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Zero Waste Conference

On November 2-3, two Macalester students, Emma Harrison and Ana Gvozdić, attended the Students for Zero Waste Conference organized by the Post Landfill Action Network at the University of Pennsylvania. Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN) is an organization that cultivates, educates, and inspires the student-led zero waste movement.

Emma gave a presentation about the Line 3 pipeline resistance movement, and how the strategies used by water protectors in that fight can be instructional to other climate organizers. Line 3 is a proposed tar sands oil pipeline that would run from Hardisty, AB to Superior, WI, crossing the width of northern Minnesota. In our state, that project would threaten aquatic ecosystems and watersheds, contribute to deforestation, and disregard the treaty rights of 5 Ojibwe tribes to use that land for wild rice harvests, hunting, fishing, and spiritual practices. Emma highlighted 6 tactics, using #StopLine3 as a case study, which have been used by organizers and activists throughout history, from legal, to economic, to more creative and unconventional forms of resistance. (If you’re interested in learning more about Line 3 or getting involved with the resistance movement, email Emma at!)

Ana co-led a workshop called “Food Justice and Zero Waste” together with the Food Recovery team from Carleton College. In her workshop, Ana talked about MacSHARE (Sustainable, Healthy, Anti-Racist Economy), our campus food cooperative. During her presentation, Ana emphasized how MacSHARE, as a bulk-buying club, contributes to zero-waste. She also facilitated an interactive part of the workshop, encouraging the participants to think about the challenges that they are facing with regards to initiatives that they are leading on their campuses, and to come up with allies that could help them overcome those challenges.

Apart from presenting, Emma and Ana had a chance to attend different lectures and workshops. The conference opened with a keynote address from Melissa Miles, a New Jersey based organizer fighting against an immense trash incinerator in her community. Miles’ talk illuminated the nature of a linear consumption economy, one that necessarily produces waste to support ever mounting profits. She discussed the problem of “trash to energy” plants, which rather than eliminating the problems of garbage, emit toxic pollution and more CO2 than any other form of energy generation used in the United States. Lastly, she emphasized the phenomenon of “environmental racism,” where communities of color are subjected to higher levels of pollution, less access to green space, and contaminated drinking water than white communities. In the U.S. the largest determining factor of living in proximity to a trash incinerator is race. This point was affirmed the next day in a talk Emma attended by the founder of the Energy Justice Network, which maps dirty energy and waste facilities around the country.

During the workshop rounds, they split in order to attend as many different workshops as possible. Ana attended a workshop called Building a Strong Move-Out program, where she learned about the University of New Hampshire’s Trash 2 Treasure program. As a result of this workshop, the presenter and the attendees are working on an online database with information and tips on leading the Zero Waste Move-Out on their respective campuses, which is a truly invaluable resource to Ana who serves as the Zero Waste Coordinator for Facilities Services. She also learned from Colorado State University Zero Waste team about their efforts to eradicate landfill waste in college athletics and the founders of EarthSuds, a social enterprise that reduces waste in the hotel industry.

Before the talk about mapping energy and trash facilities, Emma spent the morning in an anti-oppression training led by Felicia Teter, a community organizer with Indigenous 215, Indigenous Peoples in Philadelphia, and Philly for REAL Justice. The training began with a discussion of ‘liberation’ as a goal of movements: what does liberation look like? Individually? Systemically? The rest of the workshop focused on tools for the ongoing process we must all pursue to unlearn colonizing and oppressive mindsets and end our perpetuation of them.

Finally, Ana and Emma got together again for an Organizing and Direct Action Training. This workshop focused on theory behind nonviolent direct action, brainstorming tactics that students could take back to their projects on campus, as well as some role playing of police-protester interactions.

Students who are interested in Post Landfill Action Network can learn more at Since Macalester is part of the network, logging in using the Macalester ID gives us access to manuals for zero-waste initiatives, online workshops to build leadership skills, and discount codes for zero-waste products. Make sure to check it out!

This post was written by Ana Gvozdic, one of the students who attended the conference.

Sam Zieve