Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 85.66
Liaison Mark Lichtenstein
Submission Date March 5, 2021

STARS v2.2

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
IN-50: Innovation D

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.50 / 0.50 Sue Fassler
Sustainable Facilities Manager
Facilities
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Leadership with Sustainable Development Solutions Network American Zero Carbon Action Plan (ZCAP)

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:

ZCAP Background:

The SDSN USA Network was launched in 2018 with the mission to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the United States by building and mobilizing a national network of academic institutions. The priority on energy and climate work originated during discussions at the SDSN USA launch, in response to a need for an actionable national strategy for a just transition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

In 2015, SDSN published a report related to their Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, and another in 2019 focused on 350 PPM Pathways for the U.S. The 2019 report describes the changes in the U.S. energy system required to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to a level consistent with returning atmospheric concentrations to 350 parts per million in 2100, achieving net negative CO2 emissions by mid-century, and limiting end-of-century global warming to 1°C above pre-industrial levels. This work inspired the American Zero Carbon Action Plan (ZCAP), which launched by SDSN in early 2020 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

ESF was represented at that initial meeting of SDSN experts from around the country by its Chief Sustainability Officer, Mark Lichtenstein. At that meeting, Lichtenstein advocated for inclusion of the important and large materials management sector into the ZCAP effort. He was successful and subsequently asked to lead the development of the ZCAP chapter focused on materials management, and to serve on the ZCAP Steering Committee/Consortium (chapter chairs and others). This entailed leading the development of the ZCAP materials management chapter, providing input in the development of the overall ZCAP report, and helping lead the roll-out of the final ZCAP plan through facilitation of a national webinar.

ZCAP is intended to serve as roadmap for the US based on the latest modeling, research, and understanding of decarbonizing six key sectors (power, transport, industry, buildings, food and land use, and materials) supported by technical pathways to zero carbon by 2050, as well as supporting policy recommendations. ZCAP was designed by a cohort of nearly 100 researchers and other contributors, and 19 chairs – including Lichtenstein – who make up the Zero Carbon Consortium, and who are experts in their fields of climate change policy across six key areas: electricity (power) generation; transportation; industry; buildings; sustainable land-use; and, sustainable materials management. The ZCAP report makes policy recommendations to support the transition of energy and other carbon-intensive infrastructure throughout the country in line with carbon neutrality by mid-century.

The ZCAP report seeks to provide an action plan for comprehensive climate change mitigation and to inform federal policy makers, business leaders, and civil society more broadly across jurisdictions. SDSN and members of the Zero Carbon Consortium presented ZCAP to the incoming Biden Administration, and continue to work with members of the Administration to implement the recommendations embodied in the report. The ZCAP report can be found at the link below.

ZCAP Materials Management Chapter Summary and Recommendations:

The process of producing the ZCAP materials management chapter was as important as the final product. It included Lichtenstein recruiting a team of 19 contributors whose deliberations were essential to the entire process. The inclusive, cross-sectorial team included:

- Stephen M. Bantillo, Recycling Certification Institute
- Michael “Mick” Barry, Mid America Recycling
- Patty Breslin, The Reuse Alliance
- Amanda Brinton, University of Florida
- Susan V. Collins, Container Recycling Institute
- Jack DeBell, University of Colorado
- Natasha Duran, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
- Judith Enck, Beyond Plastics and Former EPA Regional Director (2009-2016)
- Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres Institute
- Susan Fassler, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and NYS Center for Sustainable Materials Management
- Bob Gedert, National Recycling Coalition, and Former City of Austin (TX) Solid Waste Services Department
- Billie Holecek, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
- Venetia Lannon, Matrix New World Engineering (former New York State Deputy Secretary for the Environment)
- Ana Maria Leal Yepes, AMLY Sustainability
- Gary Liss, Zero Waste USA
- Charlotte McDevitt, Green VI (British Virgin Islands);
- Fran McPoland, US Federal Environmental Executive, The White House (1994-2000)
- Lisa Ruggero, NYS Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling (NYSAR3), and Syracuse University Center for Sustainable Community Solutions
- Melissa Young, NYSAR3, and Syracuse University Center for Sustainable Community Solutions

While the crux of the materials management chapter focuses on climate change and GHG impacts – and opportunities related to the next generation of materials management – the importance of including materials management in the ZCAP report is more expansive. It also has deep implications regarding a number of other concerns and opportunities, including impacts to air and water, such as marine plastic debris; environmental justice, recognizing the unjust impact current approaches have in many communities; and, the potential for “green” job creation.

Put succinctly, the chapter makes the case that the way materials are currently managed has devastating impacts on the climate. One estimate in the chapter suggests that more than 40% of the climate impact in the US comes from the materials and food consumed (“consumption emissions”). This percentage is doubted by some, but when the entire supply chain is considered – from manufacturing, transportation, and usage, to final disposition of the materials, which continues to be reliant on inefficient, polluting, and greenhouse gas generating disposal facilities – one could make the counter argument that 40% is a low-ball estimate. Regardless, the chapter concludes that it is essential the US sheds its archaic, costly, and carbon-inefficient waste management facilities, processes, and systems—many of which are based on decades-old technologies and policies.

Landfilling, thermal-recovery, and recycling, are all “downstream,” end-of-the-pipe options—forcing costly attention to materials in the “management systems.” The paradigm shift is one that redirects attention to “upstream,” front-of-the pipe options—keeping materials out of management systems. This is what Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) is all about, and SMM is the option of choice and the focus of the ZCAP chapter.

SMM is an integrated approach toward managing materials through their entire life cycles to achieve social equity, environmental viability, and economic efficiency. When referencing material life cycles, included are all human activities related to material selection, exploration, extraction, transportation, processing, consumption, recycling, and disposal. The objective is to maximize positive, and minimize negative environmental, economic, and social outcomes across entire product life cycles, as well as at every stage of the cycle. The ZCAP chapter puts forth the premise that SMM with associated and embedded zero waste, circular economy, and zero carbon goals, provides a progressive response of deep decarbonization that is intrinsically linked to being more sustainable. Put another way, this is about eliminating the concept of waste.

ZCAP argues that SMM, with associated and embedded zero waste, circular economy, and zero carbon goals, should be embraced as US national policy. It posits that the US needs to play a foundational role accelerating the global transition to a just, resource-efficient, circular, and climate-neutral economy, with zero carbon as a primary objective. The associated argument put forth is that this cannot be realized without addressing the current US economic and consumption model and associated materials management schemes. To more rapidly reach zero carbon objectives, the Country must also address a multitude of issues and challenges related to materials management, and these are detailed in ZCAP.

The US has an extractive industrial model based on a linear production system of “take-make-waste.” By contrast, a circular economy is one that redefines growth and materials use, and focuses on positive, society-wide benefits. It is an economy based on decarbonization. The concept recognizes the importance of the economy needing to work effectively at all scales—for large and small businesses, and for organizations and individuals, locally and nationally.

To accelerate toward SMM and circular economy solutions, ZCAP argues that policy emphasis and change needs to emanate primarily from the Federal Government. While there are many successful state, local, private, and public-private accomplishments in the field of materials management, to reemphasis a main premise in the chapter—progress has been unacceptably slow, with discarded materials increasing in quantity and continuing to pose other environmental and public health impacts. Federal action includes the need for the US Congress to develop a comprehensive suite of policy changes to support SMM and circular economy activities.

The ZCAP materials management chapter concludes that deep change is required—that a dramatic paradigm shift is needed. The way it has been done for decades is not working. SMM provides the needed alternative. This is the message currently presented to the Biden Administration through ZCAP.


Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Air & Climate
Waste
Advocacy and national policy change

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:

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