Visiting Resource Central is a bit like going on a treasure hunt — as a shopper, you never know what you’re going to find among the shelves of recycled construction materials, home fixtures, garden tools, furniture and other odds and ends.
When you stumble upon something unique, vintage or just the right size and shape for whatever project you’re tackling, you feel a little thrill of joy that’s hard to beat. Plus, the feeling gets even better when you consider the affordable price and the fact that you’re helping to keep that particular item out of the landfill.
Now, the longtime Boulder organization is making it even easier to shop for reclaimed materials with the completion of a major $2.9 million renovation and expansion project at its materials reuse facility at 6400 Arapahoe Road. The upgraded facility features an insulated and temperature-controlled indoor warehouse (complete with bathrooms!), plus a new 20,000-square-foot covered structure over the outdoor yard. There are also improvements to the donation intake area.
Overall, the project aims to make shopping, donating, volunteering and working at Resource Central a more comfortable experience, said Brandon Hill, Resource Central’s materials reuse program director. The upgrades also better protect donated items from the elements, which helps them last longer and find a second life elsewhere.
“Weather impacts are absolutely huge since our facility is primarily outdoors — you can just imagine we’re trying to store cabinets, windows and doors and then we get a storm or a big snow,” he said. “That hurts our customers and it also hurts our mission. We take materials in, but then they get ruined, so what have we really accomplished there? Whether it’s 100 degrees and you’re cooking or it’s raining or snowing, it’s tough to shop and we end up having a lot of spoilage, and that’s not good for anybody.”
Founded in 1976, the nonprofit organization spearheads hands-on conservation programs that help people reduce waste, save water and conserve energy — almost effortlessly. The materials reuse program is a big part of that mission, taking in donations of reusable construction materials like cabinets, plumbing fixtures, furnishings, lumber, windows, doors and more, then reselling them at an affordable price. (In addition to taking dropped-off donations, Resource Central also offers a free pickup service.)
The items come from home renovation projects both big and small. When homeowners decide to renovate their kitchens, for example, they’re often removing perfectly good cabinets that could be used again. Resource Central keeps those cabinets out of the landfill and makes them available to someone else.
“Construction and demolition waste is a big problem in this area,” Hill said. “We’re one of the facilities that helps to chip away at that problem.”
The organization sells its reclaimed materials at a 75 percent discount compared to the price of new materials, which can help make renovation projects more accessible to residents and businesses no matter their budget.
“We’re really proud that a significant percentage of our participants are low- and middle-income families and people who might not be in a position to make thousands of dollars of upgrades or fixes to their houses,” said Neal Lurie, Resource Central’s president. “Working with Resource Central, they’re able to make improvements oftentimes for just a fraction of that amount — for hundreds of dollars rather than thousands of dollars — which makes it within reach for the masses.”
Right now, Resource Central takes in and resells about 4 million pounds of building materials per year. With the upgraded facility, they’re hoping to double that number. The organization also hopes to inspire similar initiatives in cities across the country.
“This is a very innovative place, we’re ahead of the curve on this, but we’re showing a model here that works,” Hill said. “It’s financially sustainable, it makes sense for donors, it makes sense for shoppers, it makes sense for a city that is trying to prevent this stuff from ending up in the landfill. Imagine what a bigger city could do if they got on board with this, or if 10 other cities got on board with this. The impact would be huge across the country.”
Resource Central has a number of other programs and initiatives that aim to help reduce waste, save water and conserve energy. The popular Garden in a Box program provides homeowners with low-water gardening kits that serve as easy (and beautiful!) lawn alternatives. The organization also offers lawn removal services, waterwise yard seminars and xeriscape design ideas and inspiration.
“Our goal is to help make beautiful waterwise yards the new norm in Colorado and beyond,” Lurie said. “Increasingly, people are asking the question, ‘Why am I spending all this time mowing my lawn, spending all this money watering my yard when my kids are grown and not even using it?’”
To help residents save water, Resource Central offers outdoor sprinkler consultations and indoor water inspections to increase efficiency both inside and out. The organization can also help homeowners upgrade to smart sprinkler controllers, which adjust their watering schedule based on local weather data.
Resource Central’s Renew our Schools program encourages kids to conserve energy through energy efficiency competitions. Participating schools save thousands of dollars in energy costs while students get a hands-on learning experience that helps set them on an environmentally conscious path for life. So far, Resource Central has worked with more than 200,000 students.
“We bring in energy mentors and outfit the schools with gauges that actually measure their real-time energy usage, then empower students to sleuth around their schools and help come up with a list of all the different ways their schools can save energy,” Lurie said.
Through these and other programs and initiatives, Resource Central has helped more than 700,000 people save water, conserve energy and reduce waste over its 45-year history. All told, the organization has helped divert more than 50 million pounds of building materials from landfills and save more than 1.3 billion gallons of water.
“We can comfortably say that the community has embraced conservation as an ethic,” said Lurie. “This organization has thrived because of the model we’ve developed, which is simple: conservation programs that are good for the earth and help people save money. If you can combine the two things together, it becomes a no-brainer for people to participate.”
And, in the face of accelerating climate change, the organization hopes to reach even more people in the years to come.
“Climate change can feel so overwhelming, it’s such a big and daunting challenge and it can feel paralyzing,” Lurie said. “It’s really important for people to look at incremental steps they can incorporate into their lives that can help reduce carbon emissions. Organizations like Resource Central are really great places to start.”
To donate or learn more about Resource Central, 6400 Arapahoe Road, Boulder, visit resourcecentral.org or call 303-999-3820.
What People Are Saying About Resource Central
“Resource Central is central to implementing cost-effective measures that help businesses and residents reduce their environmental footprint while saving money. The sustainable way to drive solutions that help maintain economic vitality and our quality of life in a resource-strained environment.” — John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber
“Resource Central is such an incredible resource for our community, providing a wide range of reusable building, home and office materials and helping our community to significantly reduce our greenhouse footprint by removing literally tons of materials that would otherwise go to the landfill. I personally have bought doors, a roof, mirrors, windows and building materials over the decades and saved a ton of money for great stuff while helping to save the earth, one action at a time.” — Lisa Morzel, former Boulder City Council member
“Resource Central is an incredibly innovative Boulder organization that is pioneering our local path to a resilient circular economy. Their focus on preventing waste, promoting re-use and creating broad awareness of the impacts of material consumption has made them a leader in sustainability both locally and nationally.” — Sam Weaver, Boulder mayor