WHEN THE PIONEERS WERE HEADING across the plains, nothing ever went to waste. Women knitted wool scraps into mittens and dolls’ clothing, and boiled ashes and animal fat into soap. Anything on the trail that could be burned was used for heating. Back then, recycling and repurposing was a necessity. Today, the use of recycled materials is making more headway, and pleasing clients as well. If you can actually save money by going “green,” everyone wins.
Some new start-up landscape companies are building their business by being ‘green’. They offer their clients organic or systemic fertilizers, weed controls sans chemicals, biological insect controls, battery-operated lawn mowers, etc. In fact, some conventional landscape contractors have jumped on this bandwagon. They offer this same type of service to clients who request to be ecologically compliant. More importantly, they are willing to pay for it.
Now, you can take being ecofriendly to an even higher level.
Thanks to Denver, Colorado-based Repurposed Materials, Inc., landscape contractors can find recycled materials to use and save a bunch of money in the process. How much money? Often, 50 to 75 percent over the cost of buying new, says company founder and president Damon Carson.
Repurposed Materials does what its name implies. It finds industrial and marketing materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill, and repurposes them at low cost to the landscaping contractor. For example, imagine that you pass a roadside billboard for a 2011 President’s Day Sale on your way to work. Billboard art is pre-printed on stretched, flexible, weatherproof vinyl, which is then attached to the billboard scaffolding. As for that President’s Day Sale vinyl, it’s useless after the holiday. In the olden days, it would have been discarded, though the vinyl itself still had plenty of strength and durability.
Now, you can buy that vinyl.
“That stretchy vinyl makes a lowcost drop-cloth for lawn work, or to protect shrubbery during spraying,” says Carson. “It can be used to gather and tie-up lawn clippings and trimmings. It can even be a foul weather equipment tarp.”
Among its biggest sellers are used rubber roofing membranes. If you’re installing a pond and need a long, broad lining, Carson can sell you these membranes. Then, you’d apply waterproof adhesive to bind several membranes together. Voilà—you have a low-cost, highly functional pond or weed liner.
Recently, the company began to sell huge burlap bags that once were used for coffee. “Landscape contractors use them as weed barriers and in retaining walls,” says company CEO Dan Crease. Another product that works well for landscape contractors are ropes. Repurposed Materials, Inc. offers a variety of used rope for sale.
“The landscape industry has some of the most creative people I know when it comes to solving problems with whatever materials are at hand,” said Carson. “That’s why I think the landscape market is so receptive to these byproducts of industry. The materials are versatile and generic enough to be repurposed in all kinds of useful ways. Our customers prove every single day that good old American ingenuity is alive and well.”
There’s more. Carson repurposes empty 275-gallon water totes that can be used as an on-the-job water tank, or waste oil collector.
Actually, “repurposing” has been a going business for decades. Wine barrels destined for the dump get cut in half to make backyard planters, while old railroad ties are used in retaining walls and gardens (though plants hate the ones that have been soaked in creosote).
“Damon is the bird-dogger,” says Crease. “He’s out there calling on businesses, looking to see what’s waste to them. It could be gold to you.” Recycled products are as good as new, but cheaper than new. Sounds like a good way for everyone to go “green.”