Charleston's Sustainable Warehouse working to make a better community

Image by Katie Kozar/TheDigitel

Last year alone, local non-profit the Sustainable Warehouse diverted nearly 30 tons of what some people would call 'trash' from going into local landfills.

With a focus on sustainability and an emphasis on giving back to the community, trash is indeed being turned into another man's homely treasures.

The Sustainable Warehouse operates very simply: they are alerted when local building deconstructions are going to occur, and then Founder and Executive Director Rebecca O'Brien literally gets the first 'pick' as to what can be salvaged, then reused or recycled.  


From siding, sinks, dishes, furniture, doors, cloth, windows and more, O'Brien and her team strip out what they can use and take it to the warehouse to sell or donate.  The homeowner gets a tax deduction for donating their home's leftovers, and the local Charleston community gets steals on reusable building materials and vintage home goods.

Providing full deconstruction and soft strip services, the Warehouse is scheduled to deconstruct three properties in the next three months, and aims to complete seven or eight deconstructions by the end of the year.

When O'Brien started the Sustainable Warehouse four years ago, she wanted to combine her love of deconstruction with a passion for helping the community.  She created the Warehouse hoping to be Charleston's best alternative to landfills, and since moving into a new space in North Charleston in August 2010, O'Brien's goals are more than materializing.


"I grew up on a small island in Florida, where there was no Lowes.  When something broke, you had to scramble to find materials and fix it yourself," O'Brien laughs.  She began
brokering materials after Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston in 1989 and quickly realized she had found her calling.  Inspiration, knowledge, and contacts perpetuated from these experiences helped O'Brien found The Sustainable Warehouse.

"I like having different things to offer people," smiles O'Brien. And indeed her offerings are quite unique but hugely beneficial to the community.  A lot of O'Brien's customers are lower or fixed income families, many of them elderly, who are in need of cheap but good materials to repair their homes.  "I have a bunch of heart pine wood I could sell for $12 a foot, but I let it go for $5," she explains.  "I look at what I have.  I live in a good neighborhood.  And yea we need the money, but these people need a nice place to live."  


And that's not all that the organization gives back.  Roughly 35% of their total collected materials goes to other charities like Jayden's Place and The Dream Center.  The Warehouse also serves as a sponsor for the Really Really Free Market, providing storage space for donations.  

O'Brien also staffs her team with in-need individuals from the local community, and uses a lot of her own personal materials, such as her car and trailer - to help the Warehouse function.  

But O'Brien also credits those who help her help others.  "The Clemson Restoration Institute has been extremely generous to us, as are a lot of people, and I really appreciate it," she shares.  "It's our network that makes it, you know.  Meeting new people, who may need something I have.  Or maybe I know someone that needs something that someone else may have, or something that I stumble upon."

Recycling is also a big focus for the Warehouse.  Artists, event planners, and builders have kept the Warehouse as their best little secret for cheap materials.  Also, a lot of the wood the organization attains that cannot be reused is sold to companies and recycled into fiberboard.  

The Sustainable Warehouse holds a sale for the public every Saturday from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and is located at 2650 Carner Ave. in North Charleston, and they are always accepting donations of materials, tools or cash.  You can check them out online at their website here, and interact with them on Facebook, or call (843)-532-9351 for more details.




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Who thought that

Who thought that deconstructions can be so productive? This warehouse is like a gold mine for those who love vintage home goods. To continue with the good work, the team should start using the vacuum coating technology for their rescue projects. With the right means, every item can be transformed into something new.