The Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) was founded in 2013 by a group of college students at the University of New Hampshire. These students witnessed a systemic waste problem on their campus and developed the first student-led, financially self-sustaining, zero waste move-out program of its kind. Other campuses wanted to replicate the program and from there, PLAN was born.
Since then, we have established a collective network of students and campuses across the country that are working together to vision beyond the Linear Consumption Economy. We now support students and staff with enacting a wide range of infrastructure changes on campus. Through this work, we strive to create a model for holistic, systemic change that goes beyond waste.
PLAN cultivates student leadership in alignment with the broader Zero Waste and Environmental Justice Movements. The core concepts of zero waste are not new and have been longstanding cultural and communal practices throughout time. However, most modern ideas of "zero waste" favor individual and consumerist choices. It is often reduced to what we do and don’t purchase, as opposed to the underlying systems and values that shape our world.
Through continued learning and unlearning, PLAN is committed to a holistic understanding of zero waste that makes clear its connection to interlocking systems of oppression. This perspective allows us to more effectively challenge the false solutions and greenwashing that will only maintain existing inequities. We recognize student power as a critical component to the just transformation of campuses and of the broader society. The impact of this work creates both infrastructural and cultural changes that reach far beyond any individual campus.
In 2016, PLAN wrote a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mandate that laid out ways our organization could push against white supremacy in the workplace. After our 2023 transition into a Worker-Self Directed Nonprofit, we began the process of rewriting our DEI Mandate and Transformative Justice Policy to align with our new structure and values. These will be reintroduced in the next upcoming months!
PLAN follows the Points of Intervention theory as described in the book Beautiful Trouble. This framework shifts and challenges various social injustices, addressing "specific places within a system where a targeted action can effectively interrupt the functioning of that system, opening up space for change."
Our work combats the Linear Consumption Economy. This is our current dominant system where resources are extracted from the earth to produce a product, which is distributed across the world, sold to consumers, and finally discarded to a landfill or incinerator. This exploits people and the planet at every step along the way, generating exponential profit for the powerful and leaving the rest of us increasingly behind. We believe students have the power and responsibility to challenge this system. Whether it be blockading the path of a pipeline, starting a residence hall compost program, or distributing an educational zine about upcycling across campus, everyone has skills they can use to intervene — their personal Points of Intervention.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. This has been a guiding mantra for PLAN's work over the years. Together, we can fix this broken system.
Many individuals find that their ability to participate in the zero waste movement is limited by a lack of financial resources, an obstacle that is embedded in structural and institutional inequalities across race, class, ability, and gender. Our Movement Building Fund creates a pathway into the Zero Waste Movement and addresses some of these financial barriers; it provides things like scholarships to our annual conference, free advising resources to campus groups with limited funding, and payment to students and community organizers.