One young Catholic family on a Journey towards Intentional and Communal Sustainability. One Artist, one full time Mama and two babies, we'll tell you about all our successes, and failures, as we try to make it in our overly Consumeristic society on just the bare necessities.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fulfilling Apspirations

When first endeavoring into dumpster diving I was asked what kinds of things I was seeking. For the most part my response has been, "I'm mostly just curious, but I guess I need some wood for some new raised garden beds."

With now literally 5's of hours of experience dumpstering in my neighborhood this past week I have come to understand a few things. First of all, the back of 5 Guys is THE GROSSEST place I have ever been. I won't say it was greasy because now isn't the time for dramatic understatement, I will however, say that after I walked away from the dumpster my shoes were slipping on the asphalt parking lot.


The other thing I realized is that I may have picked one of the most difficult classes of items to procure from a dumpster: building materials. Afterall, why would someone throw away lumber? At best I've been hoping to collect enough odd pieces of furniture or other refuse to create some makeshift garden beds and call it a day.

Enter in: the second lesson in the importance of building relationships: knowledge.

A friend of mine is a handyman/carpenter/cabinetmaker/pipe craftsman and I mentioned to him my fruitless search for lumber when he made an observation so obvious it had to come from wisdom. "Why don't you check out some places who are remodeling or constructing, you know, with one of those big roll away dumpsters." Construction site to find construction materials? Who would have thought?

Now, when people mention "free" and "construction site" in the same breath you are typically looking at jail time and hefty fines for grand larceny. But this wasn't my friend's intent at all, but instead the refuse from the both the demolished/remodeled site as well as the cull/fall from the job itself. He has worked at enough large construction/remodel sites in his life to realize that big contractors tend to have a different philosophy when it comes to their business model: fast is better than efficent. That being said, any length of lumber under 4ft is often just tossed. Extra driver bits, left over insulation, surplus nails, all of these things are typically just thrown away rather than stored because these big contractors work on a strategy of volume.

Well, this is all fine in theory, and I trust my friend's experience, but I've already checked 20 dumpsters and didn't see more than an old door stop when it came to lumber being tossed. So I figured I'd try it out and see what the dumpsters at remodels had in store.

*image to come*

...alright, so he was right. One visit to a single business undergoing a remodel and I am now the proud owner of enough straight, clean (besides the odd nail here or there), lumber to build at least one, perhaps two new raised garden beds. I'd have more but my car simply couldn't hold the rest of the 2x4's which were discarded by the re-modelers.

I'm looking forward to continuing to pick the brains of people from all walks of life and find out the little hidden secrets of what, when and how people throw things away.

With that in mind: anyone work(ed) at a restaurant know tips for finding the hidden stockpiles of compostables in the sundry trash bags filling their dumpsters?


  1. Sounds like you are making great progress! The note earlier about move in and out times at dorms is an awesome time to pick stuff up. You'd be amazed what they throw away because they simply don't have room to take it back home or just don't need it anymore. Lamps, furniture, fridges, microwaves...and more!

  2. our older daughter's godfather used to live in New York and told us that if you had a truck and a little patience you would furnish your house within a week. And not with low-end disposable bachelor furniture either, but rather pretty nice stuff.

    It all boiled down to the fact that in New York most people didn't own cars, let alone trucks and that it ended up being almost as cheap to simply buy new stuff with free delivery instead of paying moving costs.

  3. You were SLIPPING on the asphalt!?! Okay, so why again are you doing this? Wow. Also, I live within walking distance and I can't figure out what or where 5 Guys. This is likely a good thing.

  4. Glad you found the tip to be successful. Thanks too for the shout out link to Kemble pipes.

  5. I just thought of something else, industrial park dumpsters! they've got all kinds of stuff.