By Clare S. Richie

Global climate change is happening now and has scary potential consequences for future generations. Just like your family, mine seeks to minimize our carbon footprint. We recycle, use cloth grocery bags, carpool, pack school lunches in reusable containers, donate clothes, toys and household items, and buy “antiques” mostly found at yard sales. But we struggle with how to make a bigger impact.

The Lifecycle Building Center ­­– the first large-scale waste reduction operation in Atlanta – is making that bigger impact by diverting tons of usable building materials from our landfills, among other efforts.

Established in November 2011, this entrepreneurial nonprofit strives to make each phase of a building’s life – design/build, use/adaptation and demolition/removal – more efficient and sustainable by reuse and resale of building materials and through community outreach.

During my visit to the center, Operations Manager Adam Deck explained the environmental and social benefits of their work. Less solid waste in landfills through material reuse makes a dent in associated greenhouse gas emissions, reduces the need to extract new resources, and provides greater access to affordable materials for individuals and community groups. And, new jobs are created when demolitions include strategic disassembly.

For now, the heart of the operation is the retail reuse center. During my visit, the store was stocked with doors, windows, cabinetry, fireplace mantels, appliances, HVAC equipment, plumbing fixtures and more. I spoke with two excited customers who were referred by their architects. One is renovating her home with recycled materials and the other was looking for a bargain on interior doors and shelving for a commercial renovation project in Kirkwood.

The store is just one of Lifecycle Building Center’s first year accomplishments. The nonprofit removed usable materials from Fort McPherson, TGI Fridays, Emory University demolitions. Seems like a no-brainer for all local demolition contractors to allow Lifecycle Building Center to pull usable materials out before buildings are demolished. On top of their regular client fees, contractors would receive a tax break for donated materials and would divert tons of debris from local landfills.

Lifecycle Building Center is also proud of the tons of free materials it has provided to nonprofits. As Adam Deck put it, “We play match-maker whenever we can.” One recent match involved WonderRoot, an art and social action non-profit and an antique dealer. WonderRoot called looking for panels to display art. An antique dealer wanted to donate 200 sheets of plywood.  Thanks to the “match-maker,” WonderRoot received a $1,400 in-kind donation, the dealer received a tax deduction, and 5 tons of debris stayed out of a Georgia landfill. Lifecycle Building Center also brokered the donation of a $250,000 conveyor system to Atlanta Community Food Bank from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Community outreach, with an emphasis on resource efficiency and green building, is next on the horizon.  This will include monthly hands-on trainings, such as how to make HVAC systems more energy efficient, and a staffed kiosk to provide one-to-one technical assistance.

Lifecycle Building Center still needs additional investment now to fully implement their business plan. With targeted staff and capital like a box truck and fork lift, this nonprofit plans on being self-supported from fees and retail sales, three to five years from now.

Take a trip to the retail store on 1166 Murphy St., located in Southwest Atlanta along the city’s oldest industrial corridor. See what’s been diverted from a local landfill. You might even find a cabinet for your art supplies.  While your there, be sure to check out the larger warehouse adjacent to the store – poised for expansion.  This is what a bigger impact looks like.

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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.