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PLAN will not be holding the Students for Zero Waste Conference this year. The conference will be back and better than ever in 2021, thanks to incorporated feedback from you all. 

The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused all of us to restructure our “new normal” in so many ways. At PLAN, we’ve spent the last two months working on a wide variety of new initiatives, from more than doubling our digital workshop and training sessions to developing new tools and resources to help campuses make informed decisions about health and safety regulations for reuse programs on their campuses. Normally, each Spring, we announce a date and location for our annual Students for Zero Waste Conference. After much thought and careful consideration with our staff, our Board of Directors, and our campus advisers, we want to share with our community that we have decided to not host a 2020 conference. There is too much uncertainty about the future of the COVID-19 Pandemic for us to safely commit to bringing hundreds of students together in a shared physical space at this time. That said, we are committed to offering a series of exciting new digital offerings in the 2020-2021 school year and we will be taking this time away from planning a massive conference to dream, scheme, and envision plans for a truly phenomenal 7th Annual SZW Conference, in the Fall of 2021. Thank you all for your continued support. For more information about PLAN’s next steps, please see below

SZW Back Story:

PLAN is entering our eighth year of cultivating, educating, and inspiring the student-led zero waste movement. Throughout the last seven years, we have developed a wide variety of programming to bring together students and thought leaders from across the country to keep pushing the Zero Waste Movement forward, each time learning just as much from the students we bring together as we set out to teach. The Students for Zero Waste Conference has been the culmination of collaboration, innovation, and thought-provoking discussion every year, since 2014.

Thank you to every single person who has attended, presented, coordinated, volunteered, funded, and otherwise helped pull off the Students for Zero Waste (SZW) Conference for the past 6 years. Without your generous contributions, we wouldn’t have been able to hold such amazing events.

When PLAN first thought of the idea of bringing a bunch of trash nerds from across the country together back in 2014, we didn’t think we would get more than 50 people to attend. Yet, three recent college grads and a dream managed to gather 160 people to the University of New Hampshire, from all over the country, and we put on our first ever Students for Zero Waste Conference. Every following year, it continued to grow, bringing more people, pushing us to keep expanding, leading us to move our organizational hub to Philadelphia, and allowing us to host over 400 students at the University of Pennsylvania this past October. In total, this conference has allowed us to work with over 2,300 students in just 6 years! We came together to have conversations on how to further the Zero Waste Movement, challenging racism, capitalism, colonialism, and the Global Waste Crisis all along the way

Looking Forward:

Every year, our students and participants continue to push us and to help us grow. Through feedback surveys and conversations, every year we explore how to make the next iteration of SZW even better. This often leads us to considering new possibilities:

“What if the conference was just 1 really long day? What if it was 3 days? Should we have a keynote speaker or a series of breakout panels? What should our field trips be, or our activities? How can we ensure that every student walks away with new knowledge and skills to create change in their communities?”

But with that, it is difficult to grow and improve an event, when as soon as one ends, the planning for the next year begins.

This hiatus is the perfect moment for us to do just that – move into a planning phase. We’ve had a busy year so far. We hired 7 wonderful staff members, more than doubling the size of our team to 11 people, the largest the PLAN team has ever been, and hit the ground running with new ideas and projects. Throughout that entire hiring process, we didn’t stop doing the rest of our work. We have still been planning our events, coaching our students, and building and growing our projects like the Beyond Waste Student Summits, the Break Free From Plastic Campaign, and our Zero Waste Atlas consulting project. We never skipped a beat and powered through it all, but that didn’t leave a lot of time for reflection, or for strategic planning. Even still, we continue to grow: if you haven’t already heard, we are in the process of hiring a new Co-Executive Director to work alongside Faye, and as well as a new Director of Communications. This summer and fall, we will be entering into a period of deep, long-term strategic visioning and planning. We will be updating our website and Member Hub, as well as adding new COVID-related tools and resources. Our 2016-2020 strategic plan is set to expire and we are gearing up to release a new 5-year strategy.

And finally, we are going to be mapping out some exciting scenarios for what the Fall 2021 SZW conference will look like. This conference has grown to be something special not only to us, but to all of the students and PLumni that have attended it in the past, and we want it to continue to be something that you all look forward to every year. So, hold on to your excitement for one year while we vision an even better SZW2021!

What Happens Next?

Help us envision the best SZW ever! We want it to be a collaborative process. If you have ideas for how we can improve future versions of the Students for Zero Waste Conference, let us know! Reach out to us on social media (@postlandfill), or just get in contact with us by emailing! We want this conference to continue to serve you all in the best way possible and want to hear from you what you’d like to see and get out of attending the event.

And, if you really miss hanging out with us that much, reach out and let’s talk about what we can do together. Come to one of our online training sessions, or invite us to come to one of your group meetings. PLAN will have spent an entire summer honing a lot of the programs and services that you all already know us for, and we will continue to be here to advise, train, and coach our students like we always have been.  We are also going to be releasing a series of new digital engagement opportunities like new trainings for the fall, a Points of Intervention Theory Panel later this month, and a Plastic Free July Action Camp next month! Be sure that you are following us along (@postlandfill on all social media) as we begin announcing all of these great projects.

Thank you all for making this conference something way bigger than we would have ever imagined, and we look forward to bringing it back to you in 2021, bigger, better, and badder than ever before.