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 Certification®
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 campus’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.
- 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. 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 2023 Fellowship Campuses
Fall 2022 Fellowship Campuses
Spring 2022 Fellowship Campuses
Previous Atlas Campuses
* Denotes an Atlas re-assessment
“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
Director of Atlas Zero Waste
Atlas Zero Waste Fellowship Coordinator