Preserve and Recycle Reusable Buildings

toronto construction

Target: Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto, Canada

Goal: Stop throwing perfectly reusable buildings into the garbage

Cities like Toronto put a lot of effort into recycling glass bottles, paper trash, and household waste. However, city leaders still feel entitled to throw entire buildings into the garbage. According to Catherine Nasmith’s essay, “Waste Not, Want Not: Buildings Are Not Garbage,” between 20% and 35% of landfill waste comes from unwanted buildings.

Construction accounts for about half of the natural resources that we consume as a society, producing greenhouse gas emissions from concrete production, electricity generation, and materials transportation. In many cases, it costs about the same to refurbish an old building as it does to erect a new building. However, refurbishing construction costs lie in abundantly-available labor rather than materials derived from dwindling natural resources. Not only does the destruction of old buildings result in increased waste and energy expenditures, but also a cultural loss of the work of previous generations.

Sign the below petition to urge city leaders to reuse and recycle building stock rather than dumping building materials into landfills. In this way, cities would avoid wasting the embodied energy and materials in existing buildings, save on landfill costs, and conserve built environments in a sustainable way.


Dear Mayor Rob Ford,

The beautiful city of Toronto should not be treated as disposable, and historic buildings should not be treated like trash. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that the world will run out of many prominently used raw building materials by the year 2030. Yet, the city continues to tear down perfectly usable buildings to make way for new technology.

Refurbishing old buildings is often a more efficient use of natural resources than starting from scratch with all new materials. Many old buildings are intrinsically green because they were built with local-sourced materials using low-tech traditional methods. As they are well-maintained and updated to accommodate newer energy efficient technology, old buildings can last for centuries.

I am urging you to work with local construction industry leaders to reuse and recycle old buildings in the city.  Please contemplate the energy expenditures and strains on raw natural resources before engaging in new construction and consider the possibility of reusing existing building structures whenever possible. Over time, this will save huge amounts of money in business displacement, neighborhood destruction, and landfill costs.

As expert Catherine Nasmith points out, “Some buildings should go, but we should not have the right to destroy the work of previous generations, and should not have to do handsprings through the Ontario Heritage Act to save building stock. It is as much an environmental issue as one of cultural conservation.”


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit:  Joseph.Morris via Flickr

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