One of the best lessons I learned from my grandfather was that it never hurts to try to fix something before you replace it with something new. He was like a superhero in my eyes, with a workshop full of tools and the confidence to take anything apart. A lot of the time he got things working again, and only rarely were there electrical fires or ER visits required. Those experiences with him – trying to fix things – are something I would love to share with my own kids one day. I will be the first to admit that I am not nearly as handy as he was but I have found a few places in Bellingham that are helping me to fix what I already have.

As a home owner, I have experienced first-hand just how often pieces of an aging home get broken or need repairs. The RE Store is like a treasure box filled with all of the bits and pieces of homes in town that are being demolished or remodeled. They have sections in each of the two buildings that are dedicated to windows, doors, lumber, flooring, stone countertops, hardware, paint, cabinet components, lighting fixtures, tools and even furniture. Personally, I have shopped in nearly every part of the store to make minor improvements to our home over the last few years.

The RE Store in Bellingham accepts donations of building materials and furnishings, and sells them at discounted rates to promote reuse in our community. Photo credit: Cassandra Darwin.

“The RE Store accepts donations (and offers free pick-ups) of building materials, household furnishings, vintage decor and more for resale. These items are made available to our community at deeply discounted prices in order to make building materials affordable and DIY projects available to all,” says Samantha Hale, Outreach Manager at The RE Store. “Our primary goal is to keep as much reusable material out of the landfill as possible and to build a culture of reuse in our community.” According to The RE Store’s blog, “Since 1993, our community has donated nearly 50 million pounds of building materials to The RE Store. If you combined all of the lumber, doors, lighting, windows and more that you’ve saved, we could construct nearly 600 homes, roughly half the size of the York Neighborhood here in Bellingham.”

Shopping at The RE Store is like a treasure hunt. It always has the same basic supplies, but sometimes you may find enough brand new bamboo flooring for your entire house. Photo credit: Cassandra Darwin.

If home repairs are not on your agenda, maybe clothing repair is. What should you do with the shirt you love that has a hole in it? If you donate it to a thrift shop, they will throw it out because no one wants to buy a shirt with a hole in it. Ragfinery aims to fix the hole, teach you to fix the hole or repurpose the fabric for another use. According to EPA research, every year the U.S. generates 25 billion pounds of textiles, 85 percent of which will end up in a landfill. To date, Ragfinery has kept 743,000 pounds of textiles out of local landfills.

Ragfinery offers workshops that teach you to carry on their mission of keeping textiles out of the waste stream. By taking “Sewing Bootcamp” or “Marvelous Mending,” you will learn how to make simple repairs instead of having to get rid of those items. You can also take a different kind of workshop and learn how to make something new, purchasing the necessary supplies at Ragfinery and giving new life to those donated textiles. Personally, I have my eye on the “Coiled Fabric Basket” workshop and need to clear my schedule the next time it’s available.

One of the first projects I made with reused materials was this height measuring stick. The piece of scrap wood was less than $2 and I had the rest of the supplies at home. Photo credit: Cassandra Darwin.

Ragfinery is part of ReUse Works, a local nonprofit whose mission is to create jobs and worker training by using discarded materials. This organization also supports Appliance Depot which accepts a variety of donated appliances whether they are working or not. After donations have been collected, the appliances are repaired, tested and sold with a 90-day guarantee. Appliance Depot also has an inventory of common parts for you to do your own appliance repairs.

By making purchases or taking classes at these local shops, you are reducing the amount of waste going to our local landfills, supporting a nonprofit that creates jobs and saving a ton of money in the process. And if you happen to have something at your home or business that you would like to donate, they would all be happy to take it off your hands.

The RE Store
1309 Meridian Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

1421 N. Forest Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

Appliance Depot
802 Marine Drive
Bellingham, WA 98225

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