Trash to Treasure: Merging Creativity and Environmental Responsibility

November 21, 2012


Our new customer checkout stations. Made from recycled and re-purposed materials. There are five total, including one handicap accessible unit.

People often ask me what it is like to work for Rings & Things. The truth is, I love it. I was initially drawn to Rings & Things because being a jewelry-maker, it always seemed like working there I would literally be like “a kid in a candy store”. Quickly after being hired though, I discovered there was so much more to Rings & Things than just beads. They have to be one of the most creative, innovative and environmentally responsible companies around. One recent example of this mentality is these beautiful new additions to our Spokane, Washington showroom. These new customer checkout stations were made from recycled, re-used and re-purposed materials.


Rings & Things co-owner, Dee Mueller, working on one of the  mosaic portions of the new fixtures. The mosaics were created with scrap tile and broken beads.


Over the summer, we decided that the showroom was in desperate need of new customer checkout stations. While most business owners would order something new, Dee Mueller, co-owner of Rings & Things, decided she was gonna make something better than you could ever buy. Dee and her husband, Russ Nobbs, own Rings & Things, a company that just celebrated its 40th anniversary. Over the past 40 years, both Dee and Russ have made huge efforts to promote environmental responsibility in the Spokane area and to their employees. At our Spokane warehouse, everything in house is recycled (and I mean everything!), a bike is available for employees to travel green on their breaks, and there is even in-house composting. The compost is used by Russ and Dee in their garden, where they grow fresh produce to share with all their employees. Recently, Russ was inducted into the Washington State Recycling Hall of Fame for all of the contributions he has made to recycling in the Spokane area. He heads up recycling at several events here in Spokane as well as leads the recycling portion of an annual clean-up of our cherished Spokane river.


Russ Nobbs, in his signature tie dye shirt, at the annual Spokane River Clean-Up. Every year, Russ, Friends of the Falls, and a brigade of volunteers remove, sort and recycle three to ten TONS of garbage from the Spokane River gorge.

Russ Nobbs and Dee Mueller, husband and wife, and owners of Rings & Things.


The cabinets were a way for Dee to honor the efforts her husband has made over the years. Dee is an experienced cabinet maker and jeweler, so this was a fun opportunity for her to bring together her passions. Dee worked in her home garage and her shop at the warehouse to build these beautiful fixtures, which without a doubt took hours and hours to make.  She used scrap wood left by a neighbor to build the frames, found “seconds” counter tops at a local counter top fabricator, and got the side panels from the Habitat from Humanity store. Those are the functional elements. What is really fun about these portable checkout stations though is the decorative elements. Dee’s creativity really shines through here. She used scrap tile and broken beads to create beautiful mosaic strips on each unit. Each one is slightly different, though they are all unified by a similar color scheme and focal point. The focal on each cabinet is an inlaid carved stone Cicada, an exotic winged beetle like insect.


Mosaic detail on the front of one of the checkout stands featuring a carved stone Cicada, broken gemstone beads and freshwater pearls.

The front to another checkout stand. This also has a broken Chinese turquoise pendant.

The new stations are an amazing addition to our Showroom and are really a testimony to the philosophy of Rings & Things. It would have been easier to buy mass manufactured units, but Dee wanted something special, that would stand the test of time and be unique to Rings & Things.  For me, it is inspiring to see what beauty and functionality can be created from one man’s trash.  If we could all reuse, recycle and re-purpose just a little more, imagine the reduction in waste to our lovely Earth.

~~Tiffany White,   Rings & Things blogger


Co-owner of Rings & Things, standing behind one of her completed checkout stations.


Please feel free to ask any questions about the construction of these fixtures below in the comment section.  Click here to learn more about Russ Nobbs’ recycling efforts.


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  • Rae Thompson November 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Tell my Dee that I love the cabinets, but not nearly as much as I love her!! Wish I had been there to help her build them…………….

    • Polly November 30, 2012 at 10:34 am

      Hi Rae!
      I will be sure to pass the message on to her =)

  • Debbie Oscarson December 6, 2012 at 10:13 am

    The new cabinets are such a great addition to the showroom. They were the first thing I saw when I was last in. The character they provide is truly wonderful.

    • Polly December 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Hi Debbie,

  • Christine Stoll January 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Fantastic checkout stations! Love and appreciate repurposing! Also, congrats to Russ on his induction to the Recycling Hall of Fame…I had no idea there was such a thing in WA…love it!

  • Anita Ghaemi January 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

    I really enjoyed reading this. And what a wonderful idea and great outcome. Also learned a lot more about R&T. Proud to be a customer