The Secret to San Francisco’s Zero Waste Success

Read the full story from Waste360.

Is there a secret in San Francisco related to their zero waste success?

Yes, I think there is, and unfortunately it is rarely discussed.

I love San Francisco and the zero waste work they are doing. And I want to draw attention to what their “secret ingredient” is so that other cities can better understand what they don’t have but might want to pursue locally, even if in an altered form.

Last month, the New York Times wrote another admiring piece about the San Francisco zero waste program. And again, the reporter missed asking the logical question, “Why San Francisco?” What is different about Golden Gate City that makes it such a star when it comes to progressive waste management systems?

It isn’t a unique technology, as Jack Macy even admits in the article. That is an important point considering all the sketchy “new tech, one-bin” proposals we’ve been seeing lately as the way to achieve zero waste.


The Continued Targeting of Environmental Activists

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

Since the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres on March 3, regular demonstrations have been held across the globe demanding justice for her killers. For decades, Cáceres stood at the front lines in the struggle to protect native land in Honduras from being turned into dam and mining projects by local and foreign developers. Her death is now added to the long tally of murdered activists in Latin America, and like the ones before her, it’s unlikely that her killers will ever be held accountable.

Cáceres grew up witness to the ever-expanding socioeconomic disparity that plagued Honduras during the 1970s and ’80s. In 1993, as a university student, she co-funded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), where she collaborated with communities to prevent the industrialized takeover of the natural land. Over the course of a decade, Cáceres spearheaded a highly-publicized campaign against the Agua Zarca Dam, a hydroelectric dam intended to be built in the Río Blanco. Construction was planned to take place on the Gualcarque River, a sacred water source for indigenous people in the area. The building process had begun without any consent from locals.

Cities, Utilities, and Businesses Commit to Unlocking Access to Energy Data for Building Owners and Improving Energy Efficiency

Read the full story from the White House.

Local Government, private sector, and utility actions spur access to energy data and accelerate energy efficiency investment & innovation in buildings and homes.

How to Get Companies to Care About Recycling? Get the Shareholders on Board

Read the full story in Good Magazine.

Though California has one of the highest recycling rates in the nation, America generates more waste than any other country in the world and recycles less. The severity of this issue drives one of the pet projects of As You Sow, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) business. Founded in 1992, As You Sow has become an instigator of of corporate environmental responsibility, leading measurable change in the beverage packaging sector. As You Sow’s vision holds that shareholders are “the single most powerful force for creating positive, lasting changes in corporate behavior.” Thus, they make proposals directly to shareholders, and issue an annual report card that rates companies on their recycling and sustainability efforts. Their efforts have had a positive impact on sustainability efforts of the three biggest beverage companies, Coca Cola, Nestlé Waters, and Pepsi, since 2006.

Colorado, EPA clash over state role in Gold King Mine deluge

Read the full story in the Denver Post.

Colorado officials are disputing Environmental Protection Agency accounts of the botched cleanup at an inactive mine that spilled 3 million gallons of toxic heavy metals into the Animas River, saying state experts gave advice but did not approve EPA actions.

An EPA internal review of the disaster found that state Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety experts supported EPA work, aimed at draining the Gold King Mine above Silverton by digging through debris and opening the main portal. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation also investigated and in October concluded state experts approved EPA efforts to drain the mine.


How can drones help environmentalists? Aerial surveys and monitoring has never been so easy or inexpensive

Read the full story at EarthTalk.

Conservationists are utilizing drone or “unmanned aerial systems” (UAS) technology to gather highly detailed imagery and other environmental data that is traditionally challenging to obtain. Wildlife biologist John Takekawa and his team at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center (WERC), for example, are using drones to obtain aerial images of San Francisco Bay marshlands.

ISTC announces Illinois Green Office Challenge winners

GreenOfficeChallenge-logoThe Illinois Green Office Challenge has announced the winners of its first competition. Ten organizations from Peoria and Champaign-Urbana were named as top performers in the friendly competition, where employees in area workplaces can participate to save water and energy and to reduce waste at work.

The overall champion was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratories (CERL) in Champaign. The Army laboratory (7,011 points) edged out Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District’s Administration & Operations Building (6,164 points). The next highest score was achieved by Peoria’s Charter Coach Plaza with 5,775 points, the first place winner from the Peoria area.

Contestants earned points by completing specific activities to reduce waste and save energy and water which help make resource and cost reductions the norm in our workplaces.

Winners were presented with certificates at a celebration event Thursday at the Champaign Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign.

“Sustainability champions deserve this recognition because they are paving the way for the new normal where wasted resources and lost profits will become unthinkable,” said Kevin, O’Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. ISTC organized and administered the Challenge, which was launched as a pilot project in Champaign-Urbana, Peoria and Bloomington-Normal this year.

For CERL, “IGOC provided a great mechanism, structure, and support to further define, identify and execute our ongoing sustainability efforts,” according to CERL spokesman Michael Jazdyk. “IGOC offered perspective and helped make many things we were already doing more tangible.”


“Becoming green, or encouraging sustainability, is the focus of a number of research efforts and activities at CERL,” Jazdyk continued. “The IGOC gave us the opportunity to demonstrate that CERL not only researches sustainability, it also strives to incorporate it into its daily business model.”

According to Jake Winkler account executive for Peoria Charter Coach the family-owned business has long made a priority of cutting vehicle pollution. “For this competition, it was our employees inside the office’s turn to join the revolution,” he said. “We have focused on creating an environment that is easier to do environmentally friendly activities such as: recycling, temperature control, and water usage. It has taken a team effort to help give everyone friendly reminders, until the changes become the norm.

“We have all greatly enjoyed our experience with the Green Office Challenge,” Winkler said. “It has been a great way to educate our managers and employees on the importance of leaving a smaller carbon footprint. We have been able to work as a team towards a common goal of becoming more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. We have been able to see the culture of our workforce transform into a ‘green-thinking’ environment.”

Everyone must be on-board for real change to occur in the organization,” Winkler explained. “The first step is educating everyone on the small steps that we can take that can lead to a big change. We have learned that creating a ‘Green Office’ does not happen overnight, but with continuous education and resiliency in our positive actions we can make a tremendous impact.”

For the Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Transit District the competition helped make it easy to be green.

“One of our favorite elements of the Challenge was being able to watch the Leaderboard updates as we completed tasks,” said Jane Sullivan, CUMTD sustainability planner. “Our Employee Sustainability Committee enjoyed completing tasks together and watching the Leaderboard change.”

“Learning about green purchasing, energy management, and water management were all very interesting to us,” Sullivan said. “Understanding these elements of sustainability will definitely produce continuing benefits.”

“Urbana High School was able to use the Challenge in their Environmental Studies class,” Bart Bartels, IGOC program manager, said of the top scoring school. “Students analyzed the waste stream and used ‘kill-a-watt’ meters to measure plug load. The Challenge categories were a close match to the syllabus that was already in place.”

“The Illinois Green Office Challenge is an effort to extend the benefits of the successful Chicago Green Office Challenge to the rest of the state,” Bartels of ISTC.

Bartels acknowledged the support of the Peoria County Office of Sustainability, the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois, the Delta Institute, and the University of Illinois Extension for the successful launch of the Green Office Challenge.

With the completion of this first year’s Challenge and the announcement of the winners, a new challenge for offices across Central Illinois as well as other communities will begin in the fall, he added. “Our hope is to make this opportunity available to more and more of the state,” he added.