From Trash to Treasure

Urban Ore in Berkeley, CA. Photo: Sim Newman.

Monette Pierce of Anderson recently moved her business, Beauty for Ashes, a massage and doula service, to downtown Redding. The new location’s open space is void of partitions or privacy walls, causing Pierce to spread the word that she is in need of doors.

Doors?  This may sound like a strange request, but the young entrepreneur has a plan. She wants to purchase several doors and connect them together with hinges to form “screens” that can be easily moved while also providing flexible spacing.

Taken at Moore’s Green Goods in Anderson, CA. Photo: Pamela Newman

“I can buy new doors for about $27 each,” says Pierce, referring to the prices posted at a local building supply store. Hoping to keep costs down, she’d rather find used materials. A phone call to Moore’s Green Goods in Anderson might be the solution.

Moore’s Green Goods motto is “Where Reuse is Green and Green is Good!” The store is co-owned by mother and daughter Rita Moore and Terasa Smolenski. They opened on Earth Day in April 2011, selling good-quality used and alternative building supplies to the public. Doors, windows, sinks, vanities, lighting and cabinets, as well as a variety of other repurposed and unique items, fill the building. “We sell stuff at reasonable prices,” says Moore, “Usually 50 to 70 percent off retail.”

According to Moore, 20 percent of garbage in landfills is reusable building materials. She hopes to put that 20 percent back to work. Moore has been involved in recycling since she was a little girl growing up in Shasta County. Every day after school, she and her mom would stop at the former Clear Creek Dump to look for salvageable materials. “There is a deep tradition in our area of being resourceful,” she adds, with a sense of pride in her voice. “We restored our home from these salvaged items.”

Moore has been involved in recycling programs since the early ‘80s, and in 2008 she won a national Environmental Protection Agency award, along with her husband Keith Moore, for their achievements with the Pit River Tribe Solid Waste & Recycling program.

Her daughter Terasa has followed in her mother’s footsteps and hopes to pass the passion on to the next generation. “We need to teach kids how to be resourceful and what you can do with what you already have,” she says.

Jill Bennett of Anderson recently purchased a piece of PVC pipe from Moore’s that she will repurpose into a curtain rod. She also purchased a window screen and says if it doesn’t fit her window, it will be repurposed for use in her compost bin. Both purchases totaled one dollar.  Bennet’s compost bin was created from an old clothes dryer basin. A friend helped her alter some old car wash trolleys, used to pull cars through an automatic car wash, into usable machinery to spin the unique composter. “I want to come to Moore’s every day,” says Bennett.

“The place is like heaven for me,” says Tim Garman of Garman’s Custom Photography in Cottonwood, who is always on the hunt for unique pieces he can use for his custom-made frames. Rather than throw things away, “why not turn them into something useful,” he says. He also finds “treasures” at garage sales and on Craig’s List, where people often give things away for free.

Garman is currently dismantling a free piano that suffered water damage, and is incorporating the pieces into several frames. “I figured it still had some life left and we just needed to find it,” he says. The same is true for an old box that once held a clock – soon it will hold a photograph.

Another prized discovery occurred after Garman responded to a newspaper ad for a yard sale that announced all unsold items would be tossed into the dump. With just 15 minutes to spare, Garman retrieved an old display cabinet used in a former Red Bluff business. He removed the panels, turned them over, bathed them with Murphy’s oil, and then re-purposed them to serve as rustic picture frames.

Derek Maloney from Habitat For Humanity ReStore in Chico. Photo: Pamela Newman

Habitat for Humanity also provides discounted building materials to the public through their ReStores. ReStores can be found throughout the U.S., including nearby Chico, CA and Medford, OR. Sales provide funds for Habitat for Humanity and help extend Habitat’s mission of  building adequate, affordable shelter, growing communities, and offering hope to those in need. “The community gets a low-cost alternative to purchasing new building materials, and they also get a place to donate leftover or used items and materials for a tax-deduction,” says Chico ReStore Director Owen Bettis. “I usually describe the store as a thrift version of Home Depot.”

Although a large part of the store’s sales are not used for repurposing, Owen has learned of some interesting projects: barbed-wire is used to make rustic wall hangings, doors turn into tables, cabinet doors become shelves, single-pane windows form lids for raised garden beds, and propane tanks (dropped off without permission) are converted into flower sculptures. “The concept of repurposing goes a long way here,” he says.

In Berkeley, CA, Urban Ore has a long history of turning trash into treasures with their mission “To End the Age of Waste.”  Now offering 3 acres of recycled goods at their Echopark store, it all began in 1980, when founder Dan Knapp and others received permission to scavenge materials from the City of Berkeley’s landfill.

The Ecopark Store is divided into two divisions: the General Store and the Building Materials Exchange. Both areas are full of a wide variety of reusable materials ready to be given new life. In addition to building materials and household goods, you’ll find sporting goods, art supplies, clothing, a bookstore, a gallery, garden items and much more.

North State artist Nemo Gould has found his share of treasures at Urban Ore.  He’s repurposed acoustic guitars, teakettles, table legs, vacuum tubes, headboards and more to form amazing works of art; visit for inspiration.

Stores like Urban Ore, Moore’s Green Goods, ReStores and thrift stores pose the question: What treasures can be found in trash? It’s a question we should all take the time to answer … you just might be surprised at what you find!

[sws_green_box box_size=”590″]

Moore’s Green Goods
1697 South St., Anderson, CA.
(530) 378-2700

Habitat for Humanity ReStores
220 Meyers St., Chico, CA.
(530) 343-7423

160 N Fir St, Medford, OR.
(541) 773-9095

Urban Ore
900 Murray St. Berkeley, CA.
(510) 841-7283[/sws_green_box%5D

Kimberly Shaw
About Kimberly Shaw

Kimberly Shaw is a local Northern California author.

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