Our project this past week was not without its environmental impact. We ripped close to 800 sf of siding off of our house, most of which is a hazardous waste. On paper, the option with the least impact to the environment would have been to leave the siding on the house. This would have prevented 1.6 cubic yards of asbestos siding and tar paper from entering the landfill.
One must consider, however, the impact of improving and renovating older homes. A nice looking home helps the entire community. It helps to create a sense of place, a sense that the neighborhood is a "good" neighborhood that should be preserved and promoted. One of the best ways to lessen the impact of homeownership on the environment is to buy a used house in an urban area close to things like a grocery store, restaurants, bookstores, etc... a downtown area. By making these homes MORE attractive, we can hopefully "stem" the tide of mass construction spreading across the farmlands.
~1.6 Cubic Yards of Asbestos Siding (~546 sf) and Tar paper (wrapped in 16 heavy duty plastic bags and duct tape)
~1/2 Gallon of Nails and Screws
~A VERY Large Pile of 1x3 Wood Boards
~200 sf of Steel Siding
How We Lessened the Impact:
1) I posted an ad on Craigslist and Freecycle offering asbestos shingles free to anyone needing to patch up their house. Sadly, no one took me up on this offer (which did surprise me, as I have seen people asking for them).
2) We carefully saved all of the nails and screws, and will hopefully be able to either reuse them for other projects or recycle them as scrap metal.
3) Our wood pile is full, so we plan on offering the wood as firewood or taking it to the city recycling center to be mulched.
4) We carefully removed the steel siding so that it could be reused, either on our backroom renovation or on someone else's house or shed. At the very worst, we can recycle it as scrap metal.
5) Finally, we bought as many of the needed tools used as we could. We couldn't find respirators used, but did find an old chipped chisel (perfect for chipping out the nail heads) and a set of vice grips that were perfect for my tiny hands.