Long before the public service campaigns urging citizens to "think green," Anderson Lumber of Alcoa, Tenn., had its head in the game. Steve Coleman, owner of Anderson Lumber, and Joe Prospero, co-owner of the dealer's truss facility, ship their sawdust and wood byproducts two to three times a week to Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn. The college burns the chips and scraps to heat its buildings.

What makes the deal sweet, though, is the college pays for the byproduct. "It's a good deal for us and a good deal for them," Coleman says. "It helps us get rid of the product, and we give them enough supply. It used to cost us to get rid of it, and we're making money on it now." He did not disclose the prices or cost.

Anderson Lumber is just one of many dealers nationwide that have found they can make money, provide an eco-friendly service with wood waste, and keep from dumping more debris in a landfill–which they must pay to do.

Perhaps at the forefront of the trend is Diprizio Pine Sales, a division of LaValley Building-Middleton Building Supply of Middleton, N.H. The dealer distributes bark mulch, sells board ends to produce paper, and burns chips and sawdust to create steam and heat. It's in the final phase of installing a turbine for energy. LaValley began the project in 2006 with a $460,000 grant from the Energy Department and used it to pay for wood-fired boilers, which heat the mill's kilns.

"We are helping the environment, and we are helping our business remain competitive," says Marcella Perry, the mill's general manager. Before the new system, the company was burning No. 2 fuel oil to heat its kilns, which was costly–nearly $900,000 per year.

The second phase involved a federal grant for turbines to be powered by steam that the kilns generate. The turbines will create electricity for the 125-acre site where, along with the mill, there is a retail store with building materials, a full lumberyard, and a kitchen showroom. Perry estimates that through cost savings, the project should pay for itself before 2011.

Within roughly 15 miles of Anderson Lumber is one of its chief competitors, Tindell's Lumber and Building Materials in Knoxville, Tenn. Tindell's has been hauling its truss-plant waste to area farms and stables for the past decade. Before being made into trusses, any nonuseful cuts are ground into dust and shavings. From there, the particles are fed into dump trucks, and then delivered to customers on nearly a first call-first served basis.

Steve Batchelor, Tindell's vice president of truss manufacturing, says between 20 and 30 customers buy the byproduct. "They call us and we put it on the schedule," he says. "Sometimes we don't even have enough."

ProBuild's Timberoots truss and wall-panel plant in De Pere, Wis., has found ways to rid itself of waste–at a profit. Ground wood waste is blown into trailers, sold, and hauled to a local particleboard manufacturer. As many as 40 loads are shipped a year at a clip of nearly 25 tons each. What isn't ground up, including old OSB, is sent to a local agricultural retailer that burns the leftovers for heat.

"We are sending very little wood to a landfill. That's a nice feeling," says Gary Faulkender, plant manager, who estimates that 85% to 90% of the plant's waste is recycled. That includes metal bands used for packaging. They are dropped into containers at 20,000 pounds per year, picked up, and recycled by a scrap-metal dealer.

Coleman's Hamilton Building Supply in Hamilton, N.J., has an old-fashioned, but still an effective and inexpensive, method for unwanted wood disposal. Along with sending some of its sawdust and shavings to a local stable for horse bedding, "a few of our guys bring the wood home and heat their homes with it," says Jay Atkinson, shop manager of Coleman's millwork department. "It's nice wood, it's hot, and burns well."

Back in Alcoa, Maryville College is preparing to expand its campus and plans to continue heating its buildings with the wood byproduct from Anderson. Coleman says that over the years, it's gone through three chippers, which are expensive to maintain, but they eventually pay for themselves.

"We might have to come up with more chips for the college, but that's a good problem to have," Coleman says.

–Andy Carlo