Putting the Social Justice into Zero Waste: Highlights from the Design, Justice and Zero Waste Conference

On May 8th and 9th, social justice activists, zero waste practitioners, academics, design nerds, architects and business leaders gathered at the New School in New York to learn about each others’ work and find ways to join forces to build a zero waste system with social justice at its center. GAIA members from across the United States shared critical aspects of building a just circular economy– Lor Holmes from CERO co-op discussed how decentralized composting systems can eliminate food waste and create an equitable local economy, Lynn Hoffman of Eureka Recycling emphasized the importance of workers rights on the path to zero waste, and Melissa Miles spoke of the environmental injustice of waste incineration in Newark, NJ.

The conference was a resounding success in bringing people together from diverse backgrounds and disciplines under a common understanding: without social justice, we cannot achieve true zero waste.

Warmest thanks to our partners at the Tishman Environment and Design Center at the New School for all their hard work to put this conference together. Check out some of our conference highlights! (A full summary from the conference will be released in the coming months, stay tuned!)

Break Free From Plastic Panel: Ahmina Maxey, GAIA Break Free From Plastic: A Global Movement; Maura Toomey, Clean Water Action, ReThink Disposable: Innovative Program to Reduce Single Use Disposables in Food Service; Joonas Kyöstilä, Pulpmade Creative, Upcycled Children’s Products; Taylor Morton, WE ACT Climate Change and Health Youth Program

Product and Material Design: Andrea Ruggiero, Parsons School of Constructed Environments Responsible Design: Beyond Sustainability Christina Cogdell, University of California, Davis Circular Economy, Linear History: Changing How We Teach the Design History Survey Vincent Lai, Fixers Collective Rise, Resurgence, & Transformation of the Informal Repair Group Doug Pecore, Sun and Sea Trading Company Introduction to Kuleana

Policy for the Circular Economy: Rachel Chaput, US EPA Region 2 Disposable Takeout Food Containers: An Obstacle to Achieving Zero Waste; Nic Esposito, City of Philadelphia Recovery and Waste Systems; Barent Roth, Parsons School of Constructed Environments Designing for the Circular Economy

Opening Plenary Day 2: Mathy Stanislaus, World Resources Institute and World Economic Forum

Regional Waste Concerns and Opportunities: Lisa Jordan, Drew University Reconceptualizing Sustainable Jersey: Tackling the Urban-Suburban Divide; Raysa Martinez Kruger, Researcher New Jersey’s Historical Garbage Governmental Interventions – Toward Environmental Justice and Zero Waste; Yu Nong Khew, Parsons School of Constructed Environments Cyklr: Closing the Loop from Table back to Farm

Closing Plenary Day 2: Ron Gonen, Closed Loop Fund; Lor Holmes, CERO Cooperative; Clare Miflin, Woven