Attempting to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle in St. Louis

Environmentally friendly decisions are tough

barn door project with left-over siding May 4, 2009

Filed under: Design,Green Rehab,Reuse — budint @ 1:47 am
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Our bedroom has a huge opening which looks out through sliding glass doors at our upstairs patio and onto the backyard.  This also means that the neighbors behind us can see into our bedroom

The opening also lets a ton of light in in the morning and this is annoying to us who need it dark to sleep.  None of this was a surprise and a barn door was always in the plans.

What the barn door would be made of was always a question.  We talked about colored MDF or Maple FSC plywood.  Both nice options, but we were budget conscious and a little concerned about introducing another wood species which might clash with our white oak floors.

The idea came to me as i walked around the house trying to organize the piles of excess building materials.  One pile consisted of left-over siding from our rain-screen.  Another was a pile of rigid insulation.   And obviously, i have a lot of 2×4’s left-over.

So with all of this, i made a frame w/ the 2×4’s, stuck the rigid insulation inside and sandwiched it with the left-over James Hardie cement board lap siding.  (see below and don’t mind messy bed)

barn door

The door is pretty heavy because of the cement board, but rolls really easily with the barn door hardware from Hardware and

We totally love the door and the ability to open the bedroom to bright sunlight or close it off for a nice, dark cave.


Reusing for Art July 14, 2008

Filed under: Design,Live Green 2.0,Reuse,St Louis — budint @ 2:42 am
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Remember… reducing is best. Because then it never gets made, packaged, shipped and finally sent off to a landfill.

Reusing is the 2nd best, cause you’re still skipping the landfill step and potentially delaying the production step (if you were going to end up buying whatever it was).

Recycling is the 3rd best, cause you’re skipping the landfill, but using energy to create a new life for the material.

Then there’s Reusing for Art, which I think falls somewhere between re-using and recycling.   At the Tower Grove farmer’s market this weekend volunteers were handing out information and requesting lamps for an upcoming installation put on by the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.  Here the objective is to reuse old lamps or light fixtures for a project where they’ll be installing these in the old church on spring street that was nearly destroyed in a fire some years ago (see brochure below).

I’m kind of excited because we have a fair number of ugly light fixtures we pulled out of our rehab which I’ve been hanging onto for a 2nd home. My assumption is that I’d somehow work them into a project or if all else failed, donate them to the ReStore.  So this is a slightly different way to give my junk a 2nd life and I look forward to seeing the installation when it’s completed.

If you have any lamps or light fixtures, please bring them to the TowerGrove farmer’s market next Saturday, July 19th or at least this is what the volunteer told me.


Reusing clay roof tiles can be back-breaking work February 18, 2008

Filed under: Reuse,St Louis — budint @ 1:14 am

 I’m holding my breath while I say this, but…………….the project has restarted. This past week the carpenters moved in and started demolition work in preparation for the steel erectors.  (btw, I’ve been told that the majority of steel in these types of projects  is 100% recycled) They took the roof apart and demo’d out the rear brick wall.  Since the place won’t be under roof for weeks, a big tarp has been draped over the opening.

Roof deconstruction

I had requested that we save the roof tiles and as many bricks as possible. This probably seems obvious to most readers, but it’s definitely not the easiest nor the cheapest approach for contractors.  We more easily could’ve just thrown them in the dumpster and not have had to worry about them EVER again. However, I’m REALLY hoping that I can find a new home for these 700-800 French style roof tiles.   Whether this means selling, donating or reusing I’m not sure.

The removal of the roof and the tiles produced two huge stacks like the ones below.  The carpenters put them in the front part of the house, but i needed to get them moved so that they could work throughout the house.  So on Saturday, I started moving 1 of the 2 piles downstairs.  I have to say, i underestimated how much effort this would be. In the end, I moved 230 tiles in that couples hours (5lbs/each x 230 = 1150lbs).  Tomorrow I’ll go back for the other half.

Tiles off the roof

If I don’t find a reuse for these things, I’m going to be really frustrated or at the very least my back will really hate me.

Moved tiles

I’ll likely post to my neighborhood discussion board (Tower Grove South), post to the Rehabber’s club site and post to Craig’s List.  If anyone knows of any other places which might be interested in buying or taking these off my hands, I’d be happy to hear.

The tile is a French style Mound City product 15″ x 7″.  After I move this 2nd pile, i still have about 400 more tiles to go when they remove the remaining part of the roof.  Did I mention, I’m trying to reclaim the bricks as well?  This is rough work I tell ya!!!

Single French Style Mound City Tile


Recycling scrap metal, a RICH experience in so many ways December 29, 2007

Filed under: General Green 2.0,Green Rehab,Live Green 2.0,Reuse — budint @ 6:38 pm
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 In order to keep myself motivated about the house project I’ve been spreading out my tasks. Yesterday I took the copper plumbing we removed to the ‘cash for scrap’ place. The reason we’re removing the copper is because the plumbing is basically being completely redone and we’re doing it w/ PEX.  PEX is a superior alternative to copper because the installation costs are slightly lower (depending on your plumbers Union) and water is delivered more quickly when called by the faucet meaning that there is less time waiting for hot water.  PEX is also expected to last from 50-100yrs vs. those copper welds which always seem to have a problem at some point in their life.

Anyhow, back to the scrap metal experience.  I knew i wouldn’t get much money and my motivation was more about getting the copper out of my house and ensuring that it was being re-used.  I went to the first ‘cash for scrap’ shop in the phone book “Cash’s”.  I never knew that such a place existed.  I was people pulling up w/ dishwashers, refrigerators, copper guttering, a huge brass goose and another other item that contained metal.  Some folks were clearly not the rightful owner’s of what they were selling, but “Cash’s” didn’t seem to care.

The eye opener for me is that nearly anything that has to do w/ metal can be recycled by these types of places and if you’re lucky you may even get some money.  At the very least you’ll get a rich cultural experience.  I wish I had known about this place 6 months ago, there’s lots I could’ve taken.

Cash’s Cash for Scrap


Bagging the plastic habit October 30, 2007

What does one do when their Sustainable/Green rehab has seen little to zero progress? They buy stuff to pass the time.

Introduce… envirosax, the environmentally friendly, eco-friendly (and might I add, well designed) reusable grocery bag. The snapping point came when we kept forgetting to take our old plastic bags and I knew that I needed more skin in the game. You see, I’m more inclined to use something if I paid for it. Plus we have this HUGE pile of plastic bags under our cabinet and that can’t be good for the environment.

So, when the WSJ ran an article on 5 reusable shopping bags, I knew we needed to catch up. After reading thru the 5 bags which ranged from $7.99-$39.99 each, I settled on the envirosax. See below from WSJ:

(Best Value)
$7.95; standard shipping adds $5

The good: Featherweight, 17-inch high, 19-inch wide polyester bag comes in lots of stylish patterns and rolls up sleeping-bag style into a 4ì-by-2ì-inch bundle. Its over-the-shoulder handle may appeal to city-dwellers who walk with groceries.

The bad: It must be washed by hand. Rolling up the bag took more doing than our Best Overall choice.

Something WSJ forgot to add was that these bags come in a good number of designs AND if you buy in a pack of 5 bags (a number most shoppers would need) it’s $1 off per bag, so $35 for 5 designers bags. We went w/ the retro graphics series.

The great thing is that these 5 bags come in their own pouch and are easily compressed to a manageable size which can be kept in your glove compartment (so that you don’t forget). See the pic of the small grey bag and how small it is rolled up.


Will let you know how it works out and if a bag can hold 24 beers or not.


Old busted up concrete as our landscaping stone September 17, 2007

Filed under: Landscaping,Live Green 2.0,Reuse — budint @ 2:09 am

  Last week the backyard excavation began. The objective was to remove the old parking pad, old sidewalk, some steps and a couple retaining walls.  All was accomplished and after hauling away much of it, only this pile remains.

Pile of Rubble

Though to our neighbors this looks like a mess, we saw an opportunity to reuse some of the concrete.  After all, this isn’t Ready-mix,  this is 75yr old concrete made with river gravel from the nearby Meramec.  This means that there are unique pebbles all throughout the concrete and this can certainly be used somewhere (see pic below).

Single broken concrete chunk

So in a truly sustainable application, we’ve started breaking up and installing the chunks of this old concrete as our front yard landscaping. We’re not entirely done, though I think we got a pretty good start this weekend.  And if you’ve never done landscaping before, it never looks good until the shrubbery is in and the mulch is down. (see pics below)

stone edging

Besides being able to reuse the old concrete, we’re also eliminating the need for a lawn-mower (that’s $150 towards my solar panel) and the need for for gas.  As well, the type of indigenous shrubs and flowers we’ll be planting will require much less water than the grass.

Not sure how much carbon offsetting we’re accomplishing with this landscaping project, but I’d say enough to offset a flight to a warm and relaxing beach at least.


I like Reduce/Recycle/Reuse; but reusing isn’t always easy September 5, 2007

Filed under: Flooring,Green Rehab,Reuse — budint @ 2:49 am

 In preparation for the real construction crew to come in, I’ve been doing some pre-work. One such task has been the reclaiming of 2x4s and wood flooring.  I know in a previous post I said it was too much work to reclaim the 2x4s, but now that costs are adding up, I’m looking for every dime.

The process of getting the 2x4s back was a combination of unscrewing, nail pulling and just sawing the nails off.  Not the funnest thing I’ve done, but we did reclaim 23 2x4s (I’ll attach a pic soon).

We’re also keeping the original trim and reclaiming some of the wood floor to be used elsewhere in the house.  See photos Img_17, 18, 19 and 20 to the right at the flickr account.

I’m telling you, yanking these nails out of woodwork is no easy task. Some pieces have 3-4 nails each. Yuck!!! Guess it keeps this stuff out of the landfill though. And keeps from having to produce new trim.

The even more ambitious plan I have is to reclaim the wood slats from the roof when they remove it.  They really appear in good shape, so hoping we can use them somewhere on this job.

Finally, you’ll see some stacks of the ceramic roofing tiles. I just plan to sell those. Hope I get my money’s worth.