zero waste

Toyota Drives Toward Zero Waste 

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing environmentalists in government and business, but some people really stand out as extreme environmental leaders.

Each year our senior managers locked themselves in a conference room with hundreds of award nominations to find the most cutting edge, innovative, and inspirational people and groups working towards environmental protection. Ryan McMullen and his colleagues at Toyota Motor Sales were recognized by EPA’s Pacific Southwest award winners.  They are my heroes — they are living the dream of zero waste.

image of a cart full if plastic wrapping material in an automotive factoryRyan, an enthusiastic Toyota environmental expert in Torrance, CA, spearheaded efforts to eliminate waste through upstream thinking and complex lifecycle analysis. As a result, Toyota’s vehicle distribution centers send less than 4 ounces of waste to the landfill for each vehicle processed.

Toyota Motor Sales started using returnable shipping containers to conserve 17.6 million pounds of wood and cardboard in 2008.  And, there’s more —

  • Toyota’s Headquarters and nine facilities are sending Zero Waste to landfill,
  • Ten plants are achieving 95% waste reduction, and
  • Twelve distribution centers achieving over 90% recycling rates.

image of flattened cardboard boxes in a gray cart in an automotive factoryThese efforts have kept 118,990 trees from being cut down and conserved the energy equivalent of 1.6 million gallons of gasoline by providing recycled materials to industry.

Toyota worked with the University of California – Santa Barbara to develop and apply the Environmental Packaging Impact Calculator (EPIC) to measure and justify shifts in the company’s packaging and logistics.  They even use EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool to improve green computing.

Toyota certainly deserves the EPA award. Do you have any zero waste tips to share?

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team promoting waste reduction, recycling, and green building for 10 years in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Making Meetings Green – Zero Waste Meetings

About the author: Viccy Salazar joined EPA in 1995. She works in our Seattle office on waste reduction, resource conservation and stewardship issues.

I work for the government. One of the things that this means is that I spend a lot of time in meetings. Since I, or someone on my team, is often planning the meetings, my team decided to see what we could do to ensure that the meetings we host don’t use unnecessary resources.

The first thing we did was look on EPA’s website for green meetings. We clicked on the link for meeting planners and go directed to a list of 10 easy things to do – well, it didn’t seem easy to us but we were committed so we moved ahead. As a team, we decided that we wanted to 1) be as zero waste as possible, 2) minimize the amount people had to travel by providing options, and 3) track our result and savings.

We thought zero waste would be the easy one. We called up our local organic caterer and asked if they did zero waste. By zero waste we meant – no packaging, durable serving platters, plates, silverware, and cups, they would compost the food waste and any other non-durable items, and finally, they would carry away and wash everything. Simple, right? Well, not really. They said they did organic but not zero waste. We worked with them and finally got ‘almost’ zero waste. It required some work and the vendor had not done it before. One thing we learned was that it was important to be very specific with your food vendor and conference facility about what you want. Getting recycling at the event seemed easier but we still had to educate the meeting attendees to actually recycle!

We don’t always order out. Sometimes, we go and buy the food for meetings ourselves. When doing that, we learned some lessons like: buy from the bakery and take in your own platters. Almost all of the packaging provided by the shops is either plastic or has a plastic window in it – not zero waste. Provide drinks by making it up in a pitcher, serving drinks in cans (very recyclable) or making coffee/tea. Most other drink types had lids that needed to be disposed of. Fruits and vegetables work great – just be sure to carry in your own bags so you don’t end up with plastic bag waste.

The upshot of our lessons for providing food at meetings is:

  1. be clear about what you want, ask for it – we want it to become part of their service package,
  2. communicate to the meeting attendees what you are doing, they like it, and
  3. do the best you can – you can’t always get everything you want.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.