Op-ed on Chou Hall dismisses Haas’ progress toward sustainability

Willow Yang/File

In the op-ed “UC Berkeley community must work to reduce waste misdirected to landfills,” undergraduate student Kelia Lang makes some accurate points in her critique that the campus will not reach its goal to be zero waste by 2020. However, we wish Lang had taken the time to connect with us, the leads on the Chou Hall Zero Waste Initiative, before writing her op-ed. We would have shared with her details about making Chou Hall (at the Haas School of Business) the first TRUE Zero Waste platinum-certified academic building in the world.

The Zero Waste Initiative was led by a multidisciplinary group of students, staff and faculty. The team strategically and methodologically collaborated with Chou Hall stakeholders. Those stakeholders included building and campus facilities, department operations, human resources, program leads, the audiovisual team, café management, the events and catering team, guests to the building, and students, staff and faculty from across campus.

We pursued a third-party certification because it provided external validity and substantiated the multipronged approach to institutionalizing policy and procedures to improve our community’s diversion rate, rather than forcing customers to change, as Lang seems to suggest. These policies and procedures include leadership, training, purchasing policy, redesign and upstream management.

And there is so much more we are doing to work toward zero waste. Pertaining to materials, reusables are prioritized, and if that is not feasible, items are required to be compostable or recyclable. From an infrastructure standpoint, there is now consistent bin signage that provides images and wording for easier sorting by all stakeholders. 

Regarding education and awareness, we table at the start of each semester to convey the nuances and importance of having a zero waste facility. This includes the “pack it in, pack it out” philosophy for all building users to recognize that if they bring in landfill materials, they need to bring them out of Chou Hall and dispose of them in the proper bins located in the courtyard. Furthermore, we promote innovation across departments to reduce waste generation — which includes the implementation of rechargeable batteries, reusable air filters, reusable foodware and more. 

We appreciate that The Daily Californian acknowledged the progress we’ve made as a community and that the campus has taken a leadership role in effecting lasting positive change. It does require a campuswide effort. We need everyone’s commitment to be a part of the solution. And to Lang, we would love to invite you to Chou Hall for the waste audit in September. We will provide the white hazard suit.

Danner Doud-Martin is a UC Berkeley Haas School of Business staff member, and Jessica Heiges is a UC Berkeley doctoral candidate.