Greene’s non-profit organization, Build It Green! NYC, is a retail outlet for salvage and surplus building materials. The warehouse, located in Astoria, resells materials from buildings that are being demolished and materials donated by contractors in order to prevent them from ending up in landfills.
“Land fills have a big effect on the climate because they release greenhouse gas that affects the ozone layer”, said Greene, who lives in Clinton Hill.
“It is important to reuse these materials. It helps prevents new materials from being harvested.”
Before founding the organization Greene worked at the Community Environmental Center. CEC helps provide energy-efficient housing for low-income communities; Build it Green (BIG) is an extension of this organization.
According to Greene, around 40 percent of all the waste in New York City is generated by construction. Because the city does not have a recycling program for construction materials, BIG tries to take in as much as possible. Materials are then resold at heavily discounted prices.
Home and small business owners can receive up to 70 percent off the original price on many of the same goods sold in Home Depot or Lowe's. Customers can save on everything from lumber to kitchen appliances.
“Our customers are mostly homeowners, but we also get many bar owners and interior designers who shop at our store” said Greene.
In addition, BIG offers homeowners free kitchen deconstruction when they are ready to remodel. Every deconstruction job gets is treated as a donation and customers receive a tax-refundable receipt.
BIG also offers free do-it-yourself classes for anyone in the New York City area. Topics range from building a cat-scratch post to wood refinishing and drywall plastering.
The city may be a trendsetter in other areas, but not when it comes to recycling demolition waste. Greene said he's trying to change that.
“New York is behind other cities,” said Greene. “We have used other models to craft this idea and adapted it to meet the needs of the city.”