.

Wood is a renewable resource but not at the rate we are using it.

What can I do?

  • The good news is that by living in NYC, we are already contributing to the sustainability of the US! Apartment dwellers share their heat, insulation and infrastructure required to bring water and energy to the dwelling.
  • Use Freecycle, NYC Stuff Exchange, Build It Green, to recycle materials.
  • Compost in the backyard or under the kitchen sink to reduce quantity of stuff going into the waste stream.
  • Brooklyn has several local drop-offs for electronic recycling which reduces the amount of heavy metals being leached into the soil.
  • Reduce plastic bag usage: carry durable, reusable bags for shopping.
  • Buy regionally to reduce the number of transportation miles for products you buy. LEED standards define “regionally” as 500 miles away.
  • Buy materials that renew quickly such as bamboo and cork.
  • Replace MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard, which also has issues with offgassing) with wheatboard made from wheatstalks.
  • Linoleum tile is made from linseed oil and is cost competitive with vinyl.
  • Organic insulation products are coming onto the market.
  • Use FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood products. FSC is an international non-profit group that works towards sustainable forestry in 57 nations worldwide. Certification guarantees that the wood is harvested from a well-managed forest.
  • There are hundreds of new products made from rapidly renewable materials. We can barely keep up.

How this helps the environment:

  • Reduce your impact on the natural environment.

How this helps you:

  • Save money on carting: For a big rehab, you can sell separated concrete for $10/ton and scrap drywall, separated, can be picked up at $60/ton.
  • Save money on re-used building materials: as more people recycle building materials, there will be more selection available.
  • Make your own clean soil for your garden.
  • Supporting local businesses makes the community more economically sustainable.

Resources:

NYC Department of Sanitation
All things composting
William McDonough, Master of recycling (upcycling)
Forest Stewardship Council

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