This article was originally published as "The Power of Zero" in the January/February issue of USGBC+. Read the original version.
A number of organizations are formalizing their efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. When the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) was founded in 2012, lots of businesses were already talking about their zero waste efforts. The problem was, they were all saying something different.
“It was like apples and pineapples,” says USZWBC founder Stephanie Barger, director of market development at GBCI. “It was all over the place. There really weren’t standards and guidelines on what zero waste meant. That was one of the reasons businesses came to us.”
The definition of zero waste calls for no waste to go to landfills, incineration facilities or the environment. The “zero” is, of course, aspirational, and the organization awards different levels of certification to businesses based on their waste diversion rates and practices. Much like USGBC's LEED certification system, the zero waste certification provides common standards, guidelines and vocabulary that help companies to see for themselves—and demonstrate to others—the impact of their sustainability efforts.