They’re Taking On One of the Biggest – and Least Known – Waste Streams. Meet Uproot.

In Vancouver, Canada, Kevin Kimoto is getting to the root of our waste problems.

Photo by Noriko Nasu-Tidball

Photo of Kevin Kimoto (right) and Joe Bickson (left) by Noriko Nasu-Tidball

Wood waste makes up a staggering 22% of Vancouver’s total refuse. That’s almost 99,000 tons of wood getting thrown out every year – most of which is still perfectly usable. This is due in no small part to Vancouver’s booming construction industry. To make matters worse – by throwing away countless two-by-fours and construction molds on a daily basis, the construction industry has generated a demand that’s thrown Canada’s lumber industry into overdrive.

Enter Kevin and Uproot. As a college student in tree-laden Vancouver, Kevin had a front row seat to the effects of deforestation. Shocked by what he saw going on in his town, Kevin and his friend decided to form Uproot, an organization committed to keeping wood out of Vancouver’s landfill. Uproot collects clean wood waste from the construction industry, upcycles it into something useful, and gives it back to the community via partnerships with a variety of social innovation projects. When we sat down to talk to him, Kevin said that he “hopes to inspire a movement to change the way the world perceives waste.”

So far, the students have supplied raised planter boxes for a local community garden, a sign for a local business, and have set out to start a wood waste lending library that others can make use of as well.

For Kevin, this isn’t simply an issue of unsustainable practices. In this wasteful industry, he recognizes a deeper problem. He explained, “people walk by potential wood waste all the time: be it pallets stacked up next to their local grocery store or giant bins of off-cuts at construction sites around the city.” For most of us, waste is just a natural part of everyday life. Some of us might choose to avoid single-use coffee cups and paper bags, but the houses and cities in which we live are built and maintained in ways that generate tons of waste – in fact, construction and demolition waste is one of the largest sources of waste in the U.S.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.23.32 AMWhen you sit and think about it, waste is a problem of staggering scale. But instead of getting overwhelmed or giving up, Kevin and his friends at Uproot saw an opportunity, a chance to combine their passions for design and sustainability. And they’re not alone. Thanks to hundreds of concerned citizens flexing their Citizen Muscles, the City of Vancouver has committed to eliminating all of its wood waste by 2020. Wow!

But the problem with wood waste isn’t limited to Vancouver. It affects communities worldwide. Uproot is working to – as Kevin said – “catalyze a shift in the way people view waste” – no matter where they are. That’s a powerful vision we can get behind.

But Kevin and Uproot can’t change the way we think about waste all by themselves!

Uproot is partnering with The Story of Stuff Project to find Changemakers the world over to join them in their mission to reshape our relationship with wasted wood. They’re ready to take their innovative movement to reclaim wood waste all around the globe. And they need your help to do it.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to take change the story of waste in your community? Join Kevin Kimoto and Uproot today.

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