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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Tune in" to Zero Waste and Catch Austin's Beat to a World Without Waste

On June 1 - 4, 2016 sustainability leaders from across industry boundaries will converge on Austin, Texas for the Fifth Annual National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC) hosted by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC). With the "Tuning in" to Zero Waste" theme, the conference program showcases how zero waste companies and communities top the charts in dimensions beyond landfill diversion.

The Fifth Annual NZWBC is the culmination of four powerful conferences beginning with the inaugural 2012 event hosted in Costa Mesa, CA. Next was a visit to the Midwest in Cincinnati followed by the Southeast in Atlanta. In year four, the NZWBC returned to the West Coast when the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation stepped forward as a key conference sponsor.

City of  LA opening plenary panel
At the 2015 NZWBC in Los Angeles, the Stars of Zero Waste shined! The ZWA Blog article Business NOT as usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey chronicles the conference's impressive plenary sessions; the Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense article features the conference breakout sessions along with Elemental Impact’s strong conference participation and Official Media Partner role.

... and the City of Austin "tunes in" to zero waste at the 2016 NZWBC! Austin Resource Recovery, a City of Austin service, stepped forward as the NZWBC Host & Title Sponsor.

The ZWA Blog article, 2016 Zero Waste Conference: "Tuning In" to Zero Waste, announces the 2016 NZWBC and features keynote speaker U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator - Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Mathy Stanislaus.

Austin takes zero waste seriously and is a perfect city to host the milestone Fifth Anniversary NZWBC. In late 2011, the Austin City Council unanimously approved adoption of the Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan (ARRMP) and passed the Universal Recycling Ordinance. A culmination of two years of research, stakeholder engagement and community input, the ARRMP sets the stage for the Department’s programs and services for the next 30 years and beyond.

The aim is to reach the City Council’s goal of Zero Waste by 2040, which means keeping at least 90 percent of discarded materials out of the landfill. The ARRMP outlines aggressive milestones to ensure that goal is achieved on time, if not sooner.

For an overview of the staged-in ARRMP, coupled with substantial City support, watch the fun, informative five-minute video:


Complementary to the AARMP, the Austin re-Manufacturing Hub (Hub) is a 105 acre eco-industrial park located on a former City landfill. In July 2014 the City of Austin accepted a $1 million grant from the U.S Economic Development Administration to fund the water and sewer infrastructure necessary for the Hub. 

Understanding zero waste is beyond diversion from landfill, Austin is committed to keeping the metro area recyclable material local for use as a manufacturing raw material. The Hub is expected to bring 1,000 green jobs to Austin and leverage more than $30 million in private investment.

As a true industry leader, the City of Austin is enthusiastic to share their successes, along with work-in-progress, and learn from the powerful industry leaders attending the NZWBC. ARRMP Director Bob Gedert substantiates the City's sentiments with the following quote:
Bob Gedert
The City of Austin welcomes the opportunity to host the 5th Annual National Zero Waste Business Conference. With a goal to reach Zero Waste by 2040, we hope to inspire as well as learn from other industry experts and to further explore solutions and contributions to creating value for businesses through Zero Waste. Other goals are to develop new markets for recycled materials and have producers of the goods we consume take more responsibility for end-of-life management of their products.” 
In alignment with prior conferences, the 2016 program is local in flavor yet national in focus. Following welcoming remarks, Whole Foods Market (WFM) Global Leader for Sustainable Facilities Kathy Loftus is the conference opening keynote speaker.

Austin-based WFM takes a leadership role in supporting sustainable, local food systems. The 5-STEP® ANIMAL WELFARE RATING system outlines specific husbandry and management practices that promote farm-animal welfare. Consumers benefit by additional information about the meats they buy and farmers benefit by support within the WFM network.

In her keynote, Kathy will address how WFM's leadership role in animal husbandry, local, sustainable agriculture and their stringent GMO policy is good for business. In addition, the local communities and environment benefit by WFM's proactive role in evolving current food systems. Kathy's keynote will inspire companies to take leadership roles in their respective industries and raise the bar on acceptable operating practices and product standards.

Continuing with the local flavor, City of Austin Senior Waste Diversion Planner Teresa Chapman moderates the conference opening plenary panel Tuning in to Austin's Zero Waste efforts. Featuring industry and civic executives with a leadership role in Austin's zero waste journey, the panel includes: City of Austin Recycling Economic Development Liaison Natalie Betts, AT&T Executive Conference Center General Manager Ted Hibler and College Houses Cooperative Operations Director Ken Mills.

Sodexo Team @ 2015 NZWBC
Christy Cook on left
The conference format includes a morning keynote speaker followed by a plenary panel, networking session and concurrent panels before lunch. In the afternoon the program includes a plenary panel, another networking session along with concurrent panels. On the first conference day, attendees are treated to a two-hour happy hour reception before heading out to experience Austin dining.

Food waste is a prominent theme in the conference program. The first-day afternoon plenary panel, Food - Love it ... but do not waste it, is moderated by Dana Gunders, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior scientist. In her monumental 2012 NRDC Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill Issue Paper, Dana brought the food waste crisis to the forefront of mainstream media and consciousness.

Guided by Dana, the panelists share their vast food waste reduction expertise across the spectrum of foodservice operations. Panelists include: Sodexo Director of Sustainability Performance and Field Support Christy Cook, Ted's Montana Grill Purchasing & Sustainability Manager Paula Owens and Sustainable America Director of Events Heide Hart.

Following the plenary panel, Ei Founder Holly Elmore moderates the Food Waste Composting: challenges, lessons learned & successes panel. Drawing on their vast industry experience, U.S. Composting Council Executive Director Frank Franciosi presents from the composting facility perspective and GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition Senior Manager Anne Bedarf explains the importance of labeling compostable & recyclable packaging. Christy Cook with Sodexo shares the intricacies of crafting front and back-of-the-house food waste collection programs.

Keynote speaker Mathy Stanislaus "tunes into" zero waste's role within the circular economy in the second day opening plenary session. In addition, Mathy addresses how zero waste programs address climate action plans. As previously mentioned, Mathy is featured in the ZWA Blog article 2016 Zero Waste Conference: "Tuning In" to Zero Waste announcing the conference.

The morning plenary session USZWBC Facility Certification is moderated by USZWBC Board Member Cheri Chastain, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company sustainability manager. Zero Waste Facility Certification veterans share their experience along with helpful tips on creating a zero waste environment that falls within the certification criteria.

USZWBC President Sue Beets
at podium during 2015 NZWBC
Panelists include: American Licorice Company Quality Director Giri Veeramuthu, Walt Disney World Environmental Integration Project Manager Jason Tschanz, Walt Disney World Horticulturalist and Student Program Manager Les Frey, and J.M. Smucker Company Operations Manager Cindy Sockey.

Establishing Diversion Metrics, the final plenary panel, explores the particulars of developing a tracking program, crafting diversion metrics that make sense for particular scenarios, and addresses challenges experienced by industry forerunners. JLL Solid Waste and Recycling Program Manager Ana Wyssmann moderates the prominent panel including: Raytheon Company Solid Waste Process Owner Brian Balukonis, General Motors Global Waste Reduction Manager John Bradburn, and Rubicon Global Head of Sustainability David Rachelson.

In addition to the stellar program, pre and post-conference activities include the ZWBA Scorecard 101 Professional Training CourseAchieving Zero Waste at Colleges and Universities WorkshopZero Waste 101 Workshop and tours of local landmarks dedicated to zero waste.

The NZWBC Conference Program is designed for the seasoned zero waste veteran ready to evolve their program to next dimensions as well as the novice interested in learning how to create effective systems. In addition to the formal education, the industry connections are invaluable once the conference is a memory.

Kudos to USZWBC Founder Stephanie Barger along with Emily DeCremer, Thao Nguyen and the NZWBC Conference Committee for orchestrating a stellar NZWWC program! 

Registration is open for the 2016 NZWBC with the early bird special ending April 30. For those interested in conference sponsorship, the Sponsorship page details options available. Upon request, tailored sponsor packages are considered.

As the live music capital of the world, Austin is the perfect venue to "tune in" to zero waste and catch the beat of a World Without Waste! 

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