Programs + Standards 5_zero-waste-wheel-c

Published on October 18th, 2012 | by Jennifer Shockley

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Zero Waste Systems; A Cycle Following Nature’s Design

I write about sustainable practices and products every article. But the process that needs the most attention for our economy to become truly sustainable is the products’ entire life-cycle process from extraction through production to purchase to use and then finally to its end. The end is the part that we need to really focus on now.

It is crucial that we implement more recycling and reuse programs into our everyday practice because if everyone on the earth consumed resources at the rate that Americans do, we would currently need five earths to keep up and this ratio will continue to grow as the population continues to grow. But we have the abilities and the technologies, already in existence to change this.

Waste Strategy

We need to implement into our everyday lives zero waste system practices.

“Zero waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that almost all products are reused. Any trash sent to landfills and incinerators is minimal. The process recommended by most professionals is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature.”

Nature is our greatest resource and our greatest teacher. Nothing in any natural ecosystem is wasted, ever, period.

Some companies are already completely dedicated to being zero waste systems.

Eco-Cycle, a Boulder, CO, company in which part is the Recycling Center, where tours and education is provided to enlighten visitors into making smarter, greener choices, is just one company striving to make a difference.

They discuss that a zero waste system follows cycles. Writing,

“A Zero Waste System is cyclical, like in nature, and does two fundamental things: It redesigns our systems and resource use—from product design to disposal—to prevent wasteful and polluting practices that lead to those 87 cans of waste. It then captures discards and uses them, instead of natural resources, to make new products, creating far less pollution and feeding the local economy.”

They are Boulder’s community recycling processor and have been processing recyclables for 36 years for that County. Now that is dedication to doing the right thing long before it became main-stream.

Eco-Cycle offers business services and school programs to make recycling easier in all cases. Their website has many simple and very useful tools, such as the A-Z Recycling Guide with information on what to do with all types of products at the end of their current life cycle. Just to name a few, the list consists of things like: Antifreeze, books, candle wax, DVDs, food, oil filters, tools, yoga mats, etc. etc… Other useful published guidelines are ones for composting and curbside composting so that people can truly do the most good with their waste.

They even illustrate with graphics how circular the zero waste system is with responsible policies, clean manufacturing, zero waste community programs, recovery infrastructure all in a continuous flowing circle that’s center is the empowered citizen. This just means that normal people living normal lives, if educated about the small life-style choices they can make that will make a huge difference, are the driving force to our world being sustainable.

Another company that has embraced the zero waste systems is the Zero Waste Alliance (ZWA). Its headquarters are in Portland, Oregon and it is a nonprofit organization.

Zero Waste Cycle Image

“ZWA has a clear and simple vision: a prosperous and inclusive future without waste. A future without waste and toxics is not just a dream; it’s a necessity.”

Thus far, their work includes the formation of the Green Electronics Council (GEC), the Outdoor Industry Eco-Index, the Sustainable Oregon Schools Initiative, the International Society of Sustainability Professionals and the Chemical Assessment & Ranking System.

GEC and its constructive partnerships with the electronics industry and other interested stakeholders are implementing market-driven systems to recognize and reward environmentally preferable electronic products and building the capacity of individuals and organizations to design and manage the life cycle of electronic products to improve their environmental and social performance.

These organizations all work with partnerships throughout the community that encourage smart production and reuse programs.

ZWA is a national leader in progressing the zero waste movement and getting communities to thrive without producing waste. Their main focus is on three core ideas:

  • Market Development
  • Facilitation & Services
  • Research & Education

They have worked to create a Zero Waste Business Network, knowing it takes a broad spectrum of businesses that contribute to a zero waste economy.

ZWA’s Visionary Goal Strives for:

  • Zero Waste of Resources – energy, materials and human
  • Zero Waste in Production Activities – recycling, reclamation, sourcing
  • Zero Waste in Product Life – go to market, use, end of life
  • Zero Emissions – air, soil, water, solid and hazardous
  • Zero Use of Toxics – processes and products

“To pursue our vision of a future without waste, the Zero Waste Alliance works with a wide range of industry, government, community, nonprofit and higher education organizations. Our work strives to: promote open engagement, work through a whole systems approach, model nature and pursue highest use for all materials, work with versus against the market and lastly, avoid negative discourse and transform industry and communities through positive change.”

As more companies come together with sustainable practices and implement sustainable processes the world’s economy begins to smile. Before long we will no longer be taking all that nature can give without giving in return but working alongside it, learning from its abilities and being a truly sustainable planet. Going green has never looked so glorious!

Resouces: GEC, Eco-cycle, Wikipedia, Zero Waste BlogZero Energy, GreenBiz and Zero Waste Alliance




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About the Author

Jennifer is originally from Colorado and has recently moved back from Michigan. She is finishing up her Master’s degree in Architecture. She is currently focusing on urban planning and sustainable design and hopes to gain employment at a design firm specializing in these areas. Jennifer also has writing experience serving as an editor for her school newspaper and college magazine. Jennifer has two cats named Prada and Dior-aptly named after her shoe obsession. You can follow Jennifer on twitter @jenshock81.



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