Building out Uncle Harry's new facility was an eye opening process, giving us a first-hand look at the reality of renovation and demolition debris. It illuminated the sheer magnitude of construction waste, which results in millions of tons of usable materials being added to landfills every year.
The experience underscored the idea that simply manufacturing eco-friendly products does not automatically make a company sustainable – rather sustainability requires an ongoing commitment to identifying and reducing opportunities for waste in every facet of business. With that in mind, we invite you today to take a virtual tour of Uncle Harry's facilities to learn more about our efforts at green building and sustainable construction.
Step inside Uncle Harry's, where the aroma of pure essential oils awakens and invigorates the senses. The existing hardwood floors and large southern-facing windows in this front office made us fall in love with the building the first time we saw it.
Luckily this room didn't require much alteration – we were able to squeeze both our storefront displays and work desks into the same space by employing room dividers and a creative layout. By maximizing the use of this area we eliminated the need for new construction or structural changes.
Yes, the vertical gardens are real! These mobile living green walls utilize mildew-resistant 100% recycled felt made from plastic bottles, which we sewed into hanging planter pockets.
Beyond just aesthetic value, indoor plants have the ability to purify their surroundings. In our storefront there is a variety of air-filtering species including English ivy, peace lily, and bamboo palm, among others. Working in an environment that emulates nature – filled with plants and natural sunlight – is also known to reduce stress and increase happiness. Always a plus around the office!
Construction backstory: the original staircase had frayed, worn down carpets and rickety handrails in need of major safety improvements. Beneath the carpets we discovered solid wood with amazing knots and character. The wood stairs were left exposed, given new life after a thorough sanding and simple clear coat.
The old railing wasn't pretty to look at, but we didn't want to trash it just to install new, residential-style posts. So the existing structure was reinforced and lined with salvaged wood planks. The resulting pallet wall façade came out looking even better than we had hoped! More importantly, it enabled us to reduce our construction waste by implementing Source Reduction, the highest priority way to address solid waste issues.
The unfinished mezzanine at the top of the stairs was converted into a break area. Old stainless steel shelves being discarded at a restaurant equipment auction were scrubbed down and installed as countertops. We scored at the local Goodwill with a set of four matching wood and metal bar chairs.
Enter the solarium! This lush, sun-drenched room acts as both an office and meeting space. It features zero VOC paint manufactured in the Pacific Northwest as well as LEED-certified bamboo floors. All of the furniture in here is used, including the conference table, chairs, desks, and filing cabinets.
We built the planter boxes out of excess construction materials, filled them with organic compost, and then let Mother Nature do her thing. It wasn't long before the Arabian jasmine and golden pothos grew all the way to the ceiling!
One thing we love about having our farm nearby is that it gives us an opportunity to reuse all sorts of supplies and equipment. We removed old cabinets and countertops from this room, being careful to avoid unnecessary damage so they could be reused at the farm. Installing them in the detached garage helped transform it into a more functional and organized workshop.
Next door at the distribution center! We just expanded into this new space a few weeks ago, so there's still a little bit of work left to do. Another pallet wall was built to cover up unfinished drywall, adding a fantastic design element while reducing the need for new construction supplies such as joint compound or accent paint.
Using salvaged materials isn't always practical for a business, especially when on a deadline. Thankfully we had time this past month to wait for the perfect set of reclaimed kitchen cabinets to show up at Second Use, our go-to spot for recycled building supplies. We're still searching for counters!
On the floor are linoleum tiles, in part remnants from the construction of one of our processing rooms. Most commercial tile is made from harsh petrochemicals and toxic sealants, which can negatively impact indoor air quality and contribute to noxious landfill waste when discarded. These LEED-certified tiles are made of 100% biobased content, including flax seed, limestone, and jute.
The entire distribution center was filled with original wood moldings and doors. Though beautiful they were quite worn and outdated. We cleaned everything up and used left over paint on the doors, then redid the retro red posts in black. It was an easy, simple way to modernize the feel of the space without creating more waste.
The support beams and stair steps in the warehouse were structurally unsound and had to be replaced. Sometimes there is no alternative to new construction, as was the case here – even though the wood was in relatively nice condition, it didn't pass our safety test. Instead of throwing away the beams and steps, we put them in storage to be used this summer for projects around the farm, like building more raised beds to grow vegetables and making repairs to the greenhouse.
We end at the incredible green space behind the building. Our pet project this year is to transform it into a little urban oasis with an herb garden and outdoor patio – an ideal setting for a little summertime relaxation!
Hope you enjoyed the tour! From all of us at Uncle Harry's, our sincere thanks and gratitude for continuing to help us grow a greener future.