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ReuseFest in Mt. Lebanon focuses on 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle

| Saturday, June 28, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Chris Ayers, of the bicycle recycling and education facility Free Ride, adds another donated bicycle to a growing pile outside of Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon, Saturday, June 28, 2014. The bicycles were just some of the items brought to the location by area residents during Reuse Fest, an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Resources Council. This was the third annual large-scale collection of materials to be reused by local non-profits such as the Animal Rescue League, Goodwill, Construction Junction, Global Links, and others. A steady flow of cars and trucks brought items ranging from gently used furniture and toys to unusual items like Star Wars bedsheets, a Tupperware picnic set, and a handmade mini-marshmallow blowgun.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Volunteers unload and sort items , donated by residents, outside of Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon, Saturday, June 28, 2014. The items were donated during Reuse Fest, an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Resources Council. This was the third annual large-scale collection of materials to be reused by local non-profits such as the Animal Rescue League, Goodwill, Construction Junction, Global Links, and others. A steady flow of cars and trucks brought items ranging from gently used furniture and toys to unusual items like Star Wars bedsheets, a Tupperware picnic set, and a handmade mini-marshmallow blowgun.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Sarah Shea, with the Pennsylvania Resources Council, smiles at her childhood memories as she sorts through donated toys outside of Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon, Saturday, June 28, 2014. The toys were just two of the items brought to the location by area residents during Reuse Fest, an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Resources Council. This was the third annual large-scale collection of materials to be reused by local non-profits such as the Animal Rescue League, Goodwill, Construction Junction, Global Links, and others. A steady flow of cars and trucks brought items ranging from gently used furniture and toys to unusual items like Star Wars bedsheets, a Tupperware picnic set, and a handmade mini-marshmallow blowgun.

Going green never felt so good.

Ted Sohier even rented a pickup on Saturday to haul the stuff he'd been accumulating in his Mt. Lebanon home for years to the Pennsylvania Resource Council's third annual ReuseFest.

“I kept accumulating lumber in the basement for years thinking I might do something with it. And I finally thought I ought to get rid of it,” Sohier said, as staffers from Construction Junction helped him unload the truck in the parking lot of Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon.

Events like ReuseFest, which featured eight nonprofits that accepted items ranging from dog collars to art supplies and gently used beds, are popping up around the country as organizations dedicated to sustainable resource management — or repurposing the “stuff” that tends pile up in basements and attics — blossom.

“We should reuse as often as possible,” said MaryEllen Etienne, founder and executive director of the Reuse Alliance, a national umbrella group that provides support for nonprofits dedicated to reuse.

Sarah Alessio of the Pennsylvania Resources Council said ReuseFest has proved a bonanza for nonprofits that participate.

“Free Ride has collected over 60 bikes, and Construction Junction has filled two 26 foot box trucks over the last two years. Everything we get is reused somehow,” she said, noting that Global Links sends used crutches and walkers to those in need, while the Animal Rescue League can use collars, leashes and blankets for the shelter and Off the Floor Pittsburgh works to provide gently used beds and furniture to very low income families

Other Pittsburgh area nonprofits on hand to collect donations on Saturday included glcc Pittsburgh, Global Links, Goodwill, and Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse.

“This was fantastic. My wife might be coming later with another load,” said Al Champagne of Mt. Lebanon, as he unloaded a stash of stuff in his minivan including a counter top, file cabinet and clothing.

Later that morning as she examined some of the donated items, Alessio wasn't sure just who would take an original cast album of “West Side Story,” or the “Romantic Mandolins of Naples.” But a bag of neatly folded T-shirts was a godsend for the group that is running a day camp from 60 children in Hazelwood.

“We can use these to make T-shirt tote bags for the kids,” she said.

Children were among the earliest beneficiaries of the reuse movement, said Walter Drew. Drew, a Florida educator opened his first creative reuse center in 1973 with the goal of using 3-D materials to stimulate play and creativity among children.

“This is a national movement. Reusing materials is not a new idea. We now have centers across the country that are collecting items for teachers, parents and artists to use, to stimulate curiosity by making things,” Drew said.

Erika Johnson is executive director of the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. The nonprofit, next to Construction Junction in the East End, gathers arts and crafts supplies for resale. Johnson said artists sometimes see used items from a different perspective. Some even specialize in creating art from castaway items. The shop's arts and crafts supplies, including fabric, yarn, paint and other items, have become treasure trove for many teachers promoting art on a limited budget.

“Our mission is to promote conservation, community and creativity through creative reuse. At our shop, we take things like empty spools, architectural samples and fabric samples. Get that stuff circulating and out to where it can be used,” Johnson said.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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