5 quick tips: how to reduce waste during construction

The EPA estimates that 548 million tons of construction and demolition (C/D) debris (concrete, asphalt, steel, wood products, drywall, brick and clay tile, etc) was generated in the U.S. in 2015 alone — more than twice the amount of generated municipal solid waste. The reduction, reuse, and recycling of C/D can be accomplished through deconstruction and reclamation. Keeping the materials in the loop is an important part of reducing waste in Deschutes County.

During this year’s Green Tour you can catch a panel discussion all about rethinking construction waste. We will hear from homeowners who are salvaging materials, getting creative (like stenciling their old tile floors to give them a whole new modern look!), and utilitizing great finds from the Restore. We’ll be joined by the Habitat for Humanity Restore too so we can learn what types of materials can be salvaged and donated to be reused in the community. On the new construction side, we’ll hear from two builders who are reducing the their waste footprints with panelized designs.

Register Here

Did you know: 25% or more of Deschutes County’s Knott Landfill consists of construction and demolition waste?

This seems daunting, but there are simple ways to reduce this number. Are you thinking about a remodeling or construction project? Here are some ways to rethink construction waste:

Are you remodeling? Take the time to deconstruct.

  1. Getting rid of old kitchen cabinets? Call the ReStore’s reclamation services. They will remove the old ones out for you and then take the ReStore where someone else can buy them. Keep it in the loop!
  2. If you’re getting rid of appliances that still work, try to sell them or donate them.
  3. Gently remove old wood and trim rather than using the sledgehammer. Satisfaction will come from passing materials on and you can go hit the punching bag at the gym to get your energy out!

Set up a recycling station at the construction site.

  1. Get a good idea of what you will need: what materials on site will be good for donation? What different recycling streams can you contribute to?
  2. Outline a recycling area on the construction site.
  3. Obtain containers for each donatable and recyclable.
  4. Make sure you have clear signs for each area!
  5. Educate everyone on site so folks know what goes where.

Kor community land trust models this well. Check out their recycling station below. If you want to see it in person, you can sign up for an in-person tour for Saturday, September 26 through our annual Green Tour event!

When designing your new look, take the following into consideration:

  1.  Use non-toxic options like natural flooring and low or no VOC paints.
  2. Can you find the building material you need at your local ReStore?
  3. Choose classic designs and finishes that work well over time rather than the trendy new look. (Green shag carpet, anyone?)

Time to paint!?

  1. Try a sample before you commit.
  2. Buy only what you need! Try a paint calculator.
  3. Only need a little paint? Can you find a good color at the ReStore?
  4. Don’t toss old paint! Recycle it: donate usable paint, all else take it to Knott Landfill for proper disposal.

Get inspired by other people’s reuse ideas:

Check out the Porter bathroom from the 2020 Green Tour! In this segment, Michelle talks about redoing surfaces instead of trashing good materials in order to update a dated space. Watch the whole video here.

Do you have any fun reuse ideas?

Rethink Waste in and around your garden with Bend Urban Gardens

There is so much waste that can happen in backyard gardening: building materials, toxic chemicals from herbicides and pesticides, not to mention water, energy, and food waste potentials that can occur. I had a chance to sit down with a professional to learn about some best practices around waste reduction in the garden. From non-toxic alternatives to building and decorating with found materials, Ashley Joyce (in header photo) of Bend Urban Gardens tells us what’s up.

And some exciting news: it isn’t too late in the year to plant stuff! There are plenty of crops that go in for a fall harvest. Read on.

RW: Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What’s your company called and who do you serve? 

AJ: I am Ashley Joyce, the founder, lead gardener, and vegetable enthusiast of Bend Urban Gardens LLC. Our mission is to bring research-based information to local gardeners through personalized on-site coaching, offering guidance for success in growing nutritious and delicious food in the high desert. Growing vegetables in Central Oregon can be intimidating and overwhelming, but we make gardening in our climate accessible through inspiration, education, and ongoing support. We serve aspiring vegetable gardeners with little to no experience growing food as well as folks who are looking to expand or improve their existing edible landscapes.

RW: What is your history with Central Oregon? How long have you been involved in gardening here and how did you get started with gardening?

AJ: I moved to Bend when I was eleven years old, but it wasn’t until my AmeriCorps VISTA service, in my early twenties, that I developed an interest in where food comes from. During that time, I volunteered on an urban farm and cared for a small container garden on my rooftop. Even though I lost my first tomatoes to city squirrels, I persevered and spent a few growing seasons interning on diversified organic vegetable farms. It was at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz (CASFS), a training program for organic farmers and gardeners, where I led farm field trips for kids, that I realized applying my food production knowledge to educating others about growing and preparing food was my niche. In 2009, after completing the program and earning a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture, I moved home to Bend and spent nearly nine years teaching nutrition, cooking, and gardening, as an educator with the OSU Extension Service SNAP-ED Program in Deschutes County.

Once back in Bend, I started gardening on a very small scale, amending patches of soil in the backyards where I lived. I was a member of the Hollinshead Community Garden for a season before finally landing at my current home, where I’ve been since 2012. In 2015, my husband and I were honored to share our garden with the community on the High Desert Garden Tour presented by the OSU Extension Service and the Central Oregon Chapter of OSU Master Gardeners. We showcased the possibilities of using season extension to grow a CSA share in a back (and now front, too!) yard in Bend, despite our unpredictable, short growing season. 

RW: In regards to material waste, what are some ways you see excess pertaining to gardening, and what are some suggestions you have for creative reuse in the garden? 

AJ: There are so many creative ways to upcycle materials in a garden, whether it is for building garden beds or trellises, or for decoration, depending on the aesthetic you are going for in your outdoor living space.

Old lumber: Repurposing old lumber into raised beds for edible plants is a popular way to reuse materials. However, be sure the wood isn’t treated or painted with lead paint if you are using it to grow edible plants. 

Pallets: If you are going to plant directly into a pallet, look for pallets that are heat-treated instead of chemical treated, and make sure you are comfortable with where they came from. 

Old tires: Also a popular material for repurposing into garden spaces, especially since they can retain heat well and offer warmth to your plants when they are in direct sunlight, although there is some evidence that chemicals in tires can leach into edible crops over time, so we don’t recommend planting food crops in tires, but you could use them for a flower garden. 

Trellises: Branches, old bike wheels, and even headboards can make great trellises for viney climbing plants. If you are spending more time at home and engaging in home projects, think about the ways you can repurpose materials instead of sending them to the landfill. This season I took apart a portion of my chicken coop (to convert to more garden space, of course!) and reused the gate as a trellis for my peas! 

Check out what these two Bend Urban Gardens clients did with upcycled bits for their gardens:

One easy way to reduce waste is to get bulk soil for your raised beds instead of bagged soil.

In our household, we have accumulated a variety of bike parts over the years and have decorated our raised beds with chainrings and also used busted bike tubes as a durable protector to cover the area where our greenhouse plastic is attached to our hoop house hoops.

Cloches decorated with a bicycle chainring. Used bike tubes line the outside of the hoops for protection.

RW: What about on a smaller scale? Like just a pot of herbs?

AJ: Growing herbs in containers can be a great gateway into urban gardening. New pots can be expensive, especially large ones, but virtually any food-safe container that is at least 12 inches deep and 8 inches in diameter can make a good home for most plants. As long as there is some way for the container to allow for drainage, you can get creative. The Environmental Center has some innovative examples of rain gutter vertical gardens. Hanging shoe organizers that no longer have a clear purpose in your home after you’ve embraced a more minimalist lifestyle can be converted into gardens! Even old furniture, like dressers, can be turned into gardens. 

For seed starting on a home scale or growing microgreens, try reusing plastic clamshell containers with openings at the bottom, or even making drainage holes in tofu, yogurt, sour cream, and rotisserie chicken containers (also great for an easy greenhouse). 

RW: There are a lot of chemicals out there that people can purchase for use in their garden for both pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. What kind of non-toxic alternatives do you recommend? 

AJ: Building healthy garden soil is the best thing you can do to prevent the need for pesticides and supplementing with a lot of fertilizers. Of course, even in a vegetable garden with healthy soil, there are still creatures and plant diseases that can come along, and weeds can easily outcompete your plants if they aren’t managed. Our local garden centers have a variety of non-toxic products to choose from depending on your issue. 

Pesticides: For new gardeners (especially those spending a lot of time watching their plants during COVID times), it can sometimes be challenging to judge the severity of a pest issue. Simply being ok with sharing some of your plants can help you reduce the need for interventions in the first place. But, when pests are really making an impact on your ability to grow food, then some sort of intervention is usually needed. This spring, for example, cutworms devoured my spring greens. The bugs eat the bottom of the plant stems thereby killing the plant. I could’ve applied diatomaceous earth (a non-toxic pest control) once I realized that handpicking them out each day wasn’t reducing their population enough to save my plants, but I know that diatomaceous earth could’ve also done harm to beneficial insects. So, I pulled used toilet paper rolls out of my fire starting bin and made plant collars for the remaining bok choy and spinach plants as well as around my basil starts. I used coffee cup sleeves for my tomatoes. The collars protect the plants (and their stems) by being a physical barrier around the base!

Toilet paper roll and coffee sleeve collars to prevent insects from eating young greens!

I try to minimize the chance of having an infestation in the first place, by rotating my crops from season to season and attracting beneficial insects by planting flowers near my vegetable garden. Companion planting with fragrant herbs and flowers can deter some unwanted pests or become trap crops, sacrificial crops to help protect the plants you are growing for food. If those actions fail, I have had success with making a homemade insecticidal soap spray of 1 tablespoon dish soap and 1-quart water.

Herbicides: I don’t use herbicides. Solarizing and mulching are techniques I’ve practiced while apprenticing on farms to keep weeds down. Vinegar can be an effective weed killer, but I typically recommend simply using hand tools to remove weeds when they are small and easy to uproot. The hula hoe and hori hori are my favorites. 

Fertilizers: Nutrients aren’t typically as accessible to plants in a new garden (or in colder spring weather), mainly since microorganisms haven’t yet had the chance to turn the nutrients in your compost and the minerals in your soil into a form that your plants can use, so a balanced organic fertilizer can really help give your plants a boost at the beginning of the season in new garden beds and throughout the season for your heavy feeding plants like tomatoes, peppers, and squash.

RW: Watering is also a big issue, especially in the heat of mid-summer in drought conditions. What are your tips for the best time to water your vegetable garden?

AJ: First, I would definitely suggest reaching out to a licensed irrigation professional to help you use water most efficiently in your landscape. Many new vegetable gardeners choose to hand water or they place their vegetable gardens near existing overhead irrigation and end up putting down way too much water at once. I recommend watering in the early morning and practicing a cycle and soak approach, watering for short intervals of time, more frequently. This helps to avoid run off and to ensure that water is getting down to the roots of your plants. Feel your soil regularly to check the soil moisture to determine if you need to adjust your watering schedule. Investing in a drip irrigation system for your veggie garden will not only save you time, but is very effective at applying water. I recommend 1/4” drip lines with emitters every 6”  with lines spaced 8” apart in a garden bed. This should allow for enough lateral movement of the water to reach all of your plants right at their roots. 

RW: What about some good plants for Central Oregon xeriscaping? What’s your take on lawns? Is there a responsible way to do it or should we just get rid of them?

Bend Urban Gardens specializes in edible gardening. In our demonstration garden, there are a variety of flowering landscape plants near our edible annuals and perennials to help attract pollinators. We have chosen some natives, like Oregon Sunshine and penstemons that have low water needs. Everyone has different preferences and goals for their personal landscapes. In mine, if I’m going to consume water, I want it to be helping to grow food or pollinator habitat. I know that my puppy would love to have a patch of grass to roll around on, but it motivates us to get some exercise and walk to the park for that!

RW: Would you mind highlighting one plant that does well in Central Oregon?

AJ: Just one!?! Cold tolerant greens tend to do great in Central Oregon, and growing your own salad mix can definitely help you avoid the packaging that greens tend to be sold in. Choosing more heat resistant varieties for summer and planting them to the north of tall crops or covering them with shade cloth can help you continue your harvest through the heat of summer. 

It’s not too late to plant some vegetables for the fall and even to overwinter! This month, try sowing short-season varieties of beets, carrots, and leafy greens, as well as transplanting broccoli and cabbage. Plant garlic in October. At the end of August and into September, you can plant successions of spinach. It won’t grow much over the winter, but it could hold if covered with row cover and greenhouse plastic, for some fabulous early spring greens. Brassica family plants do very well in Central Oregon because they are so cold tolerant and can offer a continuous harvest throughout the growing season. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, boy choy, radishes, and Hakurei salad turnips are some of my favorites.

RW: Anything else you would like to add about waste in the garden? 

AJ: First off, growing an edible garden, in general, is a great way to reduce food waste for families because kids are often more likely to eat veggies that they helped grow or harvest. 

Also, plant spacing is really important in the garden because plants that are spaced too close together often don’t thrive and this can impact the other plants growing around them, wasting water and energy to grow plants that aren’t able to reach maturity. Bend Urban Gardens offers personalized crop plans to help you maximize your space and increase your chance of getting a bountiful harvest from what you grow. We also offer garden lessons to help you learn when to harvest your food, so that you don’t end up wasting the food you are working so hard to grow! 

Size Matters: How ADUs Can Help Prevent Waste

Although the unofficial American mantra seems to be “Bigger is Better”, thankfully there is a strong cultural trend swinging the other way towards downsizing. And while tiny homes aren’t for everyone, they are assisting a cultural shift towards at least looking at, or considering, the idea of smaller space. What we put in it. What we hold on to. What we need versus what we want. What a larger space demands. How much is enough, and how much can be really too much. Because the bigger the house, the more stuff you put in it, the more heat you need to warm it, the more power you need to light it, the more money and time you need to maintain it.

So while tiny homes aren’t for everyone, one thing that has gained popularity around a similar idea is an Accessory Dwelling Unit. You know, the apartment over a garage. A small “mother-in-law” studio behind a larger single family house. There has been a surge in popularity in ADU’s for a multitude of reasons.

First, people usually go down this path for a long term income generator. They can be rented out as a vacation rental or a long term rental. But from a community perspective, ADU’s offer flexibility. A family could live in the larger house and rent out the ADU, maybe they take over both residencies as their family expands, and then when it’s empty nest time, maybe the older couple downsizes to the smaller residence, taking advantage of renting out the larger one for continued income into their twilight years. This allows a family residence to expand and contract, without building bigger houses.

On the renter side, ADU’s offer a smaller living space that may meet the needs of singles, couples, or even small families. In a time when Bend has an extremely low vacancy rate, and yet is growing and building large homes, there are fewer options for renters. Building ADU’s creates housing opportunities within many walkable neighborhoods through infill, rather than pushing housing out to the edges.

What does any of this have to do with rethinking waste? Oregon DEQ has done a lot of research into how the size of your home (including what it’s made out of, how it’s heated and powered, and how you behave inside of it) which points to one of the biggest ways you can prevent waste: choose to build/buy/rent and live in a smaller home.

For those that really enjoy geeking out on this kind of stuff, check out this report: A Life Cycle Approach to Prioritizing Methods of Preventing Waste from the Residential Construction Sector in the State of Oregon. The report states that

materials from construction, remodeling, and demolition projects are a significant contributor to waste in Oregon, and buildings themselves and the materials used to make them have significant environmental impacts. Using lifecycle analysis, DEQ evaluated waste prevention practices (reduction or reuse of materials) in residential buildings to determine which practices have the largest environmental benefits over the life of a home. Results indicated that among the 30 different material reduction and reuse practices evaluated, reducing home size and multi-family living achieved the largest greenhouse gas reductions along with significant reductions in other impact categories.” 

In other words, size matters: you can have a smaller footprint in a regular smaller home than you often can in a super green but very large home, and ADU’s are one way to build intentionally smaller living spaces.

Interested in learning more? Lucky you, there is an ADU focused Green Drinks coming up this Thursday, followed by an ADU workshop in May with Portland ADU expert Kol Peterson. If you’re serious about looking into building an ADU, or just want to check out some small space eye candy, his website Building an ADU is chock full of images and resources.


DIY Upcycling Projects

Upcycling is the practice of taking material that has no value in its current state and turning it into something that does.  Some entrepreneurs are turning discarded material into a business venture. Green Guru Gear, out of Colorado, makes backpacks, bike panniers, and more with old bicycle inner tubes, wet suits, tents, and more. But the best part about upcycling is the limitless opportunities for Do It Yourself projects to make something unique, yourself.

For the recent Bend Open Streets event, we were inspired to make a pop-up mini-park using reclaimed materials for our seating and table. We had plenty of pallets, from all of the LED light bulb deliveries for our 16 Free LED Lightbulb program with The Energy Challenge. A volunteer used leftover wood pallets to deconstruct and turn into foldable wooden chairs. A quick google image search gives you plenty of ideas and inspiration, which often lead to tutorials with step by step instructions for the beginner pallet furniture DIYer.

Scrolling through pop up park images we came across tires turned into tire-seat-webseating, and it turned into a relatively easy, cheap, and fun way to upcycle bald tires into unique functional outdoor furniture. Les Schwab let us have as many free tires as we wanted, so the only cost was 52′ feet of parachutes cord and a can of spray paint.

Lastly, we wanted a table. It didn’t take long to find a free coffee table put out by the curb, but the free section on Craigslist is another great source of material when I’m not so lucky. In fact today there are multiple old entertainment centers listed for free, and Pinterest has thousands of ideas for upcycling old entertainment centers into clever entryway storage, kids kitchens, and more. A quick coat of paint on the legs and chalkboard paint for the surface turned a beaten down table into a kid-friendly outdoor play/eat/art table.

Upcycling is fun, creative, unique, and a great way to not only reduce what gets sent to the landfill but also inspire people to rethink the stuff in our lives. Here’s a shortlist of some great places to find materials or ideas to upcycle something clever for your home.

What upcycling projects have you done? Let us know, we’d loved to feature it!

Green Building 101


Sustainable building (also called “green building”) offers great opportunities for reducing waste and saving money, energy and natural resources, resulting in a better environment for all of us. Sustainable building makes sense – it is more than just a “feel good” factor.

The main principles of green home building are:

  1. Optimize the use of the sun
  2. Design a durable and energy-efficient home
  3. Create a healthy living environment
  4. Reduce energy use in the home
  5. Conserve land and natural resources


Optimizing the sun means using the power of the sun to assist in heating and lighting our homes. There are two types of solar use: passive and active. Passive solar use in our region means orienting and designing the home to take advantage of the Southern exposure to reduce the need for artificial lighting or heating. Active solar refers to solar electric (photovoltaic, or PV) panels that produce electricity and solar water heaters that pre-heat the water to reduce the need for outside energy.

The object of designing a durable and energy-efficient home is to reduce maintenance, repair and replacement and the demand for resources and energy. This can be accomplished by designing and building a solid foundation, walls and roof and utilizing strategies to reduce damage by moisture, pests, and other factors that can compromise the building. Windows and other components (such as insulation, heating systems, flashing and weather barriers) all can improve the energy-efficiency and durability of the home.

Creating a healthy living environment not only saves in long-term health care costs, but makes everyday living more pleasant and enjoyable. Good indoor air quality (IAQ) can be achieved by using natural and non-toxic finishes and materials, installing systems that provide fresh and conditioned air (especially important in tight, energy-efficient homes), and taking measures to prevent mold, hazardous fumes and other pollutants.

The most visible savings come from energy-efficiency, as monthly utility bills can be significantly reduced by installing energy-efficient heating systems, appliances, lighting, and anything else that uses energy. There are many resources for making your home more energy-efficient – for example, Energy Trust of Oregon offers free evaluations and energy saving kits and most power companies have programs to help home owners reduce their energy use.

One of our most precious resources in Central Oregon is water. We can conserve water by installing water-saving devices inside our home (e.g. low-flow shower heads and toilets) and using xeriscaping and other water reduction methods in our landscaping. We can also reduce the need for other natural resources by using materials that are sustainable and quickly renewable. Using salvaged and refurbished materials and components save natural resources, as does using recycled content (especially post-consumer) and materials or components that can be easily recycled at the end of their life. Conserving land means being thoughtful about the siting of the home by paying attention to preserving natural habitat and minimizing the house’s impact and footprint on the environment.

For more general information on green building, follow this link to the EPA site.