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When green gets creative

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Pam Smith makes mosaics with broken tile purchased at the ReStore. Pam Smith makes mosaics with broken tile purchased at the ReStore.
Visitors to the Habitat ReStore can find materials to recycle into their own creative treasures. Visitors to the Habitat ReStore can find materials to recycle into their own creative treasures.
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If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then usefulness may be in the eye of the contractor, but area Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations fits both specs.

It's a way of going green that often flies under the radar, but the Charleston ReStore has diverted more than 6,000 tons of garbage from area landfills since it opened in 2001, according to Amy McLaughlin, ReStore director.

Each Habitat for Humanity affiliate is its own brand, and each affiliate is operated independently. West Virginia is home to ReStore locations in Morgantown, Parkersburg, Huntington and Beckley, McLaughlin said, and social media has helped not only to expand her store's reach, but also to broaden the horizons of the items for sale.

Thanks to picture-centric sites such as Facebook and Pinterest, the ReStore has become a gold mine for the cheap, creative and crafty.

"We're almost up to 4,000 fans now (on Facebook)," McLaughlin said. "I'd be in my office to post a picture of something new we got in, and by the time I got out to the sale floor, people would be running in already to ask ‘Where's that chair?'"

The ReStore is the primary fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, so all the proceeds from the store go to the construction of homes. Stores accept donations of building materials and furniture, and McLaughlin said a lot of times items are re-used in the same way — such as kitchen cabinets donated to the store then purchased for extra storage in a garage. And the ways people find for creative re-use run the gamut.

"I think we're all sharing our ideas better, and Pinterest has gone crazy, people love it," McLaughlin said. "It's fun to show off what you've done, what you've made, and when you've done it economically, it's even better."

McLaughlin said the Charleston ReStore has its own Pinterest account to share creative re-uses such as turning a piano into a computer work station, a window into a shelf, an entertainment center into a child's kitchen play set or the countless ways people work with pallets, which the ReStore always has in stock free of cost.

The Huntington Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore utilizes its Facebook page to post pictures of its inventory several times a day. Recent finds there include an exercise bike, file cabinets, entertainment centers and a 1940-era stove.

McLaughlin said she saw homeowners donate their old slate roof, and the individual tiles lived several new lives.

"Some people bought them to do their own roof, we had one guy … who bought them and made a library out of them and put a roof on it … we had tons of artists who bought them, and people who bought them for dog houses to match their own old brick houses," McLaughlin said. "There's endless stories and stuff like that about different things people have purchased."

The Charleston ReStore recently launched a contest, "ReDesign by ReStore," for customers to enter photos of their recycling or remodeling projects that contain materials from the ReStore. 

The winner receives a 2-minute shopping spree in the ReStore. Photos will be accepted until Aug. 30, and all participants will receive $10 ReStore gift certificates.