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 Atlas Zero Waste Certification™ Scores

Read more about how a Zero Waste Score is calculated and view the detailed breakdown of a Campus’ Scope 1 and 2 scores below.

Not sure how to navigate the Campus Scores Airtable? Check out this video guide created by Atlas team member Yu-Shien. 

How is your Zero Waste Score calculated?

Our assessment looks at every possible material that can exist on a college campus from purchase to disposal. The assessment divides material management into two different scopes (illustrated in the diagram below), based on how those materials are typically procured and used, and ultimately how those materials are managed when it comes time to either reuse, repair, compost, recycle, or dispose of them. 
All questions in the Checklist ask about the existence of systems, infrastructure, and policy that demonstrate sustainable materials management, based on best practices that the Atlas team has observed on college campuses across the U.S. Each question is assigned a point value based on where the practice would fall on the zero waste hierarchy (ZWIA).

Table showing Scope 1 versus Scope 2 material management scores.

What areas of materials management is your campus assessed on?

Atlas assesses your campus on the existence of materials management systems. The following Systems and Program areas are assessed (read more under “What is your Zero Waste Score?”).

Images of System and Program score areas.

What is your Zero Waste Score?

Your total Campus Zero Waste Score is your official certification level. The Total Campus Zero Waste Score is a compilation of both Material Management Scopes 1 and 2.

College of the Atlantic Scorecard

Scorecard from Silver Certified campus College of the Atlantic.

Scope 1: Surplus Property and Hard-to-Recycle Materials Management (HRM)

We assess the materials management system for all materials the campus has direct control over – namely, items that the campus purchases, manages, uses, and maintains ownership over, and is ultimately fully responsible for the method in which they are discarded. Below is a chart of how a campus would manage materials in an ideal version of  this system. 

Map of Scope 1 areas and their relationships.

  • Campus-Wide Infrastructure: This looks at the overall capacity of the campus to manage the materials assessed in Scope 1 at a campus-wide level. Here we are looking at the presence and capacity of infrastructure like surplus programs, HRM material management programs, repair programs, pick-up collection services, etc. 
  • Campus-Wide Purchasing and Use Policies: This looks at the existence of campus-wide policies related to both the purchasing and also the use of new and used materials, as well as the communication and expectations to students and staff of these policies. We are looking for policies that require staff to use surplus and HRM programs, policies that restrict the purchasing of certain items and establish standards for universally accepted items.
  • Campus-Wide Bin Standardization & Accessibility: This looks at the existence of a campus-wide bin standardization guide, as well as the implementation of this system in all locations and the proper communication of expectations around where materials are supposed to go at various stages of their use-value. Here we are looking for bin standardization so that all students and staff know where to dispose of electronic waste, HRM’s, and hazardous materials, how to send usable discarded items to surplus, etc.

Scope 2: Food Service Ware, Composting and Traditional Recycling

We assess the materials management system for all materials that the campus purchases, but ultimately wind up in the hands of individual users, leading to limited control over which bin the material is placed in. Below is a chart of how a campus would manage materials in an ideal version of this system.

Map of Scope 2 areas and their relationships.

  • Campus-Wide Infrastructure: This looks at the overall capacity of the campus to manage the materials assessed in Scope 2 at a campus-wide level. Here we are looking at the presence and capacity of infrastructure like industrial dishwashing machines and campus-wide reusable to-go containers, food recovery programs, on-campus (or access to off-campus) composting facilities, etc.  
  • Campus-Wide Purchasing and Use Policies: This looks at the existence of campus-wide policies related to both the purchasing and also the use of new and used materials, as well as the communication and expectations to students and staff of these policies. We are looking for policies that restrict the purchasing of certain items and establish standards for universally accepted items like reusable or compostable dishware, etc. 
  • Campus-Wide Bin Standardization & Accessibility: This looks at the existence of a campus-wide bin standardization guide, as well as the implementation of this system in all locations along with the proper communication of expectations for where materials are supposed to go at various stages of their use-value. Here we are looking for bin standardization so that all students and staff know where to dispose of compost and recycling, where to bring reusable to-go containers, etc. 

Program-Specific Scores

Program Scores are a further breakdown of your Scope 1 & 2 Scores (also explained in “What areas of materials management is your campus assessed on?”). Rather than looking at the holistic system as described above, we also offer the opportunity for each campus to look into specific programs within each Materials Scope. 

Your Scope 1 score is broken down into 5 different Program Scores:

  • Surplus Property – Assesses the overall existence and capacity of the campus surplus property program, a total of 13 reusable materials this program manages (like furniture, electronics, etc), and the related policies around requiring staff to use the program. This category also assesses the existence and availability of repair initiatives and creative reuse programs within departments, as well as student-focused programs like move-out collections and thrift/free store spaces. 
  • Hard-to-Recycle Materials – Assesses the overall existence and capacity of the campus to collect, aggregate, and properly dispose of a list of 20 unique hard-to-recycle materials (like plastic film, textiles, etc). Points are awarded for campuses that have eliminated purchase of HRM’s. This category also looks at the prevalence and accessibility of standardized collection bins and communication around proper disposal. 
  • Construction & Renovation – Assesses campus policy around construction and renovation projects related to material purchase, and interior design standards around accessibility of disposal infrastructure. The category also assesses policy and infrastructure for facilities staff as well as outside contractors for the proper disposal of C&R materials. 
  • Electronic Waste – This section, similar to HRM above, assesses the overall existence and capacity of the campus to collect, aggregate, and properly dispose of a list of 11 electronic items (like laptops, lab equipment, etc). Points are awarded for campuses that have policies around the management and purchasing of electronics that are responsibly sources and offer take back programs for repairs and recycling. Beyond off-campus repair programs with manufacturers, we also look for on-campus opportunities for software and hardware troubleshooting and repair services. Finally, this category also looks at the prevalence and accessibility of standardized collection bins and communication around proper disposal. 
  • Hazardous & Universal Waste – This section, similar to HRM and E-Waste, assesses the overall existence and capacity of the campus to collect, aggregate, and properly dispose of a list of 10 hazardous and universal wastes (like chemicals, mercury light bulbs, etc). Points are awarded for campuses that have policies around the management and purchasing (or elimination) of these materials. This category also looks at the prevalence and accessibility of standardized collection bins and clear communication around how to handle and properly dispose of these items. 

Your Scope 2 score is also broken down into 4 different Program Scores:

      • Purchasing – This section assesses a wide range of procurement policies – from establishing preferences for bulk purchasing to reduce product packaging for items like office supplies, to environmental stewardship standards for items like cleaning supplies and paper products, to campus-wide universal standards for food service packaging like establishing a requirement to purchase only certified compostable products, for example. Here we are also looking for the institutionalization of campus-wide zero waste plans and guidelines, as well as department specific guidelines for facilities like athletic stadiums or small and large events across campus. 
      • Reusable Dining & To-Go Ware – Assesses the existence and overall capacity of the campus to provide reusable dining ware in all facilities that serve food, both for eat-in and for take out. This includes assessments of dining halls, cafes and coffee shops, sit-down and to-go food service facilities, vendors in facilities like athletics stadiums, catering and events, and vending machines. 
      • Food Waste Reduction & Food Recovery – Assesses the prevalence of food waste reduction initiatives and practices in all facilities that serve food as described Reusable Dining & To-Go Ware above. This includes assessments of campus-wide food recovery programs and the existence of facilities like on-campus food pantries. 
      • Compost/Recycling & Bin System – Assesses the existence of a campus-wide compost program with industrial capacity (either an on-campus facility or contracted third-party hauler) to handle all food waste from all food-service facilities as well as any certified compostable products that are distributed from food-service facilities on campus. This section also assesses the existence of fully standardized and accessible bin systems for compost, recycling, and waste in all locations on campus. 

All program scores are collated into a Program Scoresheet, shown below.

Additional Assessment Details

Half Points and the Depth of This Assessment

Most campuses have a materials management system that is pieced together in a variety of ways, but isn’t a perfectly cohesive campus-wide system. For example, many campuses report that procurement policies aren’t written down on paper but that it’s standard practice to not buy certain items. In many of the campuses we have assessed, we have found that half of the interviewed stakeholders report the existence of a system (e-waste collection bins, for example) whereas others do not. In each of these scenarios half points are awarded relative to the capacity of that campus’ system. The purpose of this assessment is to identify those gaps, and assign scores specific to each campus facility and system that provides an accurate snapshot of what is currently in place for campus-wide infrastructure, policy, and bin standardization, and where there is room for improvement.

Additional Credit Scores

Additional Credits are “extra credit” points that are awarded for initiatives that go above and beyond standard waste management, and that may be currently out of reach for some campuses. These Additional Credit points are added as unweighted additions to a campus’ Scope Scores.

Another way to explain the programs and initiatives that fall under Additional Credit is by looking at them as waste management solutions that fall higher on the zero waste hierarchy, that solve a problem already addressed by another program or initiative in the Checklist. In other words, if solutions can be categorized as good, better, or best, they are better/best. A good example is liquid waste collection – questions in the checklist assessing the existence of a compost program technically encompass liquid waste collection and are scored like the rest of the checklist, but having a separate waste stream to collect liquids prevents contaminating recycling streams and reduces the weight of compost streams, leading to fewer spills/tears in compost bags and reduced custodial labor.

The intention of the Additional Credit section is to reward campuses that have gone above and beyond but not penalize campuses that have not yet reached that level. As some of the practices listed as “Additional Credit” become more commonplace for campuses, we will phase them out of “Additional Credit” and assign them as regular Scope 1 or Scope 2 questions.

Why is there variability in the total points possible between campuses?

This tool was built to assess a variety of factors for how each campus manages the specific materials that flow through that campus. The points possible for each section of the assessment is relative to a number of factors, including:

  1. The materials that exist in the facility being assessed:
    • For example, some art studios have items like wood or metal that need to be recycled, while others don’t use those materials. A facility with more materials will have a higher number of total points possible, because that increases the capacity of the system needed to capture those materials.
  2. Unique facilities that some, but not all, campuses have:
    • Hospitals, laboratories, art studios, theaters, printing studios, large stadiums or athletics facilities, agricultural centers, childcare centers, vehicle maintenance, etc. Each of these facilities are assessed if they exist, and that adds to a campus’s total points possible.
  3. The size and quantity of unique facilities:
    • Some campuses have just one dining  hall. Other campuses have more than 20 dining facilities, including vendors in athletics stadiums, catering for large events, multiple grab-and-go facilities like coffee shops or fast food, etc. This will affect the total number of points attributed to dining facilities.
  4. The number of campus stakeholders interviewed for the assessment:
    • Some campuses have more relevant stakeholders than others, depending on the size, quantity, and type of facilities, as well as the roles stakeholders play in managing materials and decisions. Each stakeholder is asked a series of standard questions that are asked of every stakeholder, as well as questions that are relevant to that stakeholder’s role in materials management on campus. The higher the number of relevant stakeholders the campus has to interview, the more points possible the campus has. 
  5. The streamlining, or lack thereof, of management decisions around materials within similar facilities:
    • E.g. If all coffee shops on campus are managed by Campus Dining Operations, they will be assessed together because purchasing decisions, policies, and materials management systems are streamlined. However, if there is also a contracted third party vendor (Starbucks, for example) under a different management structure, that facility would be assessed separately. This added complexity usually increases the effort needed to make changes and streamline decisions and systems.

As noted above, points are awarded based on the zero waste hierarchy. Because of this, some campuses have different points possible based on whether or not they have eliminated materials from lower down on the hierarchy, such as disposable plastics, from purchase. So, if a campus had eliminated all disposable dining ware from their campus, they would not be assessed on the compostability of their dining ware at all, removing those points from their total possible points.

Because every campus is so different, we believe that it is impossible to use a one-size-fits-all assessment on every campus. There’s no way to fairly compare a small rural school of less than 1,000 students to a large urban school with 50,000+ students without some degree of customization that takes into account the wide degree of variabilities each campus has for material management. The Atlas Assessment was built to be flexible and accommodate schools of all types – and serves primarily as a benchmarking and tracking tool for the campus to understand its own system, develop strategies for improvement, and track its own progress. Final Campus Zero Waste Scores, Scope Scores, and Program Scores can all be compared to other campuses exclusively by looking at their percentage of points earned out of total. points possible. 

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