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The Road to a Zero Waste Campus

The Atlas Zero Waste project empowers young leaders to facilitate their campuses through the process of establishing zero waste commitments. During a 3-Stage Fellowship Program, Fellows are trained to perform holistic qualitative assessments, overcome campus silos and bureaucratic challenges, and enact strategic visions and action plans that lay the groundwork for zero waste infrastructure on campus. We seek to establish our assessment framework as the standard for ethical zero waste systems, allowing for the modeling and celebrating of achievements to lower the barrier for zero waste work on campuses.

Stage 1: Atlas Zero Waste CertificationĀ®

We are excited to announce that after over four years of refining, we have officially launched the first Zero Waste Certification for college campuses! In Stage 1, Fellows perform a semester-long holistic assessment to measure the campusā€™s capacity to achieve zero waste. By establishing a benchmark, campuses can understand the gaps in their sustainable materials management infrastructure, policies and standardized communication, and collection procedures.

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.Ā 
  • 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 for Fellows to facilitate campus stakeholders through a constructive process of reviewing the Stage 1 report, identifying system-wide gaps, and visioning to establish a Strategic Vision to achieve Zero Waste for the campus.Ā The Vision serves as a proposal to campus administration for establishing cross-departmental solutions to sustainable materials management.

Stage 3: Action Planning

In Stage 3, Fellows are supported through a year-long process of facilitating a series of strategic planning sessions with key campus stakeholders to establish a Zero Waste Action Plan, including a budget, timeline, and accountability reporting structure. The Zero Waste Action Plan will require financial investment from campus administration to establish infrastructure and increase staffing.

Atlas Campuses & Advisors

Spring 2022 Fellowship CampusesĀ Ā 

Logos of Chabot College, UMass Dartmouth, Las Positas College, University of New Hampshire, Tufts University, and San Jose State University

Fall 2021 Fellowship CampusesĀ Ā 

Logos of UMass Amherst,University of Buffalo, and Macalester.

Previous Atlas Campuses

Icons of Spring 2021 Campuses.

* Denotes an Atlas re-assessment

Testimonials

“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

 

ā€œInstead 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.ā€

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

 

ā€œThe 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. Itā€™s this kind of work that helps campuses build a framework, garner support and see results.ā€

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:Ā 

Meet the Atlas Team

 

Alex (he/him)

Director of Atlas Zero Waste

Image of Grace Bowden sitting outside in front of greenery.

GraceĀ (she/her)

Atlas Zero Waste Fellowship Coordinator

Atlas Blog Posts

Top 10 Zero Waste Campuses in 2022

Macalester students running a local produce pop-up, "MacShare" Today, we are excited to release the second annual list of Top 10 Zero Waste Campuses in the United States (as assessed by PLANā€™s Atlas Zero Waste CertificationĀ® Program)! Last year, when we released...

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 postĀ 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 ā€œZero Wasteā€ to mean: ā€œAchieving 90% diversion from landfills and incinerators.ā€ The overwhelming majority of institutions that set a goal of achieving...

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