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The Road to a Zero Waste Campus

Atlas has announced our Top 10 Zero Waste Campuses list! Read more here.

What is Atlas?

Atlas is a holistic assessment framework for measuring waste reduction on college and university campuses. In Stage 1, we assist campuses with the process of understanding and benchmarking exactly what systems they have in place to reduce waste. Atlas Zero Waste Certification™ establishes a benchmark to track future progress towards shared goals. In Stage 2, we assist with the development of a strategic vision to improve or establish new material management systems, infrastructures, and policies to achieve a zero waste campus.

Stage 1: Atlas Zero Waste Certification

We are excited to announce that after over four years of piloting, testing, and refining the Atlas Zero Waste Assessment framework, we are officially launching the first Zero Waste Certification for college campuses! Applications for the Fall Class of 2021 are now live.

How do campuses get assessed and scored?

  • Campuses identify a student or staff member who can serve as the Atlas Zero Waste Fellow(s) that will conduct this assessment for their campus. 
  • Fellow(s) are trained and licensed to use the Campus Programs Checklist to gather information for the assessment. Information is gathered by performing interviews with campus stakeholders, compiling campus resources and policies, and synthesizing waste and material management reports.
  • Upon completion of the interviews, the Checklist is scored to give the campus its zero waste score and certification level.

What are the levels of achievement?

The Atlas Achievement Levels are based off your Campus Zero Waste Score. The score breakdown is as follows (59.4% or below does not qualify for certification):

Stage 2: Strategic Visioning

Stage 2 is an opportunity to work with the Atlas Team to facilitate campus stakeholders through a constructive process of reviewing the Stage 1 report and identifying system-wide gaps in program efficiencies that affect multiple departments. Together, we workshop and develop long-term solutions.

Atlas Campuses & Advisors

Spring 2021 Fellowship Campuses  

Icons of Spring 2021 Campuses.

Josephine A. Lamprey Summer 2020 Fellowship Campuses  

Previous Atlas Campuses


“The Atlas Project was critical to organizing all of the various programs, streams, and educational campaigns on campus related to waste. Having a cohesive 360 Assessment and Zero Waste Atlas that puts all the pieces together into one puzzle is helping us achieve our vision of a zero-waste campus and creating a circular economy culture with our faculty, staff, students, and guests at Carleton. Chris and Meghann have been – and continue to be – extremely helpful, offering guidance on project planning, research, and expertise in the zero-waste innovations field.”

Alex Miller, Sustainability Program Coordinator at Carleton College


Instead of letting the goal of zero waste be daunting and overwhelming, the Atlas team really helped us focus in on the big picture and look at the goal as a long-term, ever-changing process. Their outside perspective on our operations helped us immensely in determining our biggest areas for improvement and allowed us to consider options we would have never thought to pursue. We have a lot of work ahead of us to reach our goals, but with the help of the Atlas team, we are even more excited and ready to tackle the challenge than ever.”

Annalisa Tarrizo, Zero Waste Services Coordinator & Carolyn Brown, Sustainability Outreach Coordinator at University of Tennessee Knoxville


“The Atlas project provides campuses with the ability to create a structured plan for achieving zero waste. Guided by personalized campus data and assessments the format allows campuses to think through and structure various programs or policies so they are tangible and long lasting. It’s this kind of work that helps campuses build a framework, garner support and see results.”

Katherine Schumacher, Zero Waste Program Manager at Arizona State University


To build this framework, we closely collaborated with 9 campuses across the country who are leading the way in college and university zero waste efforts. Our Advisor campuses include: 

Meet the Atlas Team


Alex (he/him)

Senior Director of Atlas Consulting

Yu-Shien (she/her)

Co-Director of Atlas Zero Waste Strategy

Atlas Blog Posts

Top 10 Zero Waste Campuses in 2021

Top: Carleton College's Free & For Sale Frenzy event Left: University of Louisville students with a head of celery found in a dumpster! Right: Haverford College students conducting a waste auditToday, we are excited to release the first annual list of Top 10 Zero...

Atlas Hot Take 2: Why We Don’t Want to Dig Through Your Trash

The second installment of Atlas Hot Takes - findings and theories that make up the foundation of the Atlas project. You can read the first post here. It isn't that we think we're too good to dig through your trash - most of us at the Post-Landfill Action Network would...

Atlas Hot Take 1: Infrastructure Change Must Precede Behavior Change

Introducing Atlas Hot Takes - findings and theories that make up the foundation of the Atlas project. You can read the first unofficial installment here.Our years of working with campuses of every size and setting across the U.S. illuminated a few common challenges...

5 Reasons Why The Diversion Metric Does Not Measure Zero Waste

For the last few decades, international and US organizations have collectively understood the standard definition of “Zero Waste” to mean: “Achieving 90% diversion from landfills and incinerators.” The overwhelming majority of institutions that set a goal of achieving...

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