Visitors to the pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown Ithaca, New York, may find themselves passing a large poster with directions to the Waste(d) Imagination Tour. Following a QR code leads the curious to the PocketSights smartphone app which showcases a wide variety of user-built self-guided walking tours. In this particular case, rather than digging into local literary history or neighborhood highlights, users are invited to contemplate greater sustainability in the built environment by visiting 21 (so far) key site examples spread across town.
The tour is an outgrowth of ongoing work by City and Regional Planning Associate Professor Jennifer Minner and researchers in her Just Places Lab. Since 2020, they have been working, alongside colleagues in the Circular Construction Lab led by Architecture Assistant Professor Felix Heisel and community leaders in the Circularity, Reuse, and Zero Waste Development (CR0WD) network, to engage the public locally and throughout New York State to foster more circular, regenerative, and sustainable construction practices. From policy guides to presentations and exhibitions, Minner seeks to help the public "see" this issue and rethink the ways in which waste is created through demolition. Instead, striving to illustrate the power of conserving embodied carbon through methods such as preservation, adaptive reuse, deconstruction, and building material reuse.
"As Gretchen Worth (M.A. HPP '20) from the Susan Christopherson Center for Community Planning and CR0WD often points out, many people know that plastic bags are bad and that we should compost food, but for some reason, few people realize the massive issues with demolition or the alternatives to demolition that they can advocate for in their community," Minner explains, pointing specifically to the burden construction and demolition debris places on landfills. The Waste(d) Imagination experience presents an opportunity to lead people through the opportunities and challenges of creating a more circular construction economy in Ithaca.