Building for the Future

A 117-year-old Victorian house in downtown St. Louis has taken recycling to new levels. Incorporating modern waste reduction practices, The Gateway Center for Resource Efficiency's three-story, red brick EarthWays Home was renovated in 1994 and is a demonstration of sustainable energy and waste systems, according to Jean Ponzi, program manager.

For example, “[Renovators] installed reused kitchen cabinets from a hospital laboratory, blown-in cellulose insulation, carpeting made from 100 percent recycled PET [polyethylene terephthalate] bottles and carpet padding made from recycled tires,” Ponzi says.

Public and private cash and in-kind donations funded the half a million dollars worth of initial renovations. Ongoing operations, including conservation-related business meetings and educational tours to nearly 1,100 visitors per year, also are funded by grants.

“When people understand the hows and whys of recycling practice and the benefits of recycled content products, they seem more inclined to make those choices than if someone just tells them what do,” Ponzi says.

During tours, guests can inspect blown-in newsprint insulation through a clear wall panel, sift through shredded tire mulch and learn about vermicomposting by peeking inside the multi-tiered kitchen bin where red worms turn lunch scraps into soil.

Sustainability has moved outside the home, too, where a recycled plastic picnic table and native buffalo grass lawn — which never needs mowing or produces yard waste — can be found.

According to Ponzi, future tours will be expanded to display native plantings and recycled newsprint insulation, which is imperviousness to heat and wind.

Handouts and a website also provide visitors resources for applying the practical waste-reduction strategies at home.