The building industry has been through the ringer in the Great Recession and contractors along with it, but tough times also help us to see new opportunities like finding new uses for wasted building materials. Construction and demolition generates 160 millions of tons of waste each year in the U.S., according to the EPA—every ton of which is an opportunity to reduce, recycle, and reuse. Very often excess supplies like lumber, tile, or plumbing supplies that are ordered for a job can't be returned, and will end up in the landfill or stacked up in warehouses. The pressure to get efficient and save money has people like Andrew Pennington taking another look at these materials and how to get them out of storage and into use. Andrew Pennington has a plan to reduce this waste with the Contractor Yard Sale, now open at a computer near you.
A large variety of material ordered by contractors often can't be returned from the job site such as lumber, lighting, plumbing, doors, or windows, from the smallest screws to the kitchen sink. This material is still perfectly usable in the right hands for the right job, but the trick is matching up those who have these surplus building supplies with those who need them.
From his father's building supply business in Corbin, Kentucky, Pennington saw firsthand the challenge this material created for contractors. "It was really just an overwhelming trend— everyone wanted to return something," said Pennington. "It wasn't that they weren't satisfied with the product. It was that they simply ordered too much. I knew that if our production facility was getting this huge volume of return requests, it had to be a huge problem nationwide. Seeing the problem as an opportunity, Pennington decided to create a solution which became Contractor Yard Sale.
Contractors can post their materials on the site for a small fee, and anyone looking for low cost building materials can get in touch with them to buy it. It's that simple.
"It is a place for contractors or even suppliers to advertise their surplus items for sale, and for consumers to pick them up at a low price" said Pennington. "It's like an online yard sale. When you go out to browse a yard or garage sale, you don't really know what you're looking for, but you can bet that you'll find something cheap and pretty awesome."
Electricians are one group that can benefit from a site like this. " I know that I can go out to my garage, and find a bunch of things that I have left over from past jobs," said Seth Venable. "Some of them couldn't be returned and just went into surplus inventory, and others I thought I may use on another job, but most ended up sitting around collecting dust. With Contractor Yard Sale, I could just list them online." Once posted, someone else can buy new goods like this for far less than their original cost. "We have needed something like this for a while," said Venable.
Using the Internet to facilitate transactions like this is part of the growing trend of collaborative consumption. The power of the Internet has been unleashed through websites like Craigslist bringing together what sits unused in one person's garage into the hands of someone who can really use it. Swapping, sharing, and reusing are all part of this trend, and the economic pressure of the Great Recession has driven its growth, forcing people and businesses to rethink how they get things to save money.
This trend also happens to be pretty green, saving resources and helping the environment as well as boosting the bottom line. As the trend grows, it continues to extend into new niches like building supplies with Contractor Yard Sale.
Glenn Croston is the author of "75 Green Businesses" and "Starting Green", helping green businesses to get started and grow. You can find him at www.StartingUpGreen.com.