7 (Free) Things You Can Recycle & Reuse to Spruce up a Vacant Lot

By: Ellie King

Landscaping a vacant lot can be expensive. Below you will find a 7 different types of free or almost free materials that our Ambassadors used to beautify there vacant lot project. From Craigslist finds to items bound for the landfill, these pieces now serve a productive community purpose and didn’t break the bank.

1. Landscaping rocks

Perusing the “free” and “lawn & garden” sections of CraigslistAlandra & April found some GIANT rocks that someone was getting rid of. They want to use as big rocks as seating on their site at Penn State Greater Allegheny. All we had to do was move them, which sounded a lot easier than it was, so you may want to recruit a friend or two (or four in our case).


A few good GTECHers moving heavy landscaping rocks to their new home.

2. Tires

Pittsburgh is full of old tires, and organizations like Allegheny Cleanways work tirelessly (pun intended) to get rid of them. Northside Ambassador Ayanna has been getting kids in her neighborhood to paint tires found in the area to use as planters and benches. One of GTECH’s first use of tires was in the MOMS Green Play Yard in East Liberty.

Kids that live near Ayanna’s lot were eager to paint these tires.

3. Bicycle parts

Dana ReClaimed bike tires, and created pieces of art to display in her newly ReClaimed lot in McKeesport. Check out these ideas and how-to’s for bike tire art, and keep your eye on Craigslist, Free Ride and other reuse places (like Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse) for old bike parts.

Recycled sunflowers made from bike parts

The Sunflowers add color during the day

Bicycle Sunflower

The flowers act has reflectors at night.


4. Pallets

Julie was able to get pallets donated to her from a local company. A lot of places have them available, all you have to do is ask! She painted them, and installed them on her site to create a screen that blocked rusting dumpsters next to her site.

Don’t have access to pallets? Build a screening wall out of old doors! Try looking at Construction Junction or Craigslist for them.


Julie’s pallet wall acts as a screen.

5. Vines

In the more wooded areas of Pittsburgh, you can often find vines from wild grapes just hanging around. Northside Ambassador Doug decided to use some vines from his vacant lot in Observatory Hill to prop up this awesome bean tunnel.

Doug Bean tunnel

Doug and volunteers work to intertwine the bean tunnel with some reclaimed vines.

6. Plants from neighbors

All our Ambassadors projects have some greenery incorporated into their projects. If you search sites like NextDoor or Craigslist, you’re bound to find a community member or neighbor who is redoing their lawn or moving and have extra plants they are looking to get rid of or plants that are in need of splitting.

One of Kim’s neighbors had a plethora of hostas that she didn’t want in her yard. Kim gave them a new home and created a whole bed of reclaimed plants on her site.


A freshly planted bed of hostas.

A freshly planted bed of ReClaimed plants.

7. Bricks

Shari, Kim, Julie and Dana all used ReClaimed bricks from a dump site to line their sites. If you’re not into scavenging, try (again) looking on Craigslist for free bricks. (We’ve also found a brick or two on vacant lots.) Again organizations like Construction Junction almost always has stock.

ReClaiming bricks to line Kim's sidewalk.

ReClaimed bricks for Kim’s site.


Hank and Jibran lining the perimeter of Kim’s site.


ReClaimed bricks lining the path on Shari’s lot.

For even more ideas like these, check out the GTECH Pinterest page!


Have you reclaimed materials from your neighborhood? Where do you go for your trash to treasure items? Share your stories of reuse and recycling below.

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