The business of 3Rs can be a dry and repetitive litany of paper, bottles and cans, reduced and diverted. While we are always comforted to know that our enviro-friendly bathroom tissue is saving virgin forests, it doesn’t stir the imagination or delight the eye.
In my role of delivering the Ontario Waste Minimization Awards for the past eight years, I’ve sifted through hundreds of documents that record the accomplishments of many organizations bent on being better stewards. However, it was only in 2008, when a serendipitous encounter introduced me to the artistic take on waste and recycling, that I realized garbage could be reborn, remodeled, rejuvenated into beauty and functionality.
Gordie Wornoff is a young entrepreneur with a passion for preservation in renovation. His company, A Higher Plane, took its name from the fundamental tenet of reincarnation.
Wornoff is a second-generation carpenter from Keene, Ontario who seeks to reclaim as many materials as possible for various applications.
An example of how far the reclaiming of materials can go, consider lawn chairs made from abandoned shopping cards — virtually indestructible, won’t mildew, no industrial re-manufacturing cost involved… and lends a funky artistic sensibility to any backyard. How often do you find that on your average suburban lawn?
On the home renovation side, Wornoff’s approach to 100 per cent reuse/recycling involves fasteners as well as wood and metal content that can be cut, sanded, welded and drilled quite easily…if you are a trained carpenter or a crackerjack amateur.
His skill in efficient wood framing techniques results in less consumption of virgin resources and linear feet of lumber going to landfill. He needs fewer fasteners and there’s more efficient heating and cooling systems within the structure. Less wood is required overall and there’s minimal waste at the end of the job. Wornoff takes the long view of what might be repurposed in a reno by using fasteners, rather than adhesives, which means the pieces, cabinets or whatnot can be removed as a whole instead of being bashed out and dumped as waste.
Working with old growth reclaimed wood and vintage Canadian-made steel plays right into Wornoff’s salvager persona, satisfying a desire to celebrate Canada’s industrial history and showcasing vintage design. His sense of preservation and concern for the natural environment has turned him into a bit of a specialized hoarder … salvaging, sorting and saving useable items as mundane as screws or as unique as vintage tractor parts. We can only imagine what his garage looks like!
This cache of eclectic parts facilitates repurposing and produces unique custom pieces for clients. Wornoff estimates he diverts about 10 tonnes of material from landfill in a busy year through his own direct efforts and by engaging other contacts and salvagers with whom he shares a common bond and purpose.
Wornoff’s work space is shared with six other craftsmen, located close to home so he can simply cycle to work. The partners save money and reduce unnecessary duplication by sharing all their tools… welders, drill presses, milling machines, table saws, thickness planers, mitre saws, shears and brakes.
A Higher Plane has been recognized and featured on Discovery Channel’s “Junk Raiders” (seasons one through three). The company made the cover of the journal Alternatives and has won various business awards. Wornoff’s salvaging tips were published by Canadian Home Workshop magazine.
Considering some home enhancements and fancy yourself a preservationist? A Higher Plane’s website is ahigherplane.ca
Diane Blackburn is Events Manager for the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) and produces the RCO’s annual Waste Minimization Awards. This column regularly profiles finalists and winners from that awards program. Contact Diane at