When the College’s strategic plan was finalized and published, the Zilkha Center was tasked by the Provost to convene stakeholders to create actionable plans with more specific strategies for a number of the key sustainability areas.
The Zero Waste Action Planning Group (ZWAPG) is focusing on zero waste, materials management, and sustainable procurement as outlined in the Responsible Consumption section of the Strategic Plan. In doing so, it is advancing the progress that has been made over the past two years with input from students and operational stakeholders and guidance. Another key partner has been the consultant group Post Landfill Action Network, which worked with the College and campus Zero Waste Interns in 2019-2020 on a full campus waste assessment conducted and subsequently a zero waste strategic visioning conducted last year that aligned our zero waste goals with those in the Strategic Plan. (More information about the zero waste assessment and visioning can be found below.)
The ZWAPG will be spending the academic year working on creating the Zero Waste Action Plan – a living document guiding our collective campus work on waste management, materials handling, and procurement, which we plan to deliver to the Provost in the spring of 2022.
The campus-wide zero waste assessment (Atlas) was conducted by Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN) in collaboration with the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives during the 2019-2020 academic year. PLAN staff worked with Zilkha Center Zero Waste Interns Lauren Lynch '23 and Coco Rhum '23 to interview stakeholders in departments across campus to assess the college's current approach to waste, materials management, and purchasing - a departure from and a step beyond the previous waste reduction and diversion approach. Additionally, the timing of this assessment aligned well with campus-wide strategic planning conversations. As the sustainability working group identified in their recommendations, the college needs to improve measurement of what we are doing - in order to a) set baselines so that we can b) set realistic, bold goals. The Atlas Zero Waste assessment is part of that crucial baseline setting.
In mid-May 2020, Lauren, Coco, and PLAN Co-Founder Alex Freid gave a virtual presentation about the Atlas methodology, Williams-specific findings, and laid the groundwork for collaborative campus problem-solving and implementation starting in the fall. To learn more, check out the slides from and recording of that presentation as well as the report.
During the 2020-2021 academic year, the Zilkha Center worked with campus partners and PLAN to create a Zero Waste Strategic Vision using both the Atlas waste assessment and the waste, materials management, and procurement recommendations parts of the Responsible Consumption (p. 37) section of the Sustainability Strategic Plan report. ZW Interns Lauren Lynch '23 and Rika Nakato '24 researched ZW best practices at other institutions around the country and worked with campus stakeholders to understand the current opportunities and barriers. During the spring semester, they detailed out the steps required to turn the high level plan into an actionable and living document.