Composting at USGBC | U.S. Green Building Council
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Published on
Written by
Posted in LEED
Published on
Written by
Posted in LEED

Here at USGBC headquarters we have three streams for waste: 

  1. Waste (landfill)
  2. Recyclable materials
  3. Compostable materials 

Learn more about solid waste management requirements in LEED.

After a recent quarterly waste audit, we discovered that our diversion rate for compost dropped from previous quarters. This indicated that staff and guests were placing materials in the waste stream that should actually go in the compost stream.

This is an easy error because there's a lot of confusion about what is actually compostable. It used to be that the rule for composting was, "If it grows, it goes."

This is still accurate, but we've been able to open up the scope of what’s acceptable in the compost stream, and we're now able to include some other things as well. This new compost capacity includes meat, dairy, paper towels, napkins and tissues.

Making improvements

Here are some of the steps we're taking around the office to increase our diversion rate and improve education about what the compost stream can accept. 

  • We are increasing signage with photos at all of trash/recycling/compost bins (in the kitchen) to increase awareness in an effort to better educate staff and guests about what materials go into each bin.
  • We are ensuring sufficient trash, recycling, and composting bins with clear signage, for guests of onsite conferences, large meetings, events, or trainings.
  • We are working on a plan to educate meeting attendees, at the beginning of each meeting, about our composting and recycling program.

What's ok to compost?

Are you confused about what you can compost? Here's a quick reminder.

  • Fruits, veggies, food scraps
  • Meat and dairy
  • Paper and mesh tea bags
  • Soiled paper towels, napkins and tissues
  • Compostable cups and crush compostable paper cups
  • Wooden stir sticks for coffee/tea 

Last minute tips

Food is often left on plates and put into the dishwasher which causes the dishwashers to break. If we put scraps into the compost bin, we can minimize maintenance and repairs on our dishwashers and increase our composting capacity.

At USGBC we love our coffee, and most days our compostable coffee cups end up in the trash bins. If you make sure to place your compostable coffee cup into the compost bin, it's an easy way to bump up our composting score on the LEED Dynamic Plaque and lessen what goes to landfill.

Have any thoughts or questions? Email Melanie, our manager of facilities.

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Total 5 commentsLeave a comment

I work in a LEED Platinum building in Washington dc (400 7th street, SW). We have both trash and "mixed" bins. Unfortunately, we have no explanations as to what does and does not go into the "mixed" bins. We also have no food waste collection for composting. I'm wondering if LEED Platinum buildings need to meet any composting standard initially and in the post construction management of the facility? I'm also wondering who in the building complex I should reach out to to learn about how the building management is maintaining its certification? Thx.
Project Manager, JLL
I'd like to see a life cycle environmental impact analysis of compostable coffee cups vs. resuing a ceramic or stainless steel mug.
Digital Marketing Manager, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Kathryn, thanks for your comment! I just found an interesting case study from Stanford that addresses this topic. You can also check out these other LCA stats.
This is the basic of good environment. But we are not implementing in real life. Strict law should be there to save our earth. We have to create proper stream line from beginning of compostable material - earth warms - composting environment - compost - subsidized compost for farmers. We have to change our thought from Solid waste management to Compost Management.. Thank you, Kinjal Shroff M.E. (Environmental Mgt.)
Inventor - LED Lighting, EV Battery, Thorium Energy, M-Lite Solution LLC
"Be the change you wish to see reflected in the world." Mahatma Gandhi A compost bin, can be part of that change :)

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