Atlas' 2023 Top 10 Zero Waste Campus list is here!
View the Campus Profiles
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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 that lay the groundwork for zero waste infrastructure on campus.

Stage 1: Atlas Zero
Waste Certification®

Fellows perform a holistic assessment to measure the campus’s capacity to achieve zero waste.
  • A student or staff Fellow is trained on how to use our Campus Programs Checklist to perform interviews with stakeholders, compile campus resources and policies, and synthesize waste and material management reports.
  • This process takes place in a cohort model, where a group of Fellows across the US meet weekly to learn, troubleshoot, and share victories together.
  • Upon completion of the interviews, the Checklist is scored to give the campus its zero waste score and certification level.
  • This process lays the foundation for institutional goal setting and the ability to benchmark and track progress.
  • Stage 1 takes place over one semester.
Learn More about Certification
Three students are walking to the right; one is holding a map, one is on crutches, and the last pointing ahead. Two paper airplanes and a pointed purple sign reading “Zero Waste” guide their way.

Stage 2:
Strategic Visioning

Fellows facilitate campus stakeholders through a constructive process to establish a Strategic Vision to achieve zero waste.
  • Visioning allows stakeholders to review the Stage 1 Report and engage with possible long-term solutions without the limitations of current systems, logistics, staffing and budgets.
  • This process seeks to answer the question: “What do we NEED to achieve zero waste?”
  • The Strategic Vision serves as a proposal to campus administration for establishing cross-departmental solutions to sustainable materials management.
  • Stage 2 takes place over one semester.
Learn More about the Strategic Vision

Stage 3: 
Action Planning

Fellows conduct research and work with stakeholders to establish a Zero Waste Action Plan.
  • Sessions take place with key campus stakeholders to build a detailed implementation strategy, including cross-departmental collaboration, accountability reporting structure, budget, and expected timeline.
  • To move from Stage 2 to 3, stakeholders should present the Strategic Vision as a proposal to Admin (Provost, President or Trustees) and receive approval.
  • The Zero Waste Action Plan requires institutional capacity to invest in strategic initiatives, establish infrastructure, and increase staffing.
  • Stage 3 takes place over one year (2 semesters + summer).
A dark blue globe. The Atlas arrow shape forms the base of the globe and an arrow that is spinning around the Earth.

Meet the Fellows

“Being part of the Zero Waste Atlas Fellowship has been an inspiring and fun journey as well as an eye opener and a realization of how we can continuously improve. It enjoyed connecting and learning with students from other campuses, and the weekly check-ins made me reflect on campus structures, abilities to make change, and how we can learn from each other.”

Katrine Oesterby

College of the Atlantic (Fellowship Class of Summer 2020)

“Learning about how my campus handles its waste was eye-opening. There is still plenty of progress that needs to be made before our University can sustainably manage its waste, but we are well on our way. The Atlas Fellowship gave me a great opportunity to learn more about my home, and I’m grateful for the chance to work with them.”

Jacob Foushee

University of Louisville (Fellowship Class of Summer 2020)

“This experience felt like filling in a coloring book or flipping over blank cards to reveal a picture on the other side. I began to see the human picture of materials management on my campus that bins and tonnage reports do not show. At the same time, I practiced interview skills and began fruitful relationships with staff, faculty, and students.”

Anna Moore

University of South Dakota (Fellowship Class of Summer 2020)

“The Zero Waste Atlas Fellowship has allowed me to more fully understand zero waste policies and actions. Through this fellowship I have learned invaluable skills and had the opportunity to meet so many amazing, passionate people.”

Annie Miller

UC Berkeley (Fellowship Class of Fall 2020)

“Being part of the Zero Waste Atlas Fellowship allowed me to take a step in the direction towards my passions of zero-waste and sustainability. It gave me experience, connections, and the confidence that I need to continue living out those passions. I am grateful for the support system that I had during this fellowship.”

Lisa Saxton

UC Berkeley (Fellowship Class of Fall 2020)

“Working with Atlas the past few months has truly been such a pleasure. The PLAN team, the students from other campuses, and the stakeholders I spoke to are all so passionate about zero waste and it’s inspiring to be a part of. I feel lucky to have experienced such a supportive community and worked with future leaders in the zero waste realm.”

Hannah Qiang

UC Berkeley (Fellowship Class of Fall 2020)
Atlas staff and Fellows from Macalaster College share a meal in the dining hall.
Williams College Fellows show off a dishwasher they had installed in a campus coffee shop to clean reusable mugs.
Atlas Staff and Fellows walk through a surplus facility at University of Wisconsin Madison.
A group of students at the University of Wisconsin Madison pose in front of a mound of waste as they conduct a recycling audit.

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