Skip to main content

"If you are not for zero waste, how much waste are you for?"
We need to become a zero emissions culture.  We need to stop taking massive amounts of waste for granted and learn to become much more resource conservative and conserving.  The biosphere can no longer support our wastrel ways.

People on first hearing this idea may think it is impossible but it's not.  Zero emissions is a natural adaptation of the quality control goal of zero defects on a production line, a goal approached through continuous improvement over time.  We need to institute zero emissions within basic ecological design principles where
waste equals food
we use only available solar income
respect diversity
love all the children
[This is architect Bill McDonough's formulation.  A more complete list of ecological design principles is available from John Todd, one of the founders of New Alchemy Institute and a pioneering  developer of ecological waste treatment systems ( ]

If we are to live in an ecological system without destroying it, zero emissions thinking is going to have to pervade our economic system.  Of necessity.  We have to learn how to think in systems, as part of a system.  (And remember our own ignorance as Gödel taught us with his incompleteness theorems.)  Here are some of the resources available and some of the companies who are actually making strides toward zero emissions and clean production.

The Zero Emissions Research Initiative ( is probably the oldest root of this movement.

"Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives (ZERI) is a global network of creative minds seeking solutions to world challenges. The common vision shared by the members of the ZERI family is to view waste as resource and seek solutions using nature's design principles as inspiration."
ZERI has a number of case studies available ( concerning reducing or zeroing out waste from beer production, sustainable reforestation, building industrial ecologies around such activities as shellfish farming and the asphalt industry.

Gunter Pauli, one of the founders of ZERI, has continued his work with the book and organization The Blue Economy (  This site includes a library of 93 case studies ( including
Zero Emissions Hydrogen
Plastics from Pollution
Packaging with Fungi
Branding waste

The book Zeronauts ( is a recent survey of the zero emissions field.

"In his latest book, John Elkington introduces the Zeronauts – a new breed of innovator, determined to drive problems such as carbon, waste, toxics, and poverty to zero – as well as creating the first Zeronaut Roll of Honor, spotlighting 50 pioneers in the field of zero."
"The Zeronauts is no more – and no less – than a thought experiment. But it underscores how powerful such thought experiments can be. Take the case of Herman Miller: pursuing zero, it has driven down volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 93 percent, hazardous waste by 95 percent, and solid waste by 88 percent (see p.163). Around the world, companies are announcing zero (or net zero) targets. And a growing number have already hit their zero targets in some areas. Some Zeronauts, like Matthew Wright of Beyond Zero Emissions (, aim to go beyond, as it says on the box."
The book is dedicated to Ray Anderson, the founder and former CEO of Interface, a carpet and textile manufacturer which became a pioneer in sustainable business and zero waste.  I met Ray Anderson once at an early The Natural Step ( conference and found him to be a welcoming gentleman with a deep commitment to the environment and the possibilities of business to rebuild a healthy environment.
"We’re going for zero. Mission Zero. Zero emissions. Zero waste. Zero oil.

"That’s right. ZERO oil. It’s a tough challenge since carpet is made from oil, and we’re more than halfway there. By using less energy and material, making products that last and recycling old carpet into new, we already have the most off oil carpet. But we can’t make it to zero alone and we don’t want to. We work with our nylon suppliers to get pre- and post-consumer recycled content materials for our products – including a 100% recycled content fiber from Aquafil - by sending them the fiber from reclaimed carpet. We’re also sharing what we’ve learned with other companies to help them make oil a part of their past as well."

Zero waste is not quite zero emissions but certainly a step closer to that goal.

The US Zero Waste Business Council ( is one resource.

"The U. S. Zero Waste Business Council will create a solid foundation that advances the integrity and credibility of Zero Waste. Zero Waste Businesses save money, are more efficient, manage risk, reduce litter and pollution, cut greenhouse gases, reinvest resources locally, and create jobs and more value for their business and the community."
The presentations from their recent conference on June 26 and June 27, 2012 are available online:

The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) ( is another resource.

"The Zero Waste International Alliance has been established to promote positive alternatives to landfill and incineration and to raise community awareness of the social and economic benefits to be gained when waste is regarded as a resource base upon which can be built both employment and business opportunity."
The definition of Zero Waste as adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance:
“Zero Waste is a goal that is both pragmatic and visionary, to guide people to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water, or air that may be a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.” is a good way to monitor the zero waste and zero emissions conversation in the EU.

Australia has their own Zero Emission Network

Gil Friend, sustainability consultant and author of the fine book The Truth About Green Business:  You Don't Have to Choose Between Making Money and Making Sense (Upper Saddle River, NJ:  FT Press, 2009 ISBN-10:  0-7897-3940-2, ISBN-13:  978-0-7896-3940-7) has been fostering, tracking, and promoting the zero emissions ideal for years.  He pointed me to Subaru and their plant in Lafayette, Indiana which has had zero landfill status since May 2004 (;  the Nike Company's commitment to achieve the goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020 (;  and DuPont's corporate goal for nearly 20 years has been zero injuries, zero defects, and zero emissions.

Dupont set a goal in the early 1990’s to reduce various waste streams by 35% to 90% in 5 years, and succeeded — no small accomplishment, in itself. When they regrouped in the mid-90’s to ask, “What’s our next goal?” the decision was zero - zero waste, zero defects, zero injuries. Ed Woolard, chairman and CEO at the time, said that the decision to go to zero was easier than the earlier decision to reduce the waste by 90%. Why? It eliminated the endless - in fact unendable - debate about reasonable thresholds, and replaced it with a clear, binary logic: some waste, defects and injuries, or none at all. Ask Dupont about practicalities and pushback, and they’ll tell you “We run the numbers, and the zero waste initiatives have been consistently more profitable.”
Dupont CFO Gary Pfeiffer observed, some years ago, that “Dupont has reduced its environmental footprint by 60%, and increased in shareholder value by 340%. Can I prove that those two facts are correlated? No. Do I have any doubt they’re correlated? No.”
These are all good words and better actions but, if you are like me, you want an independent accounting of such results.  For instance, when I mentioned DuPont's zero emissions policy in a small group session of the recent Cambridge Climate Congress, one participant, a chemist, said that DuPont is merely outsourcing most of its chemical production and implied that their zero emissions accounting may not be accurate.  Zero emissions has to be real and not just an accounting trick.

However, according to, "DuPont's buildings division had gone from sending 81 million pounds of waste to landfill in 2008 to zero in 2012" ( so real gains are being made. also reports that Albertson's, Caterpillar, General Motors, "which has 76 zero waste manufacturing facilities and 10 zero waste non-manufacturing sites around the world," Walmart, PepsiCo, Procter and Gamble, and Supervalu are also working towards zero waste (

Whether it's zero waste or the ultimate goal of zero emissions, a clear vision, a tangible goal, and public accountability can be remarkably useful.

SJ Rail [the privatized former state railway of Sweden] set out an exceptionally detailed turnaround strategy (some 2000 sub business plans, according to Mapping The Journey: Case Studies in Strategy and Action Toward Sustainable Development) with explicit goals and objectives, and a longer list of the specific accomplishments that would be needed to reach those goals. And in an unusually imaginative move that I’ve seen no one match to this day, SJ Rail went public with its plans. The company distributed a booklet to all employees summarizing 100 key commitments drawn from its business plans, posted these goals at railway stations, and published that list on a double page spread in the national newspapers of Sweden — saying to its employees, its shareholders and the riding public: “Here’s what we are going to do. Watch us, and hold us to account.”

As each goal was achieved, it would be checked off — and an updated ad would be published periodically in the newspapers.

The effect was mesmerizing. People across the entire organization had a clear sense of where it was going — and what they needed to do to help it get there — and were self-motivated as knowledgeable members of a larger effort, independently contributing to the momentum of the team. The riding public felt part of the team too. People would come into station and congratulate a conductor, porter or a train engineer on the goals and what had been accomplished — and that sort of feedback was at least as good a motivator as a formal bonus program.

The 100 point, three-year plan was completed in two and a half years — with “sustainability” as a central innovation driver of a successful business turnaround, and employee engagement as a key asset.

Gary Snyder from "Four Changes" (1969):
Don't waste.
(A monk and an old master were once walking in the mountains.
They noticed a little hut upstream.
The monk said, "A wise hermit must live here" -
the master said, "That's no wise hermit,
you see that lettuce leaf floating down the stream,
he's a Waster."
Just then an old man
came running down the hill with his beard flying
and caught the floating lettuce leaf.)
Carry your own jug to the winery
and have it filled from the barrel....
Sidestepping the Impasse:  Zero Emissions to Ecological Design
Towards Zero Emissions:  The Methane Cycle
Zero Emissions Culture
Summary of Systems Principles

To be entirely realistic, zero emissions is not enough.  We also need to find ways to remove greenhouse gases from the air and toxics from the water, earth, and air.  Ecological design for geoengineering is my preference:
Ecological Design for Geoengineering

Here's one place to start:
Short Term Climate Forces:  Black Carbon, Methane, and Tropospheric Ozone

Originally posted to gmoke on Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 07:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


More zero emissions?

81%27 votes
6%2 votes
0%0 votes
6%2 votes
0%0 votes
0%0 votes
3%1 votes
3%1 votes

| 33 votes | Vote | Results

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Bravo to the Zeronauts! Count me in. (13+ / 0-)

    Odd that I come across this email just after seeing Rachel Maddow commercial with her standing in front of windmills. I'm thinking so what are those windmills made from? Cause if we are going to move to wind energy we have to look into the materials the windmills are made of. To say nothing of the entire infrastructure which constitutes the new energy grid.

    Returning now to read entire article after initial skim.

    Great job, gmoke!

  •  So windmill replacment parts ... (11+ / 0-)

    from How to Build A wind Turbine . for the parts that are plastic ...

    replacements for PVCs

    So lets do an LCA here ...

    from wind energy the facts

    Wind energy LCAs are usually divided into five phases:

        Construction comprises the raw material production (concrete, aluminium, steel, glass fibre and so on) needed to manufacture the tower, nacelle, hub, blades, foundations and grid connection cables.
        On-site erection and assembling includes the work of erecting the wind turbine. This stage used to be included in the construction or transport phases.
        Transport takes into account the transportation systems needed to provide the raw materials to produce the different components of the wind turbine, the transport of turbine components to the wind farm site and transport during operation.
        Operation is related to the maintenance of the turbines, including oil changes, lubrication and transport for maintenance, usually by truck in an onshore scheme.
        Dismantling: once the wind turbine is out of service, the works of dismantling the turbines and the transportation (by truck) from the erection area to the final disposal site; the current scenario includes recycling some components, depositing inert components in landfills and recovering other material such as lubricant oil.

    LCA Results: Onshore Wind Farms

    Results of LCAs have shown wind farm construction is the most crucial phase because it generates the biggest environmental impacts. These impacts are due to the production of raw materials, mostly steel, concrete and aluminium, which are very intensive in energy consumption. The energy production phase from wind is clean because no emissions are released from the turbine.

    LCAs have also concluded that environmental impacts from the transportation and operation stages are not significant in comparison with the total impacts of the wind energy.

    And this is interesting conclusion ...

    on Energy Balance Analysis

    As far as an onshore wind turbine is concerned, the energy balance is similar but shorter than the offshore one, with only 0.55 years (6.6 months) needed to recover the energy spent in all the phases of the life cycle. This difference is due to a larger grid transmission and steel consumption for the foundations in an offshore scheme.
  •  ZEP Skyways Zero Emission People Windmills (8+ / 0-)

    fascinating projects here ...

    ZEP Skyway125
    * community wind park near Feversham, Ontario

    For more info:

    * 5 windmills integrated into the rural landscape
    * zero emissions - clean power off-sets the carbon footprint of 1,000 people every year
    * 20 year power contract for 10 MW awarded by Ontario Power Authority
    * current status: permitting

    Notice of Public Meeting


    Date : Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

    Time : 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM


    ZEP Skyway 126

    ZEP Skyway126 - Cloudy Ridge
    * community wind park near Maxville, Ontario

    For more info:

    * 5 windmills integrated into the rural landscape
    * zero emissions - clean power off-sets the carbon footprint of 1,000 people every year
    * 20 year power contract for 10 MW awarded by Ontario Power Authority
    * current status: permitting

    Notice of Public Meeting


    Date : Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

    from Zero Emissions People Projects

    Okay, im done:)

    thanks again, gmoke.

  •  best and fastest way to reduce black carbon, (6+ / 0-)

    methane and tropospheric ozone?? reduce meat consumption.

    Great diary!  i'm getting closer to 0 emissions everyday!

    Macca's Meatless Monday

    by VL Baker on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 03:57:02 AM PDT

    •  For the Developed World (7+ / 0-)

      For the developing world, it is more efficient cookstoves which reduce deforestation, the time needed to gather fuel, exposure to air pollution for women and children, local climate effects, and improve crop yields.

      As the ancillary economic and health benefits have an immediate effect on the countries in which they are carried out, which should be Southeast Asia and Africa, this method cuts through the North/South debate and does not rely upon international compacts and agreements.

      Take care of the poorest and neediest first.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

      by gmoke on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 05:05:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  true, meat reduction for the developed world (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WarrenS, Hill Jill, JayDean, gmoke

        and cookstoves for the developing.  But we can't just do cookstoves and solve the problem because livestock production is the greatest contributor to Black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone.   And reducing livestock production frees up the land necessary to reforest for C02 carbon sink.

        We are fortunate to have a solution as simple as reducing meat consumption for the immense issue of climate change.  I hope we heed the science.

        Macca's Meatless Monday

        by VL Baker on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 06:52:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Both And (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          boatsie, jam

          My focus is on the developing world and the bare minimums.  I'll rely on you to keep kicking the developed world toward less meat.   I know I've changed my eating habits as have others in my circle.

          Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

          by gmoke on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 03:38:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Until we can fill our wine jugs from a barrel (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, WarrenS, cotterperson, gmoke

    at the local wine merchant, as people do in Europe, we can buy it in boxes instead of glass bottles. Manufacturing the cardboard and plastic from which the boxes are made requires much less energy than glass.

    An added benefit: once opened, boxed wine remains palatable MUCH longer than bottles because it is not exposed to air.

    Thanks for the poem as well as the impressive list of resources, gmoke!

    Since plague became in this way some men's duty, it revealed itself as what it really was; that is the concern of all. --Albert Camus

    by Neighbor2 on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 05:54:32 AM PDT

  •  Great compendium... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, JayDean, gmoke

    ...of resources.  Bookmarked for future reference.

    Nice to see you the other day at the 350 Massachusetts meeting!

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 07:22:21 AM PDT

  •  I worked on a big project where (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, gmoke

    "zero waste" was defined as 98% diversion from landfill excluding hazardous waste. Is there a common definition?

    •  Definitions (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      My guess is that different organizations define "zero" differently.  The national and international organizations may promulgate common definitions (see above) but I doubt that there are common definitions and standards yet.  I don't know if ISO 9000 and 14000 have "zero waste" or "zero emissions" standards but suspect that eventually they will.

      At this point in time, I'm happy that organizations are beginning the process.  Now we have to speed up all the way to zero emissions, period, exclamation point.

      And ecological design for remediation of the damage we've done.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

      by gmoke on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 03:45:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Net zero" is a US Army goal! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfromga, JayDean, gmoke, jam

    Hard to believe, after all the lives and suffering wasted on wars for natural resources, but it's true.

    The primary goal is a focus toward net zero and when we talk about net zero, it's not only net zero energy, but it's net zero energy, water, and waste. When you look at the term "net zero" or a hierarchy of net zero you must start with reduction, then progress through repurposing, recycling, energy recovery, disposal being the last.

    Perhaps even more remarkably, these same goals were expressed in my county in backward Arkansas at a meeting about our troubled landfill. One of the board members talked about the hierarchy quoted above, and said our goal is "zero bury" within 10 years!

    It was a new concept to me and to the recently retired reporter with me. For years, I've been troubled thinking about more and more beautiful Ozark hollows being filled with plastics, more and more toxins in our beautiful streams and lakes. This news was so excellent, it was hard to believe. The retired reporter didn't believe it was possible, and the one who reported the story was obviously skeptical, as he put it at the very end.

    This reflects an awakening I didn't think I'd see in my lifetime, but here it is!

    Thanks gazillions, gmoke, and hurrah for Zero!

    "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

    by cotterperson on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 10:38:26 AM PDT

    •  Military Logistics (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jam, cotterperson

      The military is serious about renewables, green fuels, and zero waste because they've learned from experience what the real costs are, in personnel and material.  A gallon of diesel fuel can cost up to $400 per gallon to get to a forward operating post in Afghanistan.  It is also costly in terms of exposing soldiers to casualties and deaths in getting it there.  I've read that a third or more of all casualties in active war zones occur on supply missions.

      Unfortunately, the House Armed Services Committee is not as supportive of these changes as they could be.  

      The military knows logistics and they know that the future is one of constraints.  They also take climate change seriously as a security threat.  I had a conversation with an Air Force colonel just this past Saturday about these issues.  Their eyes are wide open and they are actively changing.

      This is something I've been waiting for since reading an article by Tom Hayden when he was doing the Solar Lobby in Rolling Stone back in 1975 or so.  He was advocating using renewables to power the remote outposts the DoD was then (and now) using diesel generators for.  DoD investment in green energy, he argued, could jump start the solar transition.  It's only taken about 37 years.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

      by gmoke on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 03:57:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re the Poll (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I thought for sure 100 per cent would want more zero emissions!

    •  Unanimity (0+ / 0-)

      I find it kind of comforting that there isn't unanimity.  Would like to hear the arguments and quibbles of those who don't agree.  It might help shape a better argument for getting to zero.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

      by gmoke on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 03:59:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  When you think zero emissions, think Diane Wilson. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Diane Wilson was the shrimp boat captain who went up against Formosa Plastics to force them to obey the law and implement zero-discharge after years of pumping their toxic residues into the Gulf.

    She wrote a book about her experiences called An Unreasonable Woman, with the subtitle "A true story of shrimpers, politicos, polluters, and the fight for Seadrift, Texas."

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 06:15:18 PM PDT

  •  Challenge use of the word "away" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jam, gmoke

    The best bit of consciousness-raising I've come across lately
    is to replace the word "away" with "away from me".

    Then, an expression like, "I threw the candy wrapper away" becomes
    "I threw the candy wrapper away from me".

    "The garbage truck come to the house every week
    and takes the trash away from my house."

    "The tailpipe on my car carries exhaust gases away from me."

    On Spaceship Earth, there is no such place as "away".

    I can't remember where I saw this.
    If you know the source, please credit the author.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 06:45:55 PM PDT

    •  Ethicist Milt Raymond (0+ / 0-)

      My old friend Milt Raymond used to say, "There's no such place as 'away.'"  Milt was an MIT-trained nuclear engineer who became an automobile safety and advanced bicycle inventor.  He was working on his book of ethics for adults when he died a few years ago.  

      His child's version of ethics, Social Reason, is available on

      Milt also used to wish people "as little pain as possible," something I now use in condolence messages, and that he was writing for "the benefit of all who will allow the benefit of all."

      He was an old Yankee original and I miss him much.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

      by gmoke on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 11:55:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site