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Thursday, June 28, 2012

U.S. Zero Waste Business Council hosts first-rate conference

The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council hosted their first annual conference in Costa Mesa, CA on June 26 & 27 with an enthusiastic crowd from across North America, including attendees from Hawaii, Toronto and each quadrant of the continental U.S.  Impressive, especially for an inaugural conference!

Stephanie Barger of Earth Resource and Gary Liss of Gary Liss & Associates were the drivers of the successful conference along with strong support from the USZWBC Board Members.  As industry leaders, Stephanie and Gary secured a stellar speaker line-up for their three keynotes along with the many panel discussions.

Eiko & Stephanie 
Setting the conference tone, keynote speaker Eiko Risch of Ricoh Electronics gave an amazing overview of Ricoh's zero waste and sustainability accomplishments. Once top management buy-in was secured, Eiko developed programs requiring 100% employee participation, including training, fun contests and monetary incentives.  

Eiko expanded the common three R's to Ricoh's Five R's: Refuse, Return, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Refuse = Avoid buying anything that becomes waste. Return = Return packaging materials to supplier for their Reuse. Ricoh works in partnership with their suppliers on evolving packaging that eliminates waste and creates reusable materials.  Eliminating waste streams and incorporating sustainable practices into operations, Ricoh achieved improved bottom-line results, a common theme among speakers.

Gary & Jo
With a focus on national and global industry leaders, the Leading the Way: Businesses and Zero Waste - Diverting over 90% from landfill, incineration and the environment panel discussion completed the morning sessions.  Panelists Jo Licata - Hilton Hotel and National Reuse Collaborative, Rick Crandell - Albertsons | Supervalu and Kelly Harris - MillerCoors continued the theme that zero waste practices require collaborative effort within the organization, community and suppliers. Innovative zero waste accomplishments across the board result in impressive cost-savings and improved corporate profits.

After International Zero Waste Expert Dr. Paul Connett's passionate luncheon keynote presentation, attendees were well educated on the role incineration plays in zero waste claims and its negative community and environment impact.

Scott @ podium
In the afternoon, the focus shifted to strong regional companies and how zero waste goals are achieved without the economies of scales enjoyed by the global leaders. Innovative approaches are key to their successes. Panelists included Mandi McKay of Sierra Nevada BreweryScott Lutocka of Piazza Produce, and Ellen Nowa of St. Joseph Heritage Health CareScott installed security cameras in the loading dock area - it only took a few facility-wide intercom call-outs "that cardboard goes in recycling" to instill the new procedures as standard.

The first day ended with a relaxed reception in the hotel's garden terrace with perfect California weather.  New friends bonded over delicious food and drinks before heading out for dinner.

Hospitality Panel
Interactive breakout sessions filled the second day morning agenda.  Gary Liss moderated the Hospitality panel including Leslie Lukacs of L2 Environmental, Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Jack DeBell of University of Colorado Recycling and Holly Elmore of Elemental Impact | Zero Waste Zones.  With an interactive audience, the panel discussion served as an excellent resource for those ready to embark on zero waste programs within the hospitality arena.

Marc @ podium
A perfect final keynote speaker, Marc Gunther, writer for Fortune and, gave an informative and inspirational luncheon commentary on the origins of zero waste (hint: not a new concept!), where we are and the importance of current directions.  Well-informed, Marc included pertinent quotes, video ads and product examples to ground his points on strides in evolving social and corporate culture.

Infiltrating within discussions and in specific afternoon sessions, the conference served as a strategy platform for the USZWBC Zero Waste Certification.  As zero waste becomes mainstream, third party validation is important to maintain integrity and give corporate and personal consumer clarity through the myriad of landfill-free claims.  

First on the agenda is defining what is zero waste and landfill-free.  The big question woven throughout the presentations was:  Does incinerated material qualify as recycled or re-purposed material for zero waste claims?

Ei Team @ conference
Ei had a strong USZWBC conference presence:  Ei Partner CleanRiver was a key sponsor with Bruce Buchan & Ron Clark attending, Ei Partners Chris Bradlee of BASF and Kurt Wirgau of Heritage Interactive Services were active attendees, and ZWZ Participant Scott Lutocka & Ei founder Holly Elmore spoke on conference panels.  

Conference PPT presentations may be downloaded on the USZWBC 2012 Conference Presentations page.  For a pictorial conference recap, visit the Ei FB, 06-12 US Zero Waste Business Council Conference.

National industry events are the foundation for education, motivation and inspiration necessary to create an environment where zero waste practices are standard practices. Congrats to Stephanie, Gary and USZWBC Board Members for orchestrating a successful national conference!  


  1. Holly, it was FINALLY a pleasure to meet you in person after conversing for so many months! In a single word, AMAZING: the USZWBC, the organizers, sponsors, speakers, volunteers, Hilton Costa Mesa, and others who made this event a total success! Zero Waste can no longer be construed as unobtainable. With the proper tools and roadmap to success, we can no longer accept excuses to the contrary! And as Gary Liss says, "How much waste are you willing to accept? ZERO!

  2. This was a spectacular launch of the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. Thanks Holly for capturing some of the excitement! Wish all my friends were there! Maybe next year!