Chou Hall set to become first zero-waste business school building

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Ana Isabel Diaz/File

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Connie and Kevin Chou Hall is on track to become the first zero-waste business school building in the United States and the first university building within the UC system to receive True Zero Waste certification.

The Chou Hall Zero Waste Initiative began in November 2016 with the goal of earning U.S. Green Building Council certification by the end of this year. Haas Green Team leader Danner Doud-Martin said that in order to receive this zero-waste certification, the building has to divert at least 90 percent of its waste through compost, recycling or reuse for one year and that it has achieved this standard for the past 11 months.

“If we are able to get certification, Chou Hall will be the first academic building in the country to have not only zero-waste certification, but WELL certification — which has to do with well-being — and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which is a sustainable building certification,” Doud-Martin said.

The UC system as a whole is also expanding its sustainability goals regarding zero waste, according to a Tuesday press release from the UC Office of the President. The new goal maintains the existing objective of diverting all waste from landfills by 2020 in addition to proposing that each campus reduce municipal solid waste by 25 percent before 2025 and by 50 percent before 2030.

Doud-Martin said the Chou Hall Zero Waste Initiative is set to receive its certification by December of this year. She added that the building was selected for this initiative because it was recently built and already equipped with sustainability measures, so adding the zero-waste goal “just made sense.”

Upon its opening in August 2017, Chou Hall began implementing zero-waste policies, including ridding the building of landfill bins and only generating materials that can be composted, recycled or reused, according to Doud-Martin. She added that if individuals bring their own landfill waste into the building, they are asked to dispose it elsewhere.

The hall conducted its third waste audit last week, in which student and faculty volunteers sorted through a week’s worth of waste to monitor composting and recycling rates.

“It’s pretty smelly and gross, but it’s very interesting to see if people are putting things in the right places,” Doud-Martin said. “If we find there are a lot of items in the wrong place, we can have conversations with students, caterers and other people working in Chou Hall about what can be changed.”

Jessica Heiges, a second-year master’s student in the College of Natural Resources, is the student lead for the Chou Hall Zero Waste Initiative and said it is a “wonderful compilation” of all people who have interest in the building. She said students, faculty and staff are all involved in figuring out ways to implement zero-waste policies.

“It’s becoming increasingly important to be proactive with zero waste because societal consumption of goods is exceeding planetary resources,” Heiges said. “We have to become more mindful of what we are using and more aware of integrating better designs so everything doesn’t end up in a landfill.”

Doud-Martin said the Haas Green Team is putting together a manual with the best practices that Chou Hall has adopted for use across campus and beyond.

“Even though this building is the first to have this program, I think it will be the epicenter for change across campus,” Doud-Martin said. “If we can achieve zero waste, I hope it can ripple out across the rest of UC Berkeley and the rest of the UC campuses.”

Amanda Bradford is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.