Remodeling with the Three Rs

Remodeling with the Three Rs

Reduce, reuse and recycle for a green, healthy remodel

It’s no surprise—remodeling projects generate waste, and an important aspect of responsible remodeling is determining when to reduce, reuse and recycle. Selecting home-improvement contractors who are well versed in green remodeling is a crucial step in setting environmentally friendly project goals, including reducing waste and conserving energy and supplies.

Reduce and reuse
Recycling any waste or remnants remaining from a project is one way to dispose of it, however, contractors should reduce all forms of trash as much as possible initially. Near the end of a project, they should diligently separate the trash from the recycling and check with the local government agency in charge of waste management for places that will recycle any metal, wood waste or other materials in good condition.

Homeowners can recycle most of the materials remaining from remodeling projects, including wood scraps, concrete rubble and carpeting. Usable appliances can be donated. Extra paint supplies can be stored for touch-ups later.  

One recycling resource available in many areas is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which accepts building supplies, fixtures and appliances less than 10 years old. Visit for more information, including ReStore locations and donation instructions.

Recycling benefits
Sorting and recycling materials is positive not only for the environment but also for homeowners’ bank accounts. It is sometimes possible to earn tax credits for recycling, and this may make a project, at minimum, cost-neutral.

Visit, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Energy, for a list of financial incentives for using renewable energy and conserving energy. 

Also check with local or state municipality or the federal government for more information, keeping in mind that green remodeling has long-term financial and health benefits, as well.


lead paint dangers
Homeowners need to be wary of one possible hazard of remodeling: lead paint, which can cause a range of health issues, from behavioral problems to brain damage.

The most common way for lead to get in the body is from dust, which can enter the body during normal hand-to-mouth activities. Lead dust comes from deteriorating lead-based paint and common renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition. 

If lead paint is present, homeowners should not try to dispose of it without first consulting reliable sources, such as professional remodelers and government health departments. If not careful, homeowners might inhale the dust.

lead paint law
Beginning in April 2010, federal law will require that all contractors that disturb lead-based paint in homes, childcare facilities and schools built before 1978 be certified. U.S. regulations also will require home-improvement contractors to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. If your home falls into one of the above categories, your contractor should give you the Renovate Right brochure and have you sign a disclosure form, saying you’ve read the brochure and understand the hazards of lead paint.

questions for a contractor
• Ask if the contractor is trained to perform lead-safe work practices and to see a copy of his or her training certificate.
• Ask them what lead-safe methods they will use to set up and perform the job.
• Ask for references from at least three recent jobs involving homes built before 1978 and speak to each homeowner personally.

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