Beginning with the first conference in 2002, GreenBuild strives to set the highest sustainability-industry standards for hosting a prominent national conference with a global reach.
On September 7, 2017, the USGBC 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. The RiA Magazine article, TRUE: setting standards for a zero-waste economy, introduces TRUE and validates the importance of third-party certifications.
The 2017 GreenBuild conference hosted in Boston achieved the TRUE Zero-Waste-Event Certification as well as the 2018 GreenBuild hosted in Chicago. One of the GreenBuild RFP (request for proposal) parameters is the hosting event facility works in tandem with the GreenBuild staff and contractors on achieving TRUE Zero-Waste-Event Certification.
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.
|Tim Trefzer (GWCCA) reunites|
with Stephanie Barger (USGBC)
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.
As the home to LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Certification, the USGBC is a recognized global standard for sustainable building design, construction, operations and maintenance.
The ZWA Blog article, USGBC Empowers Zero-Waste Industry: USGBC & USZWBC join forces, details the monumental industry announcement.
From its January 2012 inception through the October 2016 acquisition, the USZWBC was integral to the Elemental Impact (Ei) Era of Recycling Refinement important work, accomplishments, and successes. During the organization's tenure, Ei served as the USZWBC and its annual National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC) media partner.
|GWCCA Tim Trefzer reunites with|
CEO Bruce Buchan
Thus, the 2019 GreenBuild Conference was a reunion with Ei Partners and good friends from the Ei Era of Refinement. Ei Founder Holly Elmore and USGBC Global Director, Zero Waste Stephanie Barger, who was the USZWBC Founder & Executive Director, were thrilled to reunite and spend a lovely lunch catching up. Long-time Ei Partner CleanRiver Recycling Solutions hosted an expo booth filled with their impressive recycling bins.
In 2009, the Zero Wastes Zones launched at the GWCCA in an acclaimed press conference led by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Acting Regional Director. As an industry pioneer, the GWCCA is a pro at implementing zero-waste practices and eager to work on conference-driven practices focused on reuse, reduction, and elimination of waste.
According to Ei Regeneration in ACTION Chair, Tim Trefzer, GWCCA Director Sustainability:
Event managers now look to venues for guidance in sustainability-best practices. GWCCA, with relationships throughout the community, is well-positioned to support whichever causes are important to clients. While this is encouraging, it’s equally important to involve all stakeholders involved in executing events to make it truly work and be successful.
For events focused on achieving zero waste, GWCCA draws on its decade-long expertise as an industry pioneer in the zero-waste arena.
Zero Waste is a Team SportFor zero-waste success, teamwork is required among the event managers | owners, event-support contractors, the event facility, exhibitors, and attendees. The USGBC was diligent with exhibitor-contract and attendee-registration provisions where zero-waste protocol and expectations were clearly communicated.
Exhibitors and attendees were expected to bring reusable beverage containers; no single-use beverage containers were permitted on the showroom floor. Bartenders were instructed to not give attendees empty, compostable wine cups for use at the water stations. At the USGBC booth, complimentary steel cups were handed out with the slogan "Better buildings are our legacy."
There was nary a single-use plastic water or beverage bottle in sight within the show.
Greenbuild provided reusable three-bin-recycling centers including recycling, compostables, and landfill bins; the bins were used at consecutive events. Volunteers traveled from across the nation to attend the conference and aid attendees at the centers with proper material separation.
As an estimated 25 - 30% of single-stream recycling is landfill-destined due to overall stream contamination, material-source separation is a tenet of zero-waste best practices. Great care was taken by back-of-the-house-event staff to further separate and clean the material before eventual sales in the commodity markets.
Attention to detail is a necessity for successful zero-waste events. At Greenbuild's request, the event-services company's signage was printed on recyclable corrugated cardboard, instead of other landfill-bound options. In the foodservices area, the GWCCA served condiments via pump stations, loose items, and pitchers, preventing trash and saving dollars.
Even with the best intentions, zero-waste events always present learning experiences where trash is accidentally generated for various reasons.
|Exhibitor-provided cup generated|
trash at a zero-waste event
One of the principles for creating clean recycling streams is "when in doubt, throw it out."
UL Environment & Sustainability's cup snafu showcases the importance of recycling and compostable labeling. It is possible the cup was lined with compostable PLA plastic, rather than non-compostable petroleum-based plastic. Yet without a compostable label the cup was landfill-bound.
Another learning experience related to inconsistent and inaccurate labels on the reusable recycling bins. The larger label in front indicated plastic bottles #1 - 6 and yogurt cups were permissible in the bin. Below are the related concerns:
1> Plastic bottles (#1-6) instead of only #1&2:
- In general MRFs (material recovery facilities) are set-up to only separate #1 & 2 plastics via optical-sorting mechanisms. Thus, the remaining plastic bottles are landfill-bound, with an expensive stop at the MRF
- #6 plastic = polystyrene (PS.) Bottles are PS vs. EPS (expanded polystyrene i.e. Styrofoam.) Though many grocery stores offer EPS-recycling bins for consumer use, in general, PS is not recycled at this juncture. Thus, #6 bottles are a contaminant in recycling-feed stocks.
|Inaccurate & inconsistent |
- As stated above, most MRFs only separate for #1 & 2 plastics. Thus, the highly recyclable #5 cups are a contaminant and landfill-bound.
- Often, yogurt cups contain ample food residuals in them. Thus, there is a high probability of food-residual contamination on the entire stock collected in a bin with yogurt cups.
- Preserve's Gimme 5 program accepts PP cups yet HIGHLY encourages only clean cups are placed in their bins at Whole Foods and beyond.
|TRASH: a gum wrapper brought to|
a zero-waste event creates trash
On a smaller scale, Holly and Tim found gum wrappers and other attendee-generated trash on the floor as they walked the exhibit hall.
It is important for event participants, whether attendees or exhibitors, to understand their individual impact on events committed to zero waste.
The Ei FB album, 2020 GreenBuild Conference, gives a pictorial recap of Holly's GreenBuild visit hosted Tim.
Since the 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch, the industry made tremendous strides in creating event-zero-waste standards and protocol. Yet zero waste is a maturing industry filled with many opportunities to fine tune event practices. Industry leaders like GreenBuild, who walks the zero-waste talk, are instrumental to creating standards based on integrity and success.