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Thursday, October 26, 2017

TRUE: setting standards for a zero waste economy

Third-party certifications play a valuable role in evaluating products, services, and industry practices. Independent review | testing ensures the product manufacturer | facility proclamations are valid and follow industry standards. In addition, third-party certification is instrumental in setting standards and protocol within evolving industries.

In response to industry requests for zero waste standardization and third-party validation, the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) launched the Zero Waste Facility Certification (ZWFC) in March 2013. As the first zero waste certification program in the nation, the ZWFC established protocol and defined parameters for zero waste claims.

The USZWBC Board signing
USGBC documents
photo compliments UZWBC
In October 2016 the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) acquired the USZWBC to integrate the ZWFC into the global Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) community that drives sustainability across all sectors.

Established in 2008, the GBCI exclusively administers project certifications and professional credentials and certificates within the framework of the USGBC’s LEED green building rating systems. Through rigorous certification and credentialing standards, GBCI drives adoption of green business practices, which fosters global competitiveness and enhances environmental performance and human health benefits.

The ZWFC joined a family of prominent certifications administered by the GBCI: the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL building standard, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Parksmart, EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) and the GRESB benchmark, which is used by institutional investors to improve the sustainability performance of the global property sector. 

A true integration, USZWBC Founder & Executive Director Stephanie Barger joined the USGBC executive team as Director, Market Transformation & Development. The USZWBC staff are GBIC team members who facilitate zero waste certification. The majority of the USZWBC Board members serve on the GBIC Zero Waste Advisory Council.

TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency)
On September 7, 2017, the GBCI unveiled TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency), the new brand identity for its zero waste rating system. TRUE helps businesses and facilities define, pursue and achieve their zero waste goals through project certification and professional credentialing.

With the TRUE announcement, the USZWBC is completely integrated within the GBCI family of certifications.

Consistent with GBCI certifications, TRUE is built on a point system within a variety of categories. Baseline qualifications are established before a facility may apply for zero waste certification. Of the 81 available points across 15 categories, the applicant must meet a minimum of 31 points for the first level, Certified (followed by Silver, Gold & Platinum levels).

According to Stephanie, “Our goal is to help develop a zero waste economy for all that delivers financial, environmental and social benefits. The TRUE team is working with organizations across industries to help set benchmarks, track performance, educate employees and deliver innovative solutions that move them closer to zero waste.

Currently, there are 88 TRUE-certified facilities around the world. Microsoft, Tesla, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Nature’s Path, Earth Friendly Products, Raytheon, Cintas and Northrop Grumman, among others, have facilities certified under the program.

Beyond Landfill Diversion
A TRUE certification applicant must achieve 12 consecutive months of an average of  90% or greater diversion from landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy) and the environment. Diverted materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted and/or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy.

TRUE Advisory Council
Member Scott Lutocka on a
source-separated plastic film bale.
For the TRUE certification, 90% or greater diversion is merely a baseline for the program with a maximum of 5 available points for facilities with 100% diversion; only one point is earned for an applicant with 90 - 94.9% diversion.

Though it does not specifically prohibit single-stream recycling, the TRUE certification program inherently requires source-separated materials recycling. Facilities are required to track the collected materials’ final destination, rather than use the hauler’s first drop-off. Supported by in-depth research, industry reports state single-stream recycling in general results in 25%+  of collected material destined for the landfill | incinerator due to contamination. 

Within the Redesign, Reduce, Recycle and Zero Waste Reporting categories, a minimum of 7 points relate to a solid, well-documented source-separated materials program that promotes highest good material use and local end markets.

Culture is Key
Intertwined within the TRUE certification points is creating a zero waste culture established by top management and communicated to employees on a regular basis. The Leadership category offers six points including a formal zero waste goals announcement, upper management monthly review of diversion reports, rewarding those who make outstanding contributions to waste reduction, and more.

Earth Friendly Product
Zero Waste Employee Bulletin Board
Consistent communication to employees on zero waste policies, activities, and successes earns a point. Another point is available for at least one employee job description that includes zero waste-specific responsibilities. 

Human resources departments are integral to a rich zero waste culture. Points are earned by including zero waste within the employee hiring process as well as established training programs.

The ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste CULTURE, a necessary ingredient for long-term ZW program success, discusses the imperative role culture plays in developing sustainable zero waste practices.

A Zero Waste Value Chain
The TRUE certification requires rethinking the resource lifecycle. According to the website:
TRUE is a whole systems approach aimed at changing how materials flow through society, resulting in no waste. TRUE encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused.
TRUE promotes processes that consider the entire lifecycle of products used within a facility. With TRUE, your facility can demonstrate to the world what you’re doing to minimize your waste output.
Reusable stacked packaging boxes
photo courtesy of Subaru
Within the Zero Waste Purchasing category, a total of 9 points are available that impact the facilities' relationship with their supply chain. In addition to an in-place Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) guideline or policy, points are available for using the power of consumer demand to work with suppliers on eliminating, reducing and/or reusing transport packaging. Supplier zero waste practices impact the intangible waste inherent within delivered products.

Use of durable, reusable products, such as beverage cups, plates, and flatware, instead of single-use products earn a point.

Additionally, manufacturers receive points for selling and shipping products in a waste-free manner, where the packaging is recyclable or even better, reusable.

A Holographic Viewpoint
By using a systems approach to materials flow, the TRUE zero waste certification is holographic in nature. The program is not bound by the facility's physical structure; it addresses the facility's value chain, the community as a whole, and the environment.

Holly receives zero award; with
then USZWBC Founder & President
Pursuing the TRUE certification may seem overwhelming with the multitude of point categories impacting the organization’s entire spectrum of administration, management & operations. Holly Elmore Consulting (HEC) simplifies the certification process into a manageable, time-lined roadmap supported by specific action points via a series of available consulting packages.

The HEC Zero Waste Consulting packages begin with a Zero Waste Certification Review: 
A simple package for facilities choosing to pursue TRUE Zero Waste Certification. The package includes a facility review via a pre-visit conference call and an on-site visit. A certification checklist summary is provided of completed points with recommended steps for achieving certification.
As Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder & CEO, Holly is a respected zero waste industry expert with a long list of accolades, including the acclaimed Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) 2009 launch. The ZWZ were the nation's forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for composting and were sold to the National Restaurant Association in 2012.

In July 2017, Ei announced the primary organization focus shifted to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life, and the Ei Recycling Refinement platform was moved to the Mission Accomplished website section. Thus, Ei zero waste | food waste | source-separated materials recycling expertise is available via HEC Zero Waste Consulting.

Companies initiate zero programs for a variety of reasons: economic benefits, customer demand, product differentiation, it is “the right thing to do,” to name a few. The U.S. Green Building Council’s TRUE zero waste rating system ensures integrity is established and maintained via written corporate policies, material management practices, procurement procedures, and effective communication tools. TRUE sets industry standards and establishes integrity within the pathway to a zero waste economy.

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