GAIA believes that those most affected by unsustainable waste disposal and its associated pollution must play a leadership role in developing and advancing solutions. The inclusive zero waste approaches that GAIA promotes are rooted in a belief that the democratization of power and resources is essential for the preservation of our planet and for the creation of just and sustainable local economies.
These principles are embedded in all our efforts, from our work with grassroots recyclers and composters—who literally take waste into their own hands to transform it for good—to our work with environmental and corporate accountability advocates who seek to stop resource destruction at its source, redesigning systems, policies, and products. Our members are practitioners of resilience, and our network serves to build the local-global linkages that are essential to movement building. Our trans-local organizing model respects place-based leadership, fosters solidarity, identifies points of common cause, and helps us build a culture of practice together for positive change.
Our solutions are decentralized, replicable, and adaptable to diverse geographic and cultural needs and situations. We believe that the most effective solutions to global issues like climate change and marine plastic pollution result from place-based work: getting major cities to adopt zero waste goals, blocking the construction of polluting incinerators, strengthening and expanding recycling systems, and so on. At the same time, we understand that building a new economy where no products or communities are disposable takes more than individual places saying no to facilities that pollute and yes to zero waste.For example, at the national, regional, and international levels there are political and financial drivers that must be shifted to support best practices. In particular, there is an immediate need to shift the climate policies and subsidies which support false solutions (such as so-called “waste-to-energy” incineration) toward grassroots zero waste and clean energy solutions. To do this, GAIA engages with the UN, regional and city networks, and climate finance bodies, and has formed alliances across groups working on climate and energy, forests and agriculture, health and toxics, marine health, and social justice and human rights.