Reuse Education: the Latest in “Green” Business Initiatives

Portland, Oregon, recently adopted a city-wide ordinance requiring pre-1917 houses that are slated for demolition to be “deconstructed” instead of being flattened or bulldozed. In addition to a healthier environment, this ordinance results in more jobs and millions of pounds of waste diverted from waste streams and instead made available for reuse.

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This is a huge win for the economy, waste management, and sustaining a healthier environment.
Cities like Portland have been implementing new and creative ways such as the new deconstruction ordinance to address our country’s waste stream epidemic for a long time. We’ve pioneered upstream tactics by promoting a thriving bicycling culture, a robust sharing economy, and by supporting non-profits with initiatives dedicated to sustainability.

The Need for Reuse Education

With an influx of salvaged building materials upon us, individuals, businesses and local government all across Oregon have a unique opportunity to leverage these new-found resources for education and commerce like never before. Businesses based around reusing and reclaiming are forming, homeowners are becoming more keen on using reclaimed materials for their DIY projects, and still more folks are simply curious to learn about reuse so that they might live and share with others this burgeoning  reuse mindset. As the need for inventive solutions for our environment and economy continue to grow, the need for professionals who have a working understanding of sustainability and “green” business practices can’t be understated.

With a larger percentage of structures slated for deconstruction in order to mindfully glean its parts for reuse, the need for education within the reuse economy – including private workforce development and publicly available skill-building – couldn’t be more pressing.

Rising to the Challenge

For nearly two decades, we at Rebuilding Center have worked at doing our part in innovative and creative waste reduction and reuse. As the nation’s first year-round deconstruction service, we’ve been instrumental in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in community-based approaches to urban development challenges. Our salvage retail operation thrives on the support of over 6,000 volunteers annually, inviting individuals and groups alike to join us in furthering the environmental, economic, and social vitality of local communities through reuse.

In August 2016, we rolled out ReBuilding Center Education with the aim to empower students to develop practical skills through a wide range of fun, hands-on classes. Our fully equipped woodshop and professional teaching staff welcome hundreds of people every month, from youth groups and DIY homeowners to team-building and employee training workshops. Since our start, we’ve been able to offer:

  • affordable classes on weekday evenings and weekends, including scholarship opportunities for over 4500 youth and adults
  • instruction to thousands of 7th grade students through our “maker-experience” classes focused on S.T.E.A.M. educational objectives;
  • multi-day intensive courses for students from private schools and extracurricular groups;
  • internships for participants from programs like Portland Youth Builders and Oregon Tradeswomen seeking additional training and hands-on experience on their way into the trades.

Equipping the Marketplace for Reuse

This summer, ReBuilding Center Education is expanding programs for workforce development, employee training, and team-building. We understand the need that firms, big and small, have for equipping staff in how to be most effective across multiple disciplines. A realtor that has first-hand exposure to the electrical and plumbing componentry of a home is more prepared to set their clients’ minds at ease. Remodeling contractors whose staff know the sustainable practice of deconstruction can provide an added value for their clients.

Our classes teach people how to use tools safely and apply new skills to future projects. Group classes are a great way to share fun and new skills among friends and coworkers. Participants get to collaborate, problem-solve, and explore creativity while gaining practical know-how and, depending on the class, a pretty cool project to take home. We can also help your business to rapidly onboard entry-level new hires in construction, deconstruction, and manufacturing, or give sales and admin staff better insight into the production side of things. We can create a short, intensive training focused on a specific process or set of tools, or design a skill-building series over multiple sessions.

We know our work is only beginning in the reuse education world. The success of our past and current partners in taking new skillsets and putting them to immediate and good use truly excites us. With the use of salvaged building materials as a back-drop for building competency and community, we can see the turning of the tide in how we view personal and professional development.

Aaron Green is the Education Coordinator for ReBuilding Center