Zero Waste Certification: What Does It Mean?

4 minute read

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It’s easy for corporations to use words like “zero waste.” However, the term has different meanings to different organizations.

ECOS achieved TRUE Platinum Zero Waste Certification in 2015 after diverting over 95% of its waste.

Then, in 2021, we became the first manufacturer in the United States to achieve LEED Zero Carbon, LEED Zero Energy, and LEED Zero Waste certification.

Today, we’re explaining what zero waste means and how zero waste certification works.

What is Zero Waste?

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance (, zero waste is the goal of changing lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials become resources for others to use.

In a perfect world, “zero waste” means an organization produces no “waste,” or junk that ends up in a landfill. The company makes products, and then it reuses or recycles anything leftover after creating the product – like extra materials.

Instead of waste ending up in a landfill or incinerator, it’s recycled into the environment or back into the market for others to use.

The ultimate goal of zero waste, per the ZWIA, is to eliminate waste sent to land, water, or air that would normally threaten planetary, human, animal, or plant health.

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How LEED Zero Certification Works

Green Business Certification Inc (GBCI) is a leader in certifying green businesses. Today, the organization certifies green businesses around the world, and they’re particularly known for their LEED Zero certifications like:

  • LEED Zero Carbon
  • LEED Zero Energy
  • LEED Zero Water
  • LEED Zero Waste

ECOS was the first manufacturer in the country to achieve LEED Zero Carbon, LEED Zero Energy, and LEED Zero Waste status in 2021.

To achieve these certifications, the GBCI verified ECOS emitted net zero carbon emissions and net zero source energy use over a 12-month period. We also needed to meet strict TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification standards.

How TRUE Platinum Zero Waste Certification Works

ECOS achieved TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification in 2015. Like LEED, TRUE is operated by the GBCI. The GBCI certifies a company has met certain standards, then awards them with TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification.

To achieve LEED Zero Waste certification, a company must have buildings that achieve the GBCI’s TRUE certification at the Platinum level.

To achieve TRUE certification at the Platinum level, businesses must take steps towards:

  • Supporting public health and ecosystems
  • Cutting their ecological footprint
  • Advancing a green economy

ECOS Worker at Manufacturing Facility

Minimum Program Requirements for TRUE Platinum Zero Waste Certification

To achieve TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification, an organization must meet the following minimum program requirements:

  • The organization must have a zero waste policy in place.
  • The organization must have an average overall diversion rate from landfill, incineration, and the environment of 90% or more over the last 12 months. Materials are considered “diverted” when they’re reduced, reused, recycled, composted, and/or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy.
  • The organization must meet all local solid waste and recycling laws and regulations.
  • The organization must have data documenting a base year of waste diversion data, including measurements adjusting for changes in the size, type, and nature of the business over time.
  • The organization cannot exceed a 10% contamination level for any materials leaving the site.
  • The organization must submit 12 months of waste diversion data to the GBCI each year to keep its TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification current.
  • The organization must submit a case study of zero waste initiatives.

Zero Waste Certification Levels

The GBCI has different certification levels, with “Certified” being the lowest and “Platinum” being the highest.

If an organization believes it has met the requirements above, then the GBCI will assess the organization’s claim and rank each organization on a scale of 31 to 81 points. The more points the organization receives, the better:

  • Certified (31 to 37 Points)
  • Silver (38 to 45 Points)
  • Gold (36 to 63 Points)
  • Platinum (64 to 81 Points)
Final Word: Zero Waste Certification is a Big Deal

Zero waste certification is not just a badge of honor; it represents a commitment to environmental stewardship, sustainable practices, and the protection of our planet’s resources. It signifies that an organization has taken concrete steps towards reducing its ecological footprint, supporting public health, and advancing the green economy.

By recognizing the importance of zero waste certification and supporting organizations that have achieved it, we encourage a shift towards more sustainable practices and contribute to a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for generations to come.