What is Zero Waste?
Since 2005, the City of Palo Alto has been working toward achieving Zero Waste in the community by the year 2021. In a nutshell, Zero Waste is the state in which no waste is either burned or buried. This, however, means much more than the 3 R’s of reducing, reusing, and recycling. Zero Waste seeks to design “waste” entirely out of the flow of resources in society by designing products to minimize waste, creating incentives to encourage sustainable business practices, and building community collaboration, among other factors that come together to help improve society. Most importantly, Zero Waste requires participation from the whole community.
Above is a simple compilation of recent PAUSD waste disposal data. During the 2015-16 school year, the district-wide diversion rate, or the amount of waste that was diverted from the landfill to be recycled or composted, was 71.2%. Although this percentage is quite high, it is not the best we can do. Together we can help Palo Alto achieve its goal of Zero Waste by implementing sustainable practices and fostering student and staff engagement in Zero Waste practices.
The Journey of Our Trash
As part of understanding the Zero Waste movement, it is essential that both staff and students of PAUSD are aware of where and how our waste ends up where it does. Often times, we aimlessly throw away our waste without ever considering what impacts a simple act such as misplacing a piece of trash can do to impact our community and the globe. Below is a simple visual that illustrates the journey a single piece of waste goes through the moment it lands in a waste bin (content taken from http://www.beginwiththebin.org).
The Most Misplaced Waste Items on PAUSD School Campuses
Below is a graphic summarizing the top 4 most commonly misplaced waste items on PAUSD school campuses. There are definitely more waste items that belong on this list, but here are a few that are the most common. As members of PAUSD, it is essential that both students and staff contribute to Palo Alto’s Zero Waste efforts by making sure that they are aware of where the following waste items actually belong.
The Zero Waste movement is a community effort. Without the help of the school district, Palo Alto will not be able to reach its goal of Zero Waste by 2021. All students and teachers can support the City by implementing Zero Waste practices. Empowered with the right tools and education, we can bring about change in our community. Here is a list of examples of what students and teachers of all grade levels can do to help make Palo Alto a little greener (content from http://www.cityofpaloalto.org). Please visit the Zero Waste Palo Alto website at http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/pwd/zerowaste/ for more information about each practice, and other resources.
Zero Waste Champion Program
During the 2015-16 school year, PAUSD and City of Palo Alto entered an innovative collaboration to promote the concept of zero waste across PAUSD's school campuses. This program is called the Zero Waste Champion program, and is jointly managed with the District and the City. Participating schools have the benefit of an onsite employee to oversee zero waste efforts at the site level. The City provided initial Champion training and ongoing support and education to each champion. Do not hesitate to reach out to your site's Champion for help with zero waste issues!