5 Hours

Your mission:

Map out how your community could create a zero waste compost system.


Nature creates waste – trees shed their leaves, animals leave their traces – but in nature, all waste gets used by another part of the system. As we look for ways to live more in harmony with nature, we can try to emulate how nature works. In many homes, when we’re done eating we throw everything in the same trash can – paper plates, plastic cups, plastic forks, leftover food – and it all goes to a landfill. When food decays in a landfill, it decays into methane (because there is a lack of oxygen) – which is a greenhouse gas 4 times as potent as carbon dioxide! What if, instead, we put the leftover food and anything else compostable into a compost bin and returned it to the soil? Then we could recycle the plastics a bit easier too because they wouldn’t be stuck in a messy pile of mixed waste.

What you need to know:

One major component of zero waste is separating out and recovering food waste, i.e. composting. Not only does composting reduce how much goes to landfill, but it also provides local jobs, a healthier environment, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. In a zero waste community, restaurants, grocery stores, composting companies and gardeners can work together to reduce food waste, build-up healthy soil, grow food, and feed their communities. A bonus is that it makes recycling plastics, paper, and other materials cleaner and easier. 

What to do:
  1. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is a leader in creating sustainable models for zero waste programs around the world. Start by going to GAIA’s Zero Waste World website. Feel free to explore all the case studies, but for this Waymark we will focus on the one from Canada/USA (CERO), highlighting a community in Boston, Massachusetts. Read through the photo story. 
  2. Review the example system map below to solidify your understanding of the relationships in the network.
  3. Create YOUR OWN diagram to map out how your community could imitate this case study. You can use existing businesses and organizations in your community, or create imaginary ones to complete your map. You can draw it out on paper or create it on a computer.
  4. Your map should include:
    • Add 2-3 applicable zero waste facts from this fact sheet, or another credible source to make your system map more informative.
    • At least 3 businesses, organizations, or groups who are part of the system (real or imaginary)
    • Arrows that connect the different parts of the system with explanations of their relationships
    • Any additional information  that helps clarify the system and the benefits provided (you can use this Zero Waste Fact Sheet).
  5.  Upload your map (or picture of it) below to earn credit for your contribution to your community.
What to watch out for:

Every city or community around the world is different. Take some time to really think about the people who live in your community. What unique cultural aspects do you need to consider?

  • Do some research on the businesses and organizations in your community before starting your map. 
  • If there is already composting going on in your area, think about how this system could be improved, expanded, or made more accessible to residents. Talk with the people running to the compost systems to learn more about their operation.
  • Think outside the box. Are there any parts of your community that are unique, or different from the Boston example, that would benefit from being a part of a zero waste composting network?
Track Your Contribution To Solving Plastic Pollution:

Submit 5 Action Hours for approval: Complete the form below.  

Go above and beyond and earn an extra 2 hours: Contact a government official or one of the businesses in your system map by email or phone. Let them know the benefits of zero waste and share your composting map with them so they can put it into action. If they are already taking steps towards zero waste, let them know how much you support them.



This Action was created in collaboration with GAIA.

Cover image photo credit: Sigmund on Unsplash.


Where to next?

Explore the lessons and actions that build off this one to continue on your journey to address the plastic problem!


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