In the last seven years, businesses in Malad City, Idaho, have recycled more than 1 million pounds of cardboard thanks to a community recycling program created by Hess Lumber. That’s over 400 pounds of cardboard for each resident of the small, close-knit town. For Hess Lumber, the recycling program is latest addition to a lasting legacy in the community.
“I’m the fourth generation in the business,” says Doug Crowther, owner of Hess Lumber. “I’ve got three boys of my own, and hopefully they can continue following in the family’s footsteps.”
Hess Lumber opened in 1935 and has served the local community for nearly 85 years. As a kid, Crowther says, working in the store kept him busy and taught him what it means to work hard. Now at the store’s helm, Crowther hopes to teach those same lessons to the next generation—and he’s doing it in a sustainable way. Hess Lumber’s community recycling program currently serves over a dozen businesses in Malad City and employs local high school students to move and process the cardboard boxes.
“We probably move about a ton of cardboard a week,” Hess says. He estimates that the program recycles some 180,000 pounds of cardboard per year—enough to fill four or five semi-trucks.
It all started when Hess Lumber built a new store. The new facility had a back room with a cardboard baler to compress the boxes and packaging material that arrived at Hess Lumber each week. Crowther says the baler allowed Hess Lumber to begin recycling all of its cardboard, but it didn’t stop there. Soon, Hess Lumber began collecting cardboard from the two businesses next door.
“That blossomed into almost 17 other businesses around town requesting the service,” Crowther says.
For each business, Hess Lumber would provide a large wooden crate where the business could deposit all of its cardboard. Then, Hess Lumber team members would come by to move the cardboard with a forklift, run it through the baler and prepare it for recycling. As the program grew, Crowther and his team reached out to the city and county about formalizing the program.
“Now we have nice metal bins with lids on them, and we still pick up the cardboard with a forklift and take it to our baler,” he says.
To run the program, Hess Lumber charges a small monthly fee, which pays for the forklift time and the part-time help from high schoolers. For Crowther, the opportunity to create jobs for others, especially young people, is particularly important.
“It keeps them moving and doing stuff,” he says. “That’s what I was raised doing, and we had that opportunity because of the family business.”
Now, Hess Lumber has given that opportunity back to the community. The community recycling program builds a sustainable future for Malad City by supporting greener businesses and the next generation of local workers.
For more information about Hess Lumber, visit www.hesslumber.com.
This story is part of our ongoing ‘Local Memories, Lasting Impact’ series that highlights small, locally owned businesses and the differences they make in their communities.