Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2016


John Van Buren


Humans have exploited planet earth’s resources to generate many different forms of useless remains: solid waste, food waste, pollution, electronic waste, wastewater, hazardous and chemical waste, and nuclear radioactive waste—so many that we have disregarded the environmental principle that waste in any form is not sustainable or natural. Developed countries have habituated a lifestyle of excess—the societal concept of waste being the most detrimental to the Homo sapiens’ future as a living, thriving species and the reason why we have succumbed to a climate crisis. Through a reframing of ethical philosophies, economic theories, and sustainable design, societies are capable of avoiding overproductivity and the creation of unwanted materials. I examine how entire cities can become zero-waste by utilizing the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, The Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, and PlaNYC 2030—among other reports that target the waste problem in New York City, specifically. Through a new system that eliminates municipal solid waste, installs more urban farms, utilizes more sustainable technology and design, maximizes localization, changes human diet and replaces industrial packaging materials, New Yorkers can discontinue a passive reliance on the waste industry. By identifying the many sources and types of waste production, treatment, and handling, the issue can be acknowledged and remedied on a short and long term scale. Through laws, regulations, community development, urban design plans, and grassroots movements, our society can begin to refashion its trash-producing system, think about waste differently and eventually eliminate its origin. The goal of this thesis is to elucidate a zero-waste structure of living.