Zero Waste Alliance


The Zero Waste Alliance Approach




While the ZWA can provide support in many capacities, its most effective role is in assisting businesses and organizations through a process of change in pathways and systems.  Businesses that engage in new strategies typically follow the process outlined in Figure 1.

Figure 1.  The process by which businesses develop and implement new strategies.

This change process usually takes an organization 12 to 24 months. The Zero Waste Alliance provides the following four categories of support to business as they move through the process and develop and implement strategies that improve their competitiveness, morale and environmental performance:
  • Awareness Education
  • Assessment and Strategy Development
  • Implementation, Setting and Reaching Goals
  • Reviewing and Reporting

Zero Waste Alliance personnel and alliance members provide assistance to organizations as they go through this process of change.  The specific tools of industrial ecology selected for each individually unique case are used in the appropriate steps. In addition, funding support such as low cost loans, research grants, and tax and regulatory incentives are identified as needed.

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Awareness Education

Zero Waste Alliance personnel provide education to businesses, government agencies and other organizations about current pathways and systems and opportunities of developing business and environmental strategies that work toward the elimination of waste in those systems and pathways. The goal of this training and support is to move an organization through awareness to a point where it feels able to make a decision to take action and enter the assessment and strategy development phase. Training sessions will be provided in various locations as required. ZWA personnel will draw from the following:

  • The Natural Step - providing background understanding and a shared mental model
  • Drivers/Influences - discussion of the forces that favor movement toward sustainability
  • Case Studies of related businesses and industries that identify possible opportunities

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Assessment and Strategy Development

Once a business has expressed a serious interest in developing competitiveness strategies based on the Zero Waste concept, the next step is to perform assessments and develop strategy leading to the identification of specific opportunities. In order to fully understand the environmental impacts of products, processes and services, and to help account for their full cost with respect to energy use and material flows, ZWA personnel will offer training and application support as needed on the following assessment tools: 

  • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
  • Material Flow Analysis
  • Full Cost Accounting

This information will be used to identify an appropriate strategy for achieving the available benefits.

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Implementation, Setting and Reaching Goals

It is a business axiom that what gets measured gets done. Appropriate indicators of progress will be determined. Metrics for these indicators will be established and records will be kept in order to determine actual benefits of the projects. These benefits will include cost savings, improved efficiencies and reduced environmental impacts. It is important to record and report progress. Corporate environmental reports are encouraged.

Examples of the tools and management systems that ZWA personnel will use to integrate business activities are highlighted below:

  • Backcasting as developed in The Natural Step - leading to long term vision and goals
  • Green Chemistry - for guidance toward improved materials design
  • Design for the Environment (DfE) - to minimize product environmental impact and cost
  • Environmental Management Systems (i.e. ISO 14001) - strong structure framework
  • Employee Involvement - tapping the potential of all
  • Supply Chain Environmental Management - to address the entire life cycle of products

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Reviewing and Reporting

Once improvements have been made, the indicators and metrics are reevaluated in order to confirm progress. Progress can be expressed both in terms of cost savings, greater competitiveness, and reduced environmental impact. At this point, the information can be used advantageously to inform employees, and potentially shareholders, financial institutions, insurance companies and the public. In addition, the organization can receive excellent public recognition by publishing an annual formal environmental report. Zero Waste Alliance personnel will assist in this process as needed. 

  • Environmental Accounting - identification of true costs
  • Global Reporting Initiative - example of top of the line report

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