Social venture paves way for transition to circular economy

Toast to the Coast Raft Night | Photo by Danielle Vallee, Uproot

Toast to the Coast Raft Night | Photo by Danielle Vallee, Uproot

Most of us have never given a second thought to wood waste but one organization is working to improve that.

Uproot a zero-waste, wood-salvaging social venture was founded last year with the goal of making what is known as a “circular economy” more accessible, starting with re-purposing wood waste.

What is the circular economy?

Kevin Kimoto, one of the co-founders of Uproot, says that during an internship with CityStudio, his team began building “sharing libraries” made from pallet wood for the purpose of sharing sporting equipment. Today, the core team from this project is still working together at Uproot. After the internship, Kimoto realized that wood waste was a problem and wanted to do more in order to reduce our community’s ecological footprint.

“How can we continue to live in cities and have what we want without putting so much pressure on the environment?” asks Kimoto.

According to Kimoto, 27, our economy runs on a linear system which means that resources are extracted to create products and most of these products are disposed of at the end of their lifecycle. In contrast, a circular economy is one where the products are used and re-used in the system. When products reach the end of their expected life, the material can still be recovered.

“For example, if we take a table or a chair, they’ll be given a second and third life before they are reduced to their bare components,” says Kimoto, a fourth generation Japanese Canadian. “Even by-products such as sawdust, we find uses for it so that it’s ultimately used in another process.”

Kimoto explains that the name Uproot was inspired by the need to change the status quo and challenge existing attitudes with regards to the way our society lives because we are disrupting the ecosystem. Uproot works with construction and demolition companies to source material for projects. Kimoto explains that a lot of wood waste needs to be processed to remove nails, metal or paint from the wood before it can be used again. Although there are some tools such as denailers to assist with the process, much of the work is still done by hand at their warehouse in False Creek Flats. As the primary builder on the Uproot team, Kimoto had five years of woodworking experience in high school as well as experience working on backyard projects at home. In addition, he also has a small workshop in his garage.

Kimoto, an SFU sociology graduate, says that one thing he’s learned is that if you have a great idea you should pursue it.

“It’s been amazing to take an idea and go with it and then continuously refine and recalibrate it,” says Kimoto.

Community involvement

Uproot’s projects range from large art installations to practical everyday items like compost bins for community gardens. Always working with environmental sustainability in mind, one of Kimoto’s recent projects is a pollinator garden for bees. It will be done in collaboration with 60 Grade 9 students from Eric Hamber Secondary School who will be painting their artwork on the structure.

Kimoto says that Uproot has actively partnered with various organizations that are already promoting a zero waste, circular economy. For example, they work with a company that recycles mattresses while Uproot dismantles the wooden bed frames. In addition, they are currently working on creating an online platform that other organizations can use to test launch their products.

Kimoto says that Uproot wants to support and reach more communities.

“There’s so much more that they can do and that they can take direct action to create the change that they want to see,” says Kimoto.

As of the end of 2015, Kimoto says that they have diverted 4,000 board feet of lumber, the equivalent of 27 B.C. forestry trees.

For more information on Uproot, please visit