Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 70.16
Liaison Kylee Singh
Submission Date Sept. 19, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

California Polytechnic State University
IN-27: Innovation D

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Kylee Singh
Sustainability Coordinator
Energy Utilities and Sustainability
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Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Innovative Staffing for Zero Waste

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

When faced with insufficient staff resources to successfully achieve system and campus zero waste goals, Cal Poly staff looked for innovative opportunities to fund new positions and capacity through savings from optimization of existing utilities (Zero Waste position) and through utilization of low-cost “experiential” programs such as AmeriCorps. The vision for this project was that after permanent savings had been realized, there would be new long-term “self-funded” staff capacity to further advance goals and programs without any net increase in cost.

It was crucial to get buy-in from key stakeholders (other auxiliaries and executive leadership), who had to be confident that the promised savings will be realized. In order to make this happen, staff needed to understand the potential for savings and have a clear plan to deliver on promised savings as part of the position proposal. Once approved and the position hired, the savings goal needed to be communicated as a clear expectation to the new hire.

The outcome of the project was that overall net zero cost was achieved, effectively funding a new FTE position; however, some auxiliary partners realized larger savings from others. Optimization sometimes involved costs reallocation, which could lead to increases where current allocation is inequitable. An alternate method might have involved hiring a consultant to perform waste optimization to prove the savings existed before hiring. However, all institutional knowledge gained by the consultant would be lost at the end of the project, and any new hire would have to learn the same system, duplicating efforts.

We knew we needed to create a business case for the project. In order to accomplish this, a student intern (or Americorps member) should spend a year of study of the current system state tracking data to track baseline metrics and identify potential high impact areas for savings as a percentage of total spend. A potential variation on this would be to look at opportunities across multiple utilities. Next, we developed the business case. After finding that sufficient opportunities existed for savings based on conservative analysis of actual data, a proposal was created requesting a new position, justifying the investment as having a high ROI with low risk.

Next, we gained buy-in. The proposal was presented to auxiliary stakeholders (Zero Waste Collaborative). A key consideration in the project design was allocation of the position costs via standard utility recharge on some agreed-upon prorated basis (by current year percent entity spend of total spend). This can bring up other considerations, e.g. Dining had the lowest bill, but was the largest campus-wide creator of post-consumer waste. Questions and concerns were addressed. Once stakeholder support was achieved, we presented the case to the executive decision-maker, and a high-level action plan was created.

Based on the position being self-funded, the Zero Waste Coordinator (ZWC) position was approved Fall 2017, and hired in February 2018. The ZWC has been active for just over a year, and has to date more than met our no-net budget impact goal. When not staffed as a stand-alone position, waste & recycling are often delegated to someone in the organization who may have little or no experience in the field. At Cal Poly, Zero Waste was delegated to the Energy Analyst, taking time away from other high-value energy and water-saving opportunities. The new ZWC position freed staff capacity to focus on their respective specialties, reducing stress, increasing job satisfaction, and allowing for more project capacity.

After initial optimization, part of the new ZWC position focused on maintenance of the system, leaving significant capacity to advance programs and system goals, support academic infusion through student engagement, and create new program development in housing and events. One effect of this position is the availability of Zero Waste expertise to all auxiliaries. They all get feedback about best practices and ways they could move towards creating less waste within their organizations.

The new ZWC has also identified savings and recycling opportunities the campus had not previously considered, such as collecting recyclable C&D from regular campus operations, outsourcing chipping of greenwaste rather than investing in a new grinder for compost operations, finding more revenue from scrap metal collection, and putting roll-off services out to bid. Specific savings measures included:

- Right-sizing of bins includes monitoring bin fullness and adjusting number of bins, size of bins and frequency to optimize services received. Ex: Servicing all campus recycling via 64-gallon wheeler carts cost more per cubic foot of recycling than collecting recyclables in 3 or 4 cubic yard bins.

- Increased recycling capacity refers to looking at each location to determine overall percentage of recycling serviced, increasing recycling service as needed, and reducing trash. E.g. one 10-enclosure housing complex had 2 landfill bins (7 days/week) and 1 recycle bin (3 days/week) in each enclosure, yet constant reports of the "garbage overflowing." In actuality, the recycling was constantly overflowing due to being underserviced. We replaced 1 trash bin with a new recycle bin in each enclosure, saving $37,000 annually and increasing diversion rates.

- Due to the new winter shutdown policy, we are able to completely discontinue trash service to the campus for 10 days, with commensurate savings. Other service breaks refers to Thanksgiving and Spring break savings achieved by strategically pausing Housing trash service.

- New Roll-off contract resulted in higher costs per pull, but lower disposal costs, with overall savings.

- Metal recycling consolidation refers to the fact that some metal boxes were ordered from our hauler at a charge, while some metal was pulled by a recycler, giving a rebate on materials. Overall savings by having all pulled by recycler.

- Invoice errors include overbilling, double-billing for some locations, orphaned accounts not removed, and errors made when entering extra pulls. Additional savings to State not included above are re-allocations: locations billed to State for resources controlled by Housing, Corporation or ASI.

The ZWC Position was budgeted to save $100,000 in order to fully self-fund the position. Actual savings for the first year were $134,000, a 34% ROI in the first year. In addition to cost savings, consumer diversion from landfill year over year has increased 3%, and is expected to accelerate now that the initial work on waste optimization is more or less complete. The ZWC also achieved other important metrics, such as reaching 500 faculty, staff, and students in train the trainer and custodial trainings, as well as supporting at least a dozen student projects and several classes reaching over 100 students.

All campuses have waste and utilities. Many campuses aren’t yet optimized and have the potential to achieve savings. This project demonstrates a model that can be used by almost any campus to add additional staff capacity without increasing overall costs. The model is also transferable to other utility types. This gives campuses flexibility in how to achieve abundance (new staffing) from existing waste in spending. The project also is a good example of leveraging data-driven justification and cultivating relationships (Zero Waste Collaborative) that strengthen a campus’s overall messaging efforts by breaking down the silo effect.

Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Campus Engagement
Air & Climate

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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