The Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse, Greenwise Organic Lawn Care and the Kenilworth Clippers Garden Club have teamed up to save and repurpose plants. July 14, the three companies held their first free plant giveaway in north Evanston.

The ERW is a non-profit organization that reduces the amount of building materials sent to landfills, promotes reuse and rebuilds lives. They needed Greenwise to help haul away whatever plants were not dug up and relied on the Kenilworth Clippers for gardening expertise.

“We came up with the idea of repurposing plants because when we deconstruct homes, the plant material gets destroyed. We felt like there had to be a better way. We sat down with Greenwise and the Kenilworth Clippers to come up with a solution and our first giveaway was hugely successful,” says Aina Gutierrez, the Executive Director of the ERW.

All three groups were on site at the plant give-away, helping gardeners identify plants and dig as needed. Viburnum bushes, yews, ferns, hostas, wild strawberry plants and vinca were dug up and given new homes. The whole event was a big success.

“Our gardening club was excited to be a part of this solution. Two of our members, Merrilee Redmond and Paula Zimmerman, volunteered to help and were thrilled to see gardeners lined up by 8:45 a.m. to dig up plants and bring them home to their own gardens. Merrilee spent a lot of time digging out the 4-feet deep vinca for people,” said Elleke Haggerty, president of the Kenilworth Clippers Garden Club.

The plants that were not given away were also not wasted. “Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse didn’t have a way to dispose of any plant material that was left over from the plant giveaway, so we were happy to help. This is exactly what we love—saving and repurposing plants so that as many plants as possible get used rather than thrown out. We are proud to work alongside Aina’s team and the Clippers to provide such a great service to people and look forward to the next pop-up giveaway,” said Robyn Hurtig, who is the Director of Community Engagement at Greenwise Organic Lawn Care.

Most of the jobs that the ERW does are deconstructing houses. The house that had the plant giveaway is now being deconstructed.

 The ERW website states that, “Deconstruction is the selective dismantlement of building components, specifically for reuse, repurposing, recycling and waste management.” By reconstructing, house materials are able to be reused in other projects.

These materials are taken to the ERW warehouse, located at 2101 Dempster St. in Evanston, where people can purchase them. At the warehouse, the materials are sold anywhere from 50 to 90 percent off retail price.

Deconstructing houses is much better for the environment than tearing down houses and there are large reductions in disposal costs. On top of this, the organization is doing good work for the community.

The deconstruction has a workforce of people who face barriers to employment, such as homelessness or being formerly incarcerated. The ERW offers five month long paid career training programs for these people. The training is intended to help workers gain important life and work skills, and it sets them up to get employment following the program.

As more deconstructions are done, there will most likely be more plant giveaways, as the ERW hopes to recycle and reuse as much as they can from these projects.

The next plant giveaway will be at a Glencoe home in August.