In nature, there is no waste. Everything is created with a purpose, used, and then reused by another part of nature. Why aren't we doing that in our supply and production chains? Well, we can!

We can strive to become a zero waste community and produce durable products that can be repaired, upgraded, and reused in order to begin the healing process to the damage that we’ve caused to the earth.


Looking for ways to be part of the solution, I attended the second annual 2016 Zero Waste Summit held at the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network on Saturday, October 22, 2016. The Summit was hosted by Eureka Recycling, an innovative, Minnesota-based recycling company with a mission to demonstrate that waste is preventable, not inevitable.

Photo credit: Shawn M. Miller 2015

But, what exactly DOES zero waste mean? 

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s about creating no waste...both individually and commercially. It’s about being mindful of all the things we do each day that create waste and considering alternatives for those actions. It’s about understanding how products are manufactured and disposed of. It’s about protecting us and our planet from the business decisions that are made for profit without thinking through the ramifications. And, it’s about getting a lot of people together who care a whole lot about changing the way things are done to make our world a better place.

The 2016 Zero Waste Summit brought together inspiring presenters from all areas to speak on the topics zero waste and a sustainable future as well as leading impactful discussions on the issues facing the reuse industry.

I wanted to share some of my top key takeaways from the 2016 Eureka! Recycling Zero Waste Summit:

Bryant Williams, from the Rebuilding Exchange, a social enterprise out of Chicago, talked about how they are creating a market for reclaimed building materials. Their process includes diverting materials from landfills and making them accessible for reuse through their retail warehouse. They are promoting sustainable deconstruction practices by providing education and job training programs and by creating innovative models for sustainable reuse.

Northfield Environmental Quality Commission Member, Cliff Martin, talked with us about how one Minnesota city created a community organic composting site. Northfield residents had been asking for the recycling option for quite some time and in 2012 their voices were heard. Residents who started composting saw roughly a 25% reduction in their overall garbage. Another benefit was that the school district had estimated that by composting children’s lunch prevented 8 tons of waste from going to the landfill each month. Residents are able to bring food scraps, including dairy and meat, as well as non-recyclable paper, such as napkins and paper plates, to the compost site for recycling. The city’s garbage hauler then takes the bins to a commercial composting facility near Rosemount where it will be turned into compost for gardens.

Erin Lavelle, producer of Northern Spark, a free, annual, dusk-to-dawn, multidisciplinary arts festival that takes place on the second Saturday each June in the Twin Cities and draws tens of thousands of Minnesotans each year. The theme for the 2016 and 2017 festivals is Climate Chaos | Climate Rising which uses art to promote making an environmental difference. They partner with organizations  who are actively working on climate issues through policy, organizing and direct action.

Northern Spark 2016

The Zero Waste Summit also promoted The Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library model as a great resource to save on purchasing new tools by borrowing them instead! Items from hot glue guns to floor sanders, save your money and the planet by participating in the sharing economy! Co-Founder of the NETL, Thomas Ebert talked about the amazing benefits of borrowing versus owning equipment and the possibilities for expanding the tool library across the Twin Cities.

The conversation expanded to the cosmetics industry and even to playground safety. An easy way to learn about the potentially toxic ingredients in your personal care products is to download the Think Dirty App. Another way is to take a look at the EWG Skin Deep database to find more information on which products are considered safe in the U.S.A. as compared to the policies set forth by Canada and in Europe.

When it comes to what is considered safe on at children’s playgrounds, Play It Safe Minneapolis is on a campaign to not only eliminate used tire mulch from Minneapolis playgrounds but also to eliminate the use of pesticides on Minneapolis school grounds.

It was empowering to meet with the change-makers who will positively affect the health and wellbeing of and in the future. Thank you, Eureka! For the inspiring in me the hope that we can become a zero waste community and leave our planet in a better state for our children and generations to come.

Contact us to find out how Relan can help put your business on the right path to becoming a zero waste organization!

The CEO Corner is a Relan Blog series by our very own Della Simpson about living a green, happy, and healthy lifestyle from the inside out. Della is certified by YogaFit as a yoga instructor. Learn more about Della here.

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