Transforming Trash to Treasure: Alaska nonprofits divert 'trash' from landfills.

Author:Orr, Vanessa
Position:Environmental

One of the most noble goals of three Alaska nonprofits--Habitat for Humanity Anchorage, Anchorage re:MADE, and Goodwill--is to help people get back on their feet by providing access to homes, job training, networking opportunities, and more. What people may not realize, however, is that they are able to fund many of these programs by also helping the environment.

Habitat Anchorage Restore

Habitat for Humanity Anchorage, for example, raises money through Habitat Anchorage ReStore, which opened in 2006. All of the items they carry are donated and then resold at big savings to customers.

"The items that we receive come from small local businesses, large corporations, and people who finish projects and have leftover materials," says Norman Beasley, general manager of Habitat Anchorage ReStore, adding that donors include Grainger, Carlile, Lowe's, and Target, as well as hotels, real estate agents, landlords, personal contractors, and homeowners. "Things go full circle here; materials that were once in a high-society home may now be decorating the house of a student."

ReStore accepts almost any type of donation, though they are best known for the construction materials they carry. "Contractors like us because we get in commercial materials, like scaffolding joists, that they can't get anywhere else for the same price," says Beasley. "But we also carry personal items that people can use to dress up areas in their homes, sheds, or garages."

"While our niche is building materials, we do want to open up our offerings to the broader community, so we're looking at carrying more furniture and home decor," agrees Erika Shedlarski, development director. "We work with what comes in--we even partnered with a company that gave us shoes at one point."

While ReStore is great for those looking for a bargain, the shop is even better for the environment. According to Beasley, roughly 36 tons of metal is recycled each year, keeping it out of the landfill. "For example, we accept refrigerators, and if they're damaged, we give them to a company that recycles Freon and the materials inside the fridge," he explains. "We probably get ten to fifteen refrigerators a month that we keep from going into the landfill."

ReStore promotes recycling, repurposing, and reselling and tries to use everything they receive. "I tell my staff to say 'no' as a last-ditch effort," says Beasley. "We have customers who repurpose pallets as tables or wall surfaces and who recycle pipes and...

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