To kick off the new year, Zero to Go worked with the Bedford 2020 Environmental Summit and Solar Action Day. Of the 12 bags of waste ZTG collected at the 500 person event, 8 were composted and 3 recycled.
On the agenda for the day were sessions such as "Talking Trash: Waste and Recycling 201" and "A Rind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Composting 1-2-3", as well as talks by the leading thinkers in environmental and energy policy. The expo area featured over 30 green organizations and businesses, many aiming to connect homeowners to solar energy programs as part of the launch of the 19-week "Solarize Bedford-Mount Kisco" campaign.
Richard Kaufmann, a keynote speaker of Bedford 2020 and chairman of the NYSERDA board, asked in the day's opening remarks: "How do we get from the system of today to the system of tomorrow?" His talk focused on the evolution of our electricity system, transforming what we expect from our utilities, and government involvement in energy markets to increase clean energy use in communities. He used group buying as an example of how to lower the soft costs of solar (customer acquisition costs, installation costs, etc.).
Government and community partnership is easily applicable to waste management. The Environmental Protection Agency's website states: "Composting can also improve local economies and the environment—by turning organic waste, which is a large portion of many city waste streams, into a marketable product for urban and agricultural uses. Together, recycling and composting can provide income, significantly reduce waste, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions." [source: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/waste/downloads/recycle.pdf]
New York City has introduced the NYC Compost Project, which provides low cost backyard compost bins and reduced cost worm compost bins to participating neighborhoods, as well as providing the technical support and public education for the programs to succeed.
Zero to Go is planning to pilot a citywide compost program in the Hudson Valley in the upcoming year with the same goals: community buying, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating jobs through the waste-based education and composting and recycling resources ZTG is known for providing at events.
Amory Lovins, the co founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, is one of the world's leading authorities on the efficient use and supply of energy. He recently published a new book, which he described as an "ambitious synthesis of American energy solutions."
Lovins addressed the audience: "Could we make energy work without making our undoing? Imagine fuel without fear?" He cautioned against the hidden economic and military cost of our oil dependence, and advocated for energy solutions that we have already discovered. He emphasized that this transition would need no new inventions, no new federal subsidies, taxations, or laws -- just policy changes, which could all be done administratively at the federal level or at a state or local level.
The combination of tech, public policy, design, and strategy leads to uniquely disruptive business opportunities, according to Lovins. He used the example of electric cars, stating that to save fuel, manufacturers could lower weight of cars. In turn, cars would need less force to move, which would allow for the use of costlier batteries and fuel cells; this makes possible the electrification of cars. Championing the "feebate" concept, in which fees are charged on inefficient cars to provide rebates on efficient cars, he referenced how this program tripled the speed of improving auto efficiency in France.
Illustrating the broader implications of "feebates", the National Center for Biotechnology Information published a paper in 2004 entitled "Potential use of feebate systems to foster environmentally sound urban waste management." This paper encourages recompensating municipalities with better results in waste management performance with a rebate obtained from a fee charged to municipalities that are less "environmentally sound."
Andy Revkin, writer for the New York Times and professor at Pace University, closed out the day with an impassioned call for sustained commitment in the fight against global warming.
"The basics haven't changed," he stated. Emphasizing that the science is not new, he spoke of two social realities: "the energized planet, and the two billion people cooking on firewood [who] can't turn on a light bulb."
Revkin stated that policies are a "function of habit." Praising the long term vision of Bedford 2020, he referenced his previous writings on 'uninventing suburbia' as a guide for going forward. He encouraged the audience to remain steadfast: "You can build out from the way we teach to the way we think, which leads to my guarded optimism."
Zero to Go's education-based waste management services being incorporated into the day's events served as a strong reminder that conversations about solar energy, electric cars, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to build upon and generate new ideas for waste management.