Hope. The desire for a positive change, a universal belief that keeps us going.

We all hope for a better future, a clean planet where we can all live and thrive. But that hope must create drive and action, especially now. This year’s Earth Day theme “Restore Our Earthrejects the idea that our only option to save the planet is to mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change and other environmental damage. Restoration also brings hope.

As members of the construction industry, we have the opportunity to support this vision at a time when new homebuyers are highly motivated to join us. Recycling standards for construction and demolition (C&D) in Washington state focus heavily on tough demolition standards. The new Building and Energy Codes also incorporate more green building and energy-efficient requirements.

The recent National Association of Home Builders report on What Home Buyers Really Want found that 78% of buyers were concerned about the impact building their home has on the environment, but only 15% were willing to pay more for an “environmentally friendly home.” So how can we provide home buyers more peace of mind when it comes to reducing the impact of building their new homes while also holding the line on skyrocketing housing costs and helping the economy?

C&D recycling industries reduce residential construction’s impact on the environment by turning debris into recycled and repurposed goods. They also reduce project expenses through avoided disposal costs and conservation of landfills. Add to that the hundreds of thousands of jobs created to satisfy recycling demands, it’s a net positive subsector in construction.

The United Group is a local conglomerate of C&D recycling and repurposing divisions in the Seattle and Snohomish area. This company has always been driven by hope. From its inception over 25 years ago, the mission has remained the same as the beginning-to-end recycler by transforming waste into opportunity. The Group encompasses six separate departments including United Recycling & Container, United Metals, United Recycling & Organics and Clearview Nursery & Stone, all of which serve contractors, landscapers, and residential customers in the process of recycling and the purchasing of repurposed goods.

One of the core components of The Group’s facilities is the lack of an on-site landfill. Unlike competitors within the recycling industry, the values shared in the organization have led to operations that are both beneficial and cumbersome. Without the ease of just throwing materials into the landfill, The United Group had the highest landfill diversion rate, of 92 percent, from the City of Seattle’s list of certified facilities in 2020. And with the ability to take both source separated and commingled recycling, The United Group has continued to increase its input/output with plans to expand with the addition of a new, state-of-the-art material recycling facility (MRF) slated to open mid-2021.

Growing a business even during the Covid-19 pandemic shows the green, recycling trend isn’t slowing down. Maybe it’s the hope that people feel by participating in the act of recycling, knowing that what they’re taking to The United Group will be reprocessed and reclaimed for the future. This is where there needs to be an emphasis on responsibility for the construction portion of C&D recycling, especially in the residential sector. This can either be by lobbying for stricter standards on environmentally friendly development or by using resources from organizations like Built Green, BIAW, LEED and Living Building Challenge for imposing self-preservation and accountability measurements. In the end, it is up to all of us to work towards the common goal of restoring hope.