Cardea Construction recycles 80% of construction waste from its remodeling projects. The design/build residential contractor in Ann Arbor, Mich., sends doors, windows, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, and lighting to construction re-use centers. A scrap recycler gets all metal. Crews chop unpainted wood and send it to local bakeries to burn in their ovens. The company keeps a roster of specialized haulers and recyclers, including one accepting concrete. Cardea has even found a dry-wall hauler who delivers the material to a dump site for capping off.

Company owner Patricia Harroun says that a green focus helps set her company apart from other remodelers. She promotes sustainable construction on her company's Web site and at seminars for remodeling companies, businesses, and homeowners.

“It doesn't cost more to recycle,” she says. “We are just smart about it and create two or more piles, not one.” The company stores items as needed, to consolidate hauling trips.

The remodeler uses the work to keep lower-paid employees busy during slow times. “Plus, many recycling companies now come to us,” Harroun says. —Colleen C. Derda is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh; [email protected].