Reusing items normally destined for the recycling center is something I have always been fond of. There is something satisfying about repurposing, say, a cardboard container that once held Brie cheese, into a pretty box for presenting a gift of Christmas chocolates. Until the advent of my experience here in New Zealand, this was basically the extent of my creative repurposing: pretty small-scale. At the ECO School, though, our projects involve reusing materials on a large scale.
My first major recycling project also coincided with my first demolition experience. There used to be a raised deck extending along the entire front of the house, but several holes rendered it unsafe to use. So, we got to work with pry bars and disassembled the entire thing. The wood, though weathered and rotten in a couple spots, was saved for reuse in projects where structural strength wasn't a primary concern. It was neatly stacked in a corner if the yard, as well as the recesses of my mind...
Then, this Tuesday, I had the opportunity to undertake my first solo construction project: building a fence. This wouldn't be just any fence, though: it would be a permaculture fence, serving multiple functions. First, it would allow our duckies to roam free in the yard, fertilizing and eating bugs. It would also serve to keep neighborhood dogs out. Finally, it would serve as a trellis for climbing plants like passionfruit, and its north-facing orientation would provide them the direct sunlight they need. This project was also a perfect reuse of the wood we'd saved from the deck demo, as it had an appealing weathered look and was sound enough to make sturdy fence pickets.
The new fence was to be attached to an existing post buried on the property, but upon investigation (read: John digging himself into a meter-deep hole), we found that this post was not only slanted, but also broken deep in the ground. We decided to replace this post with another reclaimed pile, and saved the broken post for another incarnation. Taking this extra step would ensure the integrity and longevity of our system, important considerations in permaculture designs.