The Zero Waste Design Guidelines were developed for New York City by the Center for Architecture, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. They are an extensive resource for architects, developers and policy makers to address the crucial role that the design of our buildings and city play in achieving circular material loops. The impact of applying the Guidelines goes beyond reducing waste, to improvement of public space, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and trucks on city streets, and more sustainable, just and resilient cities.

The Center for Zero Waste Design was created in April 2019 to share knowledge on Zero Waste Design, adapt the strategies within the Guidelines to the context of other cities, expand the database of case studies, and develop research and policy tools for designing cities and buildings for zero waste. The Center consults with design teams, community organizations and municipalities to integrate best practices for zero waste into programming and design of buildings and the public realm. 


Clare Miflin is an architect and systems thinker with experience designing buildings to Passive House, LEED Platinum, Living Building Challenge and AIA COTE Top Ten standards. She has over 20 years of architectural experience, most recently at Kiss + Cathcart, Architects where she helped develop their philosophy of “productive” architecture. Clare led the development of the Zero Waste Design Guidelines through a multidisciplinary and collaborative process. As a certified biomimicry professional, she finds inspiration from natural systems that she applies to the built environment. Clare has also founded a consultancy – ThinkWoven – to develop strategies to weave urban systems into ecosystems. From 2017-2021 Clare was co-chair of the AIANY’s Committee on the Environment.

Parker Limón is an architectural designer, researcher, and artist. He holds a Bachelor’s of Architecture from the Cooper Union. His research forward process investigates objects of social and cultural value. In addition to his architectural work, he has experience in the non-profit sector, in archives, and working with grassroots organizations in Brooklyn.

Jennah Jones is a multidisciplinary designer pursuing a masters in architecture at Columbia GSAPP (’24). Her approach to architecture is informed by her experience in product design, a discipline that centers ethnographic research and community-centered design. She’s passionate about environmental justice and biomaterials, her projects often reimagining waste management through a generative justice lens. Previously she has held design research positions at Julia Watson LLC, the Natural Materials Lab at Columbia GSAPP, and BlocPower.

Caroline Wineburg is an architectural and urban designer with a Masters of Science in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia GSAPP. Equipped with a critical, socially-engaged approach, she strives to envision spatial justice within the built environment that is grounded in community, culture, and place. Her interests lie at the intersection of ecological urbanism, collective stewardship, and equity-centered design.

JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Goals

We consider and aim to advance the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in our work. Communities of color and other vulnerable populations feel the brunt of negative environmental impacts from waste, whether these come from air pollution from waste incineration, diesel trucks close to waste transfer stations, or the stench that comes from living alongside landfills.

 We are based in New York City, where well-resourced buildings can successfully manage the waste system which requires high levels of staffing to correctly separate, move, and stage waste for collection, and then clean up the sidewalk afterwards. An under-resourced building may not afford trash chute cleaning, or have enough staff to clean waste rooms and sidewalks after collection – leading to more use of pest control chemicals, more cockroaches, more rats, asthma and mental health stress. Similarly, well-resourced Business Improvement District (BIDs) have many full time staff dedicated to emptying litter bins and keeping sidewalks clean, but this is not the case in under-resourced neighborhoods, causing them to suffer more from litter and rats. We strive to be aware of the inequitable impacts of NYC’s labor–intense waste system, and will work to produce solutions that are manageable and accessible for all communities.

Our commitments include:

  1. To hire, support and promote a diverse and inclusive staff, and form a diverse and inclusive board, representative of the communities we serve.
  2. To ensure that we listen to and understand the diverse communities within the cities where we work, and offer meaningful opportunities for collaboration, where possible with compensation for participation, as we develop solutions.
  3. To partner with and support BIPOC led organizations.
  4. To consider the impact of our work on the diverse communities of the cities in which we work.