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Valerie Carey was struck by the immense amount of construction waste discarded, prompting her to establish Sankofa Lumber in June 2020. While working at a recycling and disposal company specializing in construction debris, she observed that wood waste was primarily sold as fuel for industrial boilers, falsely considered “recycling.” Recognizing the potential for reuse, Carey founded Sankofa Lumber to provide a closed-loop solution by directly repurposing standard framing lumber and other previously unusable materials. This approach retains carbon within the wood and buildings instead of releasing it as CO2 through incineration.

It’s a very supportive group and members in widely different fields of work are really supportive in terms of offering advice and bringing in other members for projects.”

– Valerie Carey on the value of NAMC-Oregon membership

Sankofa Lumber processes reclaimed wood debris to be used in large-scale manufacturing and construction. Collaborating with general contractors and haulers, the company collects reusable wood waste from construction sites in the Portland area. While some individuals utilize reclaimed materials for DIY projects or premium heritage lumber for high-end products, Carey emphasizes that these efforts alone do not sufficiently address the volume of wood being incinerated or sent to landfills.

Sankofa Lumber primarily operates on a business-to-business scale, receiving average loads of wood waste ranging from 20 to 30 cubic yards, weighing 1.5 to 2 tons, and typically transported by licensed commercial haulers. Carey recognized the unmet need in the industry and saw an opportunity to make a sustainable and economic impact. Her entrepreneurial spirit, influenced by her parents’ own business ventures, coupled with her master’s degree in international management focusing on sustainable development, as well as her background in residential construction and retail sales of used building materials, have been instrumental in her journey.

As a member of NAMC-OR, Carey values the platform for engaging with like-minded individuals dedicated to equality, social and economic justice, and innovative sustainability solutions. Although not a contractor herself, Carey’s work in the building materials industry aligns closely with NAMC-OR’s objectives. She appreciates the supportive nature of the group, where members from diverse fields offer advice, collaborate on projects, and foster a sense of community.