Don’t Waste – Donate!

Conversations about sustainability and environmental stewardship in relation to architecture, design, and construction typically lead to the hot topic of waste management and the nearly 500 million tons of Construction & Demolition debris sent to landfills in the United States each year. Collectively, the design and construction industry has risen to the challenge and we’re diligently doing our part in reducing the amount of waste generated, however statistics don’t lie… We still have a long way to go!

A Common Reality

At Strada, waste management is ever present during each step of the design and construction process in a variety of ways, including…

  • Reuse or deconstruction and salvaging of existing architectural materials, when possible.
  • Consideration of the recycled content and life cycle analysis of specified products and materials.
  • Discussions about waste streams during the demolition and construction process, and establishment of waste diversion goals throughout the project, that are continuously monitored (especially true when going through the LEED certification process).
  • Conversations with clients about sustainable goals and initiatives post-occupancy.

With clear efforts to prioritize sustainability and waste management throughout the life of a project, there is one significant area of waste that often sneaks under the radar – and it is right here in our office (…and, perhaps yours too!?).

Boxes upon boxes of architectural and interior samples arrive in our office daily. Winning samples find a temporary home in a prized project box, while others don’t make the cut. Either way at some point we no longer have a use for them… NOW WHAT?

Out with the Old, In with the New

As architects and designers, it is our job (and quite a privilege) to visualize and create the future. It is also our responsibility to keep ourselves informed and up-to-date on cutting-edge trends, materials, and construction methods. The adage “Out with the old, in with the new” is the savvy design librarian’s mantra and unfortunately Architecture and Design (A&D) offices are directly responsible for countless numbers of discarded samples that end up in landfill each year.

Sure, space is at a premium and it is necessary to keep a steady flow of new products in the design library, but without offering significant thought, time, and effort towards addressing this issue, outdated or simply unwanted samples will ultimately end up in the landfill and we become a larger part of the problem.

What Can Be Done?

Fortunately, there are a variety of organizations and individuals who are dying to get their hands on materials that are discarded on a daily basis. From educators, artists and crafters, to students and handy homeowners, these everyday innovators can find countless ways to upcycle and repurpose discarded A&D samples.

Starting Here, Starting Now

A few non-profit organizations have stepped up to the plate to address this challenge on a larger scale. ZeroLandfill, Re-Purposeful, and Save-A-Sample have developed programs and host events nationwide to facilitate the exchange of materials between A&D firms and the users who can give them a new life.

There are also several options for donating items right here in Pittsburgh, PA including Construction Junction, Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, and just about any local K-12 School, Art Institute and University. Not to mention the craftspeople and artists within your own office!

A great way to start today is by placing a donation box in a central location (perhaps your design library) for anyone to place materials that they think could have a second life. Think textiles, wall coverings, wood, tile and everything in between!

Together, we can reduce the number of samples that end up in landfill.

So, the next time you look around at your desk or layout space in your design library and get the urge to purge – instead of unconsciously tossing samples into the trash, take a second to think – What else could this become?

And if you happen to be an individual in search of creative materials for your next innovative project, you can contact Strada or reach out to one of the organizations listed above to get more information about how materials are distributed.

Don’t waste – DONATE!!!


Photo Credits: Laser Cut Necklaces:; Jewelry Photo:; Upcycled Carpet Samples: Curbly; Lion Art: ZeroLandfill Atlanta 2017