Zero waste: The forgotten climate change mitigation tactic


Zero waste has been called the “Cinderella of sustainability.” Energy and water get all the attention and investment, while waste modestly sits on the sidelines. Although energy and water reduction efforts are critical to reducing our impact on the environment, waste reduction is just as important.

The production of goods and subsequent waste contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, pollution and general environmental degradation—in some cases, 大大. Managing materials is associated with an estimated 42 percent of total GHG emissions 在美国.S. By increasing our national recycling rate (an average around 30 percent) by just 8 percent and cutting the amount of waste we generate by 5 percent, we could slash emissions by more than 20 million metric tons of carbon equivalent.

The links between climate change and waste

Here are the important links between climate change and waste that all green building champions should understand:

  • Emissions from extraction of resources:树, 矿物质, oil and other basic components of materials we use must be extracted from the environment. The extraction process and resulting depletion of resources releases GHGs and disrupts the ecosystem.
  • Transportation of goods and materials: Raw materials must be transported to processing and manufacturing facilities. Most finished goods include excessive packaging, which has several stages of extraction and transportation. The materials or finished goods are repacked from one destination to another, 加剧了气候影响. Finished goods must be transported to retail facilities or consumers. 最后, after consumption the materials (especially packaging) are transported several times to landfill, waste to energy or recycling facilities.
  • 生产排放: The production of goods and materials also has associated emissions. This can be direct emissions output from the manufacturing facility itself, or indirect output through the energy it uses.
  • 垃圾填埋场甲烷: As some materials degrade in the anaerobic environment of a landfill, methane is released. 甲烷是一种强有力的温室气体 高达72倍的冲击力 对气候变暖的影响大于二氧化碳2. In 加州, landfills are one of the top five sources of GHG emissions. This is why zero waste was tied into one of the most sweeping pieces of climate mitigation legislation in the country, 加州 第32号议会条例草案. The bill supports infrastructure and programs to decrease methane emissions from resource management activities and the increase of diversion efforts.
  • 焚化排放: Even with emission controls, some GHG and other air pollutants are produced from these processes. Energy recovery capabilities at these facilities can help to negate climate impact. However, as with landfills, it is still not the most desirable outcome for residuals. This is because the materials are permanently destroyed, which necessitates starting over again by extracting new raw materials. The best approach is to prevent the need for disposal in the first place by reducing, 重用 and recreating products. Instead of destroying the materials, this mitigates climate impacts upstream.
  • 海洋污染: 垃圾, particularly single-use plastic items, and polluted runoff enter our oceans, 破坏生态系统. Healthy oceans are critical to maintaining a healthy climate, and acidification and warming ocean temperature may amplify overall warming.
  • 破坏森林:树 cut down for the production of paper-based products can no longer filter our air or sequester carbon. We must preserve elements of our ecosystem that mitigate climate change impacts.


The solution is taking resource management to the next level by going zero waste: redesigning products and packaging to prevent waste from being generated in the first place, 减少浪费, 重用, 升级改造, 堆肥及循环再造.

integration of the best365官网登录 Zero Waste certification program into our suite of rating systems, GBCI is aiming to give this zero waste philosophy the attention it deserves in our collective effort to combat climate change. The achievements and ongoing performance of a diverse array of best365官网登录-certified设施 show that zero waste is possible.


Learn more about the impacts of waste and how you can get started on the journey to zero waste:

  1. best365官网登录顾问 Certificate program
  2. 文章 零浪费和真实
  3. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports
  4. Emissions from Waste Incineration Report,联合国政府间气候变化专门委员会
  5. Climate Change and Municipal Solid Waste, U.S. 环境保护署
  6. 减少废物模式, U.S. 环境保护署: Calculate the impact of your current materials management program and what would happen if you took your program to the next level.
  7. CalRecycle
  8. 停止破坏气候 report, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  9. 全球报告倡议组织
  10. Sound Resource Management Group