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Good Gardening

Living Less Unsustainably: Construction Costs

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John Fischer
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Hi Earthlings, Climate Master John Fischer here with KLCC's Living Less Unsustainably.

Last month I tossed you a softball - "Put only the acceptable items in your recycling bin." Duh

This month a more complicated problem. We'll start with a story.

I recently moved 12-foot-by-18-foot shed onto an existing concrete slab. I fixed rotten wood in the framing, and upgraded the siding using reclaimed materials.

I could have built a new shed more quickly, but salvaging the old structure saved 95 percent of the materials needed- and eliminated all of the climate changing gasses produced in the manufacture of concrete.

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Credit John Fischer

The concern many people have is that it took longer, and time is money.

We are conditioned to use dollar costs as the sole criteria even when the full environmental costs of construction are not included. Ignoring the climate impacts of logging makes new two by fours less expensive than salvaged material- but not less costly.  

A 2015 audit by Lane County Waste Management found construction and demolition debris to be a large part of the waste stream. Now, loads over six yards- a medium size dump truck - must get presorted, or sent to a MRF- materials recovery facility- where they are separated into landfill and divert piles. You or your contractor can do the same for smaller projects.

But most of the diverted wood is downcycled into fuel. Saving and reusing a piece of lumber is like growing a tree- right now. Re-using the metal shed roof is like having your own steel plant- with no emissions,

With luck, the time you spend will be balanced out by things you don't have to buy.  But saving money can't be our only measure on the way to a sustainable future.  

"JOHN- THIS IS THE EARTH.  YOU CAN PAY MORE NOW, OR YOUR GRANDCHILDREN CAN PAY LATER. MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE." 

I did- I will.

I’m John Fischer with Living Less Unsustainably.

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