It Can Be Done: Making the Case for Zero Waste

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a “Zero Waste Management” training in Chico, CA put on by the US Zero Waste Business Council. This was the organization’s first training of its kind and had a good turnout of businesses including farmers, manufacturers, non-profits, and even a ski resort. My attendance was an initial effort for SBC in making our 20th Anniversary Conference in October as close to Zero Waste as possible. And as I learned from the training, this will be no small feat.

energy01The training was enticingly held at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. The location was an ideal fit for the training because Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was the first business to receive the US Zero Waste Business Council’s (USZWBC) highest certification, Platinum, with a 99.8% waste-diversion rate. Sierra Nevada Brewing’s sustainability coordinator also works as a member on USZWBC’s board and assisted in co-presenting the training and giving concrete examples.

A little background on the USZWBC: they were founded in 2011 as a California Public Benefits Corporation, but their roots go much deeper. The founding of USZWBC was the culmination of work done by the Earth Resources Foundation, GrassRoots Recycling Network, and the Zero Waste International Alliance since the 1990’s. The US Zero Waste Business Council is dedicated to “…educate, inform and document the performance of Zero Waste Businesses using scientific methods to help businesses and communities become more healthy and sustainable.”

The certification process was the focus of the training and we covered all 80 credits that are currently on the USZWBC scorecard. They have intentionally referenced the US Green Building Council’s rating system for buildings as a model. A particularly interesting point was the importance placed on effective leadership and training programs, in fact even a company that diverts 99% of its waste would be unable to achieve “Platinum” status without them. The emphasis is worth the effort; Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s sustainability coordinators can often be found speaking at trainings and events all over the country on what they have been able to achieve, and the movement towards zero waste is spreading. Sierra Nevada Brewing’s commitment to sustainability is impressive and worth checking out. You can find out more on their website here. I think we should have more businesses in the Sierra striving to achieve Zero Waste, don’t you?