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Squamish Rebuild's appeal grows

Centre for used building supplies sees high traffic in first six weeks since opening

When Patrick Theriault purchased a box truck with the idea of opening a rebuild store in Squamish, little did he know his vision was already fast becoming a reality due to the efforts of another enterprising local - Inis LeBlanc. The two sustainability advocates joined forces and, on July 6, Squamish Rebuild opened its doors for the first time.

"People come every single day and drop stuff off, and lots of people are coming around and checking things out and seeing what we're all about," said Leblanc. "They've heard about us, they want to see what we have."

In 2009, after learning about The Rebuilding Centre in Portland, Ore. in the book Good News for a Change by David Suzuki, LeBlanc decided that her dream job would be to open her own rebuild centre with the goal of promoting sustainable practices.

Today, she's the general manager of the Squamish Rebuild Society and determined to make a difference.

A non-profit used building supplies centre, Squamish Rebuild accepts salvaged and reclaimed residential and commercial building materials which are then sold to customers at discounted prices with 100 percent of the profits going to support other non-profits in the community.

"We're getting a lot of, 'It's about time somebody did this, and it's great that we have an alternative to the dump,'" LeBlanc said. "People feel good about it, it's definitely something that people want to see succeed."

The Whistler Re-Build-It Centre, after opening in May earlier this year, recovered 14.5 metric tons of goods in its first six weeks that would have otherwise gone into the Whistler landfill. LeBlanc and Theriault anticipate determining exactly what Squamish Rebuild is diverting from the Squamish landfill by weight once the centre acquires the necessary scale.

"We have been keeping track of what we have sold so basically we will be able to catch up on it," said Theriault.

Theriault is the product manager and said that inventory of donated items is "pretty mixed" - everything from toilets and sinks to light fixtures and flooring.

"There's a lot of different kinds of doors and sizes and so we're covering quite a spectrum," added LeBlanc, "like interior, exterior, wooden, hollow, solid, some with windows, there's so many different kinds of doors so we're able to offer more of a variety."

And if it can be reused, then Squamish Rebuild will take it. If it's broken, generally people aren't bringing it, said LeBlanc.

"I think we've only had one person who didn't really know what we were doing," Theriault said, "then when she came in and realized what kind of stuff we had, she was kind of like, 'Oh, I don't think you're going to take what I have.'

"A lot of time people have had items that have been sitting for a while and they just had no use for it and just didn't want to throw it out so it built up cobwebs or dust - so it's just basically general clean up.," he said.

This lends to some exciting finds, Theriault noted, citing some old doors from Britannia Beach that had been dropped off as an example. Once used in the miners' bunkhouses at the old Britannia Beach Mine, the doors - still perfectly preserved - are over one hundred years old.

LeBlanc explained their system for pricing used items. A product is researched online and if it can't be found, then a similar product is sourced out.

"We basically start at 50 percent of what it would be new, that's the minimum," she said, "and then we go down from there, depending on the condition."

Rod McLeod, solid waste project manager for the District of Squamish, is excited to support the non-profit store and said that although the district doesn't "quite have a detailed plan yet," what he does know is that as part of the landfill upgrade, there is going to be more space for re-use and recycling of materials.

"One of the thoughts was putting a container there," McLeod said, "that people could put building materials into that Squamish Rebuild would then come out on a regular basis and empty the container and take it back to their yard for sale.

"There's a lot of stuff right now that goes into the dump that doesn't have to."

In the meantime, the landfill's attendants are informing people about how to avoid the tipping fees, by dropping of usable goods at Squamish Rebuild for free.

"They have the little pamphlet up there with our ad," said LeBlanc. "They have a list of the things that we take and so if they see that people have that stuff then they'll let them know."

Often spotted around town is Squamish Rebuild's white box truck with the logo prominently displayed. While they are encouraging people to drop items off, if someone doesn't have the means, or the donated goods are too heavy or large - an entire kitchen, for instance - they will pick it up when they're in the area.

"Also contractors because they're very busy," LeBlanc said. "It's just an extra little incentive for them, so they can just put everything to one side for us, then we'll come and get it."

Custom request forms are also available allowing customers the chance to be contacted when what they want comes in.

Anyone interested in helping out as a volunteer is encouraged to drop by the store Sundays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Thursdays between 10 a.m. and noon.

Squamish Rebuild is centrally located at 40350A Government Road between Burger King and Greg Gardner Motors through the gate past Howe Sound Equipment. Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

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