Welcome Address: Virtual National Zero Waste Conference-2020

December 3, 2020

The 2020 National Zero Waste Virtual Conference is just wrapping up it's three-day event. The conference was originally planned to be in-person in March 2020 here at UC Berkeley. Due to the pandemic the event moved to a virtual platform using a flexible and interactive tool called REMO. Almost 500 people attended. Kira Stoll, UC Berkeley's Chief Sustainability and Carbon Solutions Officer provided a welcome address highlighting Zero Waste at Cal. Here are her remarks:

Thank you for this opportunity to say hello and share zero waste highlights from UC Berkeley. We had been looking forward to hosting you in person on campus earlier this year, and hope in the future we can have a reschedule. 

I am impressed with the breadth of timely topics being discussed at the virtual 2020 National Zero Waste conference and the broad and representative coalition of people attending. This type of networking and sharing best practices is so important to educational institutions like UC Berkeley and particularly to our students who are key drivers of innovation in this space. 

I often share that students and waste reduction efforts helped to birth our contemporary sustainability movement.  In the 1990’s recycling programs in residence halls paved the way for the campus to form the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability and influenced a student movement that launched the University of California systemwide Sustainable Practices Policy. Today this policy covers 11 topic areas including climate action, clean energy, green buildings and zero waste. Our recently published UC Berkeley sustainability plan expands these policy areas and includes intersectional strategies around academics, engagement, health and sustainability, and diversity, equity and inclusion in sustainability. 

UC Berkeley has been at the forefront of higher education sustainability efforts for years, and is now taking the lead on implementing new and ambitious zero waste policies and continuing to build up broad student, staff and departmental support on campus. As a higher education institution focused on research, we recognize our  incredible opportunity to drive knowledge, experimentation, and learning for new generations of changemakers. 

We are strongly committed to this mission but also to being our best stewards of the resources and waste in our operations - to reducing waste, reuse, supply chain strategies, improving diversion rates, and eliminating single use plastics from campus. To exemplify this, I’d like to take a moment to talk about a few of our current points of pride:

    • Established in 2013, the UC Zero Waste by 2020 Goal has driven waste-related work and conversations across on campus from labs to athletics to academics. Cal Zero Waste has spearheaded efforts to roll out a “Green Buildings Program” in which all campus buildings are fitted with standardized waste bins and signage to maximize proper waste sorting. Cal Zero Waste has partnered with Green Labs to pilot our “Zero Waste Lab Program” that specifically focuses on reducing the waste generated by our research enterprise. And, one of our newest campus buildings earned a trifecta of green certifications including Platinum True Waste - this certification effort is serving now as a model for our best practice. 

    • Just last Spring, CALPIRG students helped to implement the most aggressive Single Use Plastic Elimination Policy at an American institution. This policy has been signed by the Chancellor and seeks to eliminate all non-essential single use plastics from campus operations by 2030. This spans nine different “sectors” including labs, food service, office supplies, and more. Right now, a team of over a dozen students are collaborating with staff to create a 10 year roadmap that will help us to achieve this goal.

    • In Spring of 2019, students on campus established the Zero Waste Coalition in an effort to improve coordination on zero-waste related work across campus. The Coalition brings dozens of students together to collaborate on projects, work with administration and staff to streamline zero waste practices,, and educates and engages the student body on the importance of Zero Waste. Just this semester, over 1500 students listened to presentations given at the beginning of their classes on Zoom about the importance of Zero Waste and Environmental Justice. These presentations kicked off an entire month of programming focused on these themes called “Earth Justice Month.”

    • This fall a new “Zero Waste Lab” was established. This space on campus allows for undergraduate students to build on past analysis and create new research on topics related to zero waste intended to provide insight on reduction strategies.

Following today’s conference theme on Community - It takes a village (a campus village and partnerships with other campuses and our surrounding communities), to find the best and most suitable solutions. We are facing new challenges due to the pandemic. We also have new opportunities as we recover from the pandemic to make significant shifts in our upstream and downstream waste policies and practices - and to embrace the term we use here at Berkeley, Zero Waste 2020 and Beyond.