Sunday, December 7, 2008

Habitat For Humanity's Environmental Initiative

Most people have heard of Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), which is a nonprofit, Christian organization dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and homelessness.

Their Environmental Initiative embraces the concept of sustainable building: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Materials conservation programs help Habitat affiliates to save money while conserving natural resources. Through the efficient use of new materials and the re-use of recyclable materials, these programs result in less waste for disposal in landfills and lower costs for Habitat's partner families.

Habitat's attention to resource efficiency starts at the beginning: house designs. Habitat affiliates build simple, modestly sized houses which use less raw materials than large houses, are cheaper to heat and cool, and create less cut-off waste.

Materials conservation programs continue Habitat's commitment to resource efficiency during the construction process. By purchasing smaller quantities of materials, Habitat decreases the environmental burden of virgin materials extraction, processing and transportation. By reducing the amount of waste produced, affiliates reduce the potential hazards of pollution generated from landfills and incineration.

Habitat affiliates also find many opportunities to reuse and recycle waste materials. Affiliates are encouraged to designate an area on the job-site for reusable and recyclable materials, making it easier for volunteers to channel them back into house construction or to materials recyclers. Careful storage of leftover materials greatly reduces the cost of building an affiliate's next house.

A growing number of affiliates are sponsoring Habitat ReStores, which support resource efficiency while helping Habitat build more houses. ReStores sell reusable and surplus building materials, with proceeds funding local Habitat house construction. All materials sold by Habitat ReStores were donated for that purpose -- often from contractors with excess supplies, from demolition crews salvaging reusable materials, or from the general public. In addition to raising funds, ReStores help the environment by diverting thousands of tons of usable materials away from landfills.

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