Can something as common as building materials represent an opportunity to create jobs, help the needy, and save the planet? This week, NOW looks at two "green" projects keeping furniture, paint, cabinets, and other building supplies out of landfills and getting them into the hands of those who need them most. Will they be devastated by the economic meltdown, or do they signal a possible way out?
Based in the Bronx, New York, Greenworker Co-operatives aims to set up worker-owned green businesses. The first of these is Rebuilders Source, a store that sells recycled and donated building materials at affordable prices—items that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill.
"My vision now is a completely green South Bronx," says Bronx-born entrepreneur Omar Freilla, the founder of Greenworker Co-operatives, "with businesses throughout the area that are owned and run by people living in the area together."
On the other side of the country, in Southern California, Materials Matter matches donations of furniture and high quality building materials with individuals, organizations, and homeless shelters that use the materials to literally rebuild lives. But the faltering economy has had an impact.
"We have to decide whether the value of that donation will be worth the cost of transportation," says Materials Matter co-founder Alison Riback on her blog. "[The economic downturn] put a huge dent in our 'always say yes to a donation' philosophy."
This show is part of Enterprising Ideas, NOW's continuing spotlight on social entrepreneurs working to improve the world through self-sustaining innovation.