Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Community Forklift
Edmonston, MD

Congratulations to Winter 2014
People & Planet Award winner Community Forklift!

Community Forklift is a reuse center for home improvement supplies.  We collect unwanted and salvaged building materials, then provide them to the public at very low prices, and donate them to folks in need. 

Construction waste is a BIG problem.
Americans dump old materials at an astonishing rate - building materials make up 40% of our nation's solid waste!  Renovators fill dumpsters with perfectly good bathtubs and cabinets.  Suppliers clear out overstock, throwing away brand-new merchandise. Bulldozers flatten buildings, destroying old-growth lumber and antique fixtures. 

Then, consumers demand new products.  Natural resources must be extracted, causing serious environmental damage.  Manufacturing and transportation uses even more fossil fuel, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Turning the waste stream into a resource stream:
Community Forklift is breaking this destructive cycle by finding new lives for old materials.  Since opening in 2005, we have kept $12 million of building materials in the DC metro region from going to landfills or incinerators.

Instead of going to waste, these items are put back into use in local communities. 

  • In just 8 years, 20,000 individuals have used our materials to repair housing, making neighborhoods cleaner and safer
  • Renovators find vintage house parts to restore older homes
  • Small business owners reduce start-up costs, using our low-cost materials in restaurants, bars, farms, offices, and shops throughout the mid-Atlantic.

We give stuff away, too!  In 2013, we donated $13,000 in supplies to folks in need, and donated materials to 100 community organizations, including housing nonprofits, schools, gardens, Eagle Scout projects, and volunteers that fix up homes for the elderly.

Community Forklift has also drawn green businesses to our struggling neighborhood, like an "anchor store" draws shops to a mall. We're on the less-affluent side of Washington, but we attract customers from all over.  This has convinced more businesses to set up shop here, including companies that do appliance repair and antique lighting restoration, a woodworker that mills trees felled by storms, and crafters who upcycle furniture from scraps.

Reuse creates a lot of green jobs!
Our operation has grown steadily.  Today, 45 employees earn their living at the Forklift. 

Community Forklift also helps tradespeople get more work.  When they find inexpensive materials here, they can submit a lower bid for a project – making it more likely that a middle- or working-class homeowner can afford to hire them.

In addition, some of our materials come from deconstruction, in which a building is taken apart by hand.  Deconstruction requires more people than demolition - so labor expenses are higher.  But because up to 90% of the building can be recycled, trash disposal costs much less. So, instead of paying for dumpsters, the homeowner can pay people to work.

Thank you!
Community Forklift is honored to be considered for this award.  Our shop is overflowing, but we've recently been offered unfinished space in a nearby warehouse.  If we win, the prize money can help clean and fix it up.  We can finally explore some exciting possibilities – like paint recycling, an upcycling workshop, or job training in deconstruction! 


First-time visitors are often surprised by how big the store is... this is just the half of the warehouse!  
(Photo by Edward Jackson)

Radiators Dog
Last year, Community Forklift kept 20 tons of vintage radiators from going to waste! (Photo by Steele Britton) The 'Lift: a down-home kind of place, where retirees in suspenders hang around giving advice, and four-legged customers visit often.
Everett Workers

Everett was in renovating his home when he was laid off, leaving him in a gutted house and struggling financially.  Then, he saw Community Forklift at the DC Green Festival.  He completed his renovation project thanks to our low-cost materials, and his love of reuse led to a new job - on our marketing team!

 Each day, our truck team heads out to pick up so-called "trash".  It's amazing what people give us:  from gorgeous reclaimed flooring and antique mantelpieces, to brand-new hardware and modern windows still in the package.

Found! Lumber

Customers are always so happy to find that one little thing they need for a repair. 

We were named one of the most diverse spots in the region by the Washington Post.  Our "Forklift Fans" include everyone from day laborers to Congresspeople.