Course Overview: The Zero Waste Associates (ZWA) course teaches participants how to use the Zero Waste USA tools for Zero Waste planning for businesses, institutions, and communities. The ZWA Course is divided into five classes. The first four classes are three hours each and include instruction and discussion. The last class is when the participants present their group projects to their peers, instructors, and Zero Waste USA advisors. The last class is four hours long. All course information, including the assignments, files, links, exam, and evaluation, are housed on Canvas. 

Class Description:

  • Introduction to Zero Waste Planning Part 1. Three-hour class includes instruction on Zero Waste Principles, eight steps to becoming Zero Waste, and Zero Waste Community planning.  
  • Introduction to Zero Waste Planning Part 2. Three-hour class includes instruction on Zero Waste Business and Institution planning, Zero Waste engagement, and Zero Waste recognition and certification programs. 
  • Zero Waste Planning Tools Part 1. Three-hour class about the Zero Waste Community planning tools, material characterization studies, and Zero Waste business and institution tools. This class outlines the planning tools participants will use in their projects, describes how Zero Waste is measured and includes guest speakers.
  • Zero Waste Planning Tools Part 2. Three-hour class about the U.S. EPA tools used in Zero Waste planning and advanced tools for Zero Waste planning. This class brings all the classes together with a wrap-up of everything taught. The last 30 minutes of the class will be for the groups to begin working on their group Zero Waste planning project. 
  • Zero Waste Planning Presentation. Four-hour class (time depends on the number of participants) where participants present their class projects to fellow participants, instructors, and Zero Waste USA Advisors.

Prerequisite: Participants registered for the Zero Waste Associates course that have not taken Zero Waste USA’s Introduction to Zero Waste class must watch a recorded version and complete a quiz. 

Class Requirements: Participants must attend all classes, complete assignments, participate in and present a group project, and use and submit Zero Waste USA tools. Participants must also pass the examination with an 80% or higher and complete the evaluation. Assignments include 2-5 hours a week of watching videos, reading, and completing the Zero Waste USA tools. 

Group Planning Project: Participants will work together for four weeks in groups of 2, 3, or 4 and use the Zero Waste USA planning tools to create a Zero Waste plan for a business, institution, or community. Each group is assigned a mentor to guide the group in the planning process. The goal is to use the tools and information presented in the course to produce a Zero Waste plan. The final project is a PowerPoint presentation. Participants must work as a team on this project, and every student must present a section of the project. Group planning projects are presented to fellow participants, instructors, mentors, and Zero Waste USA advisors during the Zero Waste Planning Presentation class.

Class Goal and Outcome: This course is designed for Zero Waste professionals who want to advance their knowledge and expertise in Zero Waste planning. Participants will gain knowledge and experience using Zero Waste USA planning tools and be prepared to work with their municipality, business, or institution on Zero Waste. In addition, participants who complete this course will be certified as a Zero Waste Associate by Zero Waste USA.  

Cost: $350. Zero Waste USA Affiliates – $300. Group discounts are available.

2024 Schedule:



Time (Pacific Time)


Registration Link


  • 2/29/2024
  • 3/07/2024
  • 3/21/2024
  • 3/28/2024
  • 4/25/2024

10 am – 1 pm
(each class)

Ruth Abbe,
Chrise de Tournay,
and Amanda Waddle.
Plus, guest speakers.

Click here to register!

Questions: Email Amanda Waddle

Featured Image Photo Credit: Zen Chung