Old Waste into a New Place

Photo by vyzl | flickr.com

When something becomes old or destroyed, we replace it. Think of all the times you or your family have brought into the house a new bedroom set, coffee table or couch. Where does the waste go every time you’ve cracked a dish, broken a glass, or maybe dented a piece of furniture?  Once again, what was disposed of during the last refurnishing of a room in your home, or perhaps after the basement or backyard renovation?

Fortunately, men like Dan Phillips have their feet on solid ground when it comes to recognizing the expense imposed by all the materials invested into homes, which affect our Earth as well as our wallets. Phillips founded a company called Phoenix Commotion 12 years ago to remediate the issue of waste that is carelessly discarded by companies involved in the construction of buildings and homes.  Making a difference in Huntsville, Texas, this builder creates affordable housing for low-income families or single parents for as little as $10,000. Remarkably, 70-80% of these creative homes are composed entirely of recycled material, while incorporating energy efficient systems.

Lumber, granite and tile are a few of the things brought to Phillips from large wholesale companies who would otherwise have dumped the unwanted construction resources. Local residents further contribute to his outlet of furnishings by offering doors, bathtubs, or a variety of other old fixtures that were to be tossed after a new remodeling job. In a fashionable manner, Phillips actually features the blemishes of old material by inputting repetition into his designs by using someone else’s ‘scraps’ to make patterns which add appeal to a home, regardless of the material used.

In this way, creativity is also encouraged in Phillips’ designs, as he has constructed intricate bottle cap floor mosaics, along with roofs slated completely with old license plates. He even takes advantage of mirror shards and other broken glass to pave over walls in an elegant manner.  Furthermore, these houses (of which Phillips has currently accomplished 13) are high-energy efficient: excellent insulation, on-demand solar hot water heaters, and a system that recycles rainwater to be used for toilet flushing or washing clothes are a few of the ways in which this has been achieved.

By no means does the admirable work of Phoenix Commotions stop at the construction of their houses which directly recycles scrap waste.  Several universal social concerns are also approached.  Phillips particularly hires non-skilled workers so he can pass marketable skills onto them and help them find higher paying jobs. Additionally, the materials brought to Phillips which he does not take advantage of are further distributed to non-profit groups or low-income residents in need of making their own building improvements. 

Phillips’ ideas of reuse warehouses and affordable homes which effectively manage waste are expanding across the United States and the world.  His developments have prevented approximately 200 tons of waste from reaching landfills, within only 6 months.  Large scale differences such as the work of Phoenix Commotion is a task not likely achieved by most people, although their motives can also be translated to small scale practices, such as conserving household items that don’t necessarily need to be discarded. It is important to explore the options of other people, or their companies, who may be willing to use your unwanted chair and table set, old pieces of wood from the deck or floors you replaced, or that couch which no longer looks nice in your home.

As far as waste production is concerned, it is important to realize that, as stated by Phillips, “Trees don’t grow 2 inches by four inches 8, 10, and 12 feet tall.”  When extracting from the environment, there will always be a cost to balance the benefits we acquire.  For this reason, a more conscious effort must be taken by ourselves and the companies stripping the Earth of the resources that are transformed into products we can easily pull off a shelf.