Climate Action Plans
Climate Action Plans are the heart of a community's commitment to meeting GHG emissions reduction target. They reflect a jurisdiction's commitment to taking a series of steps and actions to reduce GHG emissions. A materials management approach broadens the menu of emission reduction options and can account for significant emissions reduction opportunities. In addition to expanding recycling and composting programs, jurisdictions can adopt upstream measures like green procurement policies and innovative source reduction programs.

Actions to reduce GHGs by materials management are first organized according to the pollution prevention or "waste" hierarchy of reduce - reuse - recycle/compost - dispose. The most common actions involve recycling and composting strategies. However, actions that achieve source reduction often have the most significant potential for reducing GHGs. Following the "waste management" hierarchy, several actions related to a broader materials management framework are provided. This page concludes with several Example Climate Action Plans that include material management.

We want to hear from you. Let us know if you have model actions or good example Climate Action Plans that should be included in this section.


Using a materials management approach provides the opportunity to:
  • Highlight and quantify the climate protection benefits of materials and solid waste management policies and programs already underway.
  • Achieve faster and cheaper progress in reducing GHG. When implemented, these policies and programs often immediately include most households (or businesses), and are often more directly under the control of communities and jurisdictions than other GHG reduction strategies.
  • Increase the range of opportunities to achieve GHG reductions.

Zero Waste

Some jurisdictions have adopted zero waste goals that are intended to help drive the recovery of all materials within a certain timeframe. The Zero Waste International Alliance,, has developed this approach to zero waste:

* Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.
* Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.
* Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

Actions to Reduce GHGs

Pay As You Throw

In communities with pay-as-you-throw programs (also known as unit pricing or variable rate pricing), residents are charged for the collection of trash based on the amount they throw away. This creates a direct economic incnetive to recycle more and to generate less waste. Common in the West Coast but less common in some other areas, pay-as-you-throw is simple and fair: the less individuals throw away, the less they pay. As a cross-cutting measure that encourages both waste prevention and recovery (recycling, composting), pay-as-you-throw can reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the life cycle of materials.

Source Reduction Actions

Source reduction actions offer significant GHG emission reductions because emissions from all lifecycle phases are avoided. Some jurisdictions are implementing source reduction actions by shifting and reducing specific areas of consumption. A common theme in these approaches is to set an overall target to reduce total community waste generation. From this target flows a variety of actions that will be implemented to help achieve the target.

Source reduction is a concept that can be advanced in many different ways. Here are a few examples, although there are many other possibilities:
  • Fostering Better Consumption Choices (Portland, pp 47-48 CAP Case 1)
    • Partner with organizations to encourage businesses and residents to purchase durable, repairable and reusable goods
    • Reduce the amount of materials that go to waste, including food
    • Reduce consumption of carbon-intensive consumer goods and services
    • Source reduction in green building programs (DEQ Green Building Program)
  • Statutory Waste Generation Goals
    • Achieve statutory waste generation (prevention) goals (State of Oregon 2004, pg 105 CAP Case 2)
  • Expansion of Source Reduction
    • Reduce household and business waste amount by encouraging product stewardship programs, using environmentally preferable procurement practices, and encouraging cradle-to-cradle design and manufacturing (State of Washington, page 68,
    • Technical assistance to help businesses prevent packaging waste (Oregon DEQ website and evaluation report)
    • Reduce (prevent) waste of food at the retail and consumer levels (State of Oregon 2010, CAP Case 2)
    • Create or advocate for a "do-not-mail" registry (unwanted mail) (State of Oregon 2010, CAP Case 2)

Recycling and Composting Actions

Recycling reduces CO2 emissions by avoiding the energy used during the extraction and processing of virgin raw materials to manufacture new products. Also, reducing landfill disposal, especially organics diversion, reduces the amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, released into the atmosphere.

Many jurisdictions have existing recycling programs, and use WARM to calculate the GHG reduction benefits. Jurisdictions are also expanding residential and commercial recycling policies and programs to capture even more benefits. The examples below illustrate these efforts.

  • Residential Recycling and Composting
    • Curbside recycling (San Francisco, p 4-16, CAP Case 4)
    • Curbside greenwaste (San Francisco, p 4-16, CAP Case 4)
    • Curbside food waste (San Francisco, p 4-16, CAP Case 4)
    • Weekly curbside food waste and less frequent collection of garbage (see report"Beyond Recycling: Composting Food Scraps and Soiled Paper")
    • Require recycling collection to be at least as frequent and convenient as garbage collection (Oregon Interim Roadmap (2010), CAP Case 2)
    • Pay As You Throw, (Ft Collins, p CAP Case 5)
    • Multifamily homes collection, (StopWaste MultiFamilyHomesRecyclingGuidelines.pdf)
    • Priority materials recovery, (Ft Collins, p 17, CAP Case 5 )

  • Construction and Demolition Debris Reuse and Recycling
    • Develop or expand C&D recycling (see ordinance examples)
    • Expand/incentivize infrastructure for salvaged building materials, use of salvaged materials (Oregon Interim Roadmap (2010), CAP Case 2)

Disposal Actions

  • Reduce frequency of garbage collection (Portland CAP Case 1)
  • Landfill design, operation, and closure: see Technologies and Management Practices for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Landfills. This report, prepared for the California Integrated Waste Management Board, summarizes a large number of landfill practices that offer the potential to reduce methane emissions, including:
    • Horizontal collectors or surface collectors
    • Tighter spacking of landfill gas wells
    • Mixed horizontal and vertical well systems
    • Connection of gas collection system to leachate collection and removal system
    • Deep multi-depth vertical wells
    • Larger borehole and well diameters
    • Enhanced seals on landfill gas wells and boreholes
    • Dewatering of gas wells
    • Other best practices for gas system piping
    • Barometric control of landfill gas system
    • Redundant flare station equipment to reduce downtime
    • Maximize capacity of gas mover equipment and gas control equipment
    • Enhanced maintenance
    • Early installation of landfill gas sytems
    • Landfill gas master planning, and design for closure and post-closure
    • Enhanced monitoring of surface emissions and gas migration
    • Timely coverage of the leachate collection and removal layer
    • Blockage of permeable layer within the landfill
    • Deeper landfills
    • Designing covers for landfill gas collection
    • Limit delays on final cover systems
    • Modify, limit, or remove intermediate cover systems
    • Design landfill gas systems to recirculate leachate
    • Bioreactor landfills
    • Biocovers to increase methane oxidation in the landfill cover
    • Bale waste prior to disposal
  • The California Air Resource Board's Landfill Methane Control Measure webpageprovides additional information on landfill methane controls.
  • Alternative Daily Cover Options - limit use of recyclables

Other Materials Management Actions

  • Product Stewardship
    • Focus product stewardship on upstream emissions and design for appropriate durability, repairability, reusability, efficiency, and recovery (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)
    • Expand product stewardship focusing on end-of-life management to cover additional materials; including life cycle GHG emissions as a primary product selection criteria (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)

  • Carbon Footprinting
    • Establish standards, incentives and/or mandates for carbon footprinting, labeling of products (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)
    • Create/require a carbon footpring score for buildings, including materials (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)

  • Information Development
    • Identify high-carbon product categories (via a consumption-based GHG inventory) (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)
    • Develop and disseminate information: easy-to-use life cycle metrics for different food types (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)
    • Provide information and outreach to consumers on product GHG impacts and opportunities to reduce those impacts (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)

  • Green Procurement
    • Initiate state and local government low-carbon purchasing requirements, including buildings (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)

  • Green Building
    • See "Construction and Demolition Debris Recycling", above
    • Establish higher standards for new buildings: "net zero" carbon including offset for materials life-cycle emissions (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)
    • Create/require a carbon footprint score for buildings, including materials (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)
    • Encourage/incent changes in urban form (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)
    • Change code: larger homes must also be more energy efficient (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)
    • Expand existing energy efficiency review requirements for public buildings to include evaluation of materials-related impacts (Oregon Interim Roadmap, CAP Case 2)

Example Climate Action Plans

Every Climate Protection Plan responds to a jurisdiction's unique circumstances including resources, infrastructure, expertise, geography, and demographics. The actions included in the plans below give a partial list of policies and programs in the specific jurisdiction's plan.

CAP Case 1 - Portland/Multnomah County "City of Portland/Multnomah County Climate Action Plan 2009"
  • Fostering better consumption choices and reduce solid waste generated by 25 percent
    • Encourage purchase of durable, repairable and reusable goods
    • Reduce amount of materials that go to waste
    • Reduce consumption of carbon-intensive consumer goods and services
  • Recover 90 percent of all waste generated
    • Implement mandatory commercial food waste collection and begin residential food waste collection
    • Technical assistance to 1,000 businesses for paper, metal and glass recycling
  • Reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of the waste collection system by 40 percent
    • Weekly food and compostable pickup
    • Landfill garbage collection every other week
    • Particulate filters added to pre-2007 waste collection vehicles
CAP Case 2 - Oregon State "Oregon Strategy for Greenhouse Gas Reductions 2004" and Oregon Global Warming Commission "Interim Roadmap to 2020" (2010)
  • Develop and disseminate information on product life cycle GHG emissions
  • Develop standards, incentives, and/or mandates for carbon footprinting and/or labeling of products
  • Focus product stewardship on upstream emissions and design for appropriate durability, repairability, reusability, efficiency, and recovery
  • Simultaneously expand product stewardship focusing on end‐of‐life management to cover additional materials; include life cycle GHG emissions as a primary product selection criteria
  • Create or advocate for a "do not mail" registry
  • Establish higher standards for new buildings: "net zero" plus offset for materials
  • Change building code: larger houses must also be more efficient (incentives for energy efficiency + smaller houses)
  • Achieve statutory waste generation and recovery goals: 50% recovery, no increase in total waste generation
  • Provide incentives to increase salvage of reusable building materials
  • Increase Bottle Bill redemption

CAP Case 3 - Washington State "Washington State Department of Ecology and Washington Community, Trade, and Economic Development, Comprehensive Plan 2008"
  • Enhance the collection of recyclable material
  • Market development for diverted organics
  • Environmentally preferable purchasing programs in government
  • Team with retailers to reduce consumer waste
  • Develop product stewardship framework

CAP Case 4 - San Francisco "Climate Action Plan for San Francisco: Local Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 2004"
  • Increase residential recycling and composting
    • Services to multi-unit buildings (6 units or more)
    • New materials to residential diversion programs
    • Policies for mandatory participation
    • Strategies for low-cost housing
  • Increase commercial recycling and composting
    • Targeted diversion increase
    • Develop markets, add materials and promote buying recycling
    • Incentives for increased participation
  • Construction and Demolition Debris Recycling
    • Expand materials recovery facility capacity for C & D diversion
    • Develop new markets for C & D waste, e.g., sheetrock
    • Policies for mandatory participation
  • Alternate Collection Methods
    • Provide technical assistance and financial support to organizations, like community recycling and collection centers, to increase waste prevention, reuse, recycling and composting diversion.
  • Expand construction and demolition debris recycling
  • Support alternate collection methods for recyclable materials
  • Promote source reduction, reuse and other waste reduction

CAP Case 5 - Fort Collins "City of Fort Collins Climate Action Plan, 2008"
  • 50% diversion goal
    • Target specific materials including electronics, cardboard, paper and glass
    • Yard waste collection
    • Enhanced PAYT
    • Commercial recycling co-ops

CAP Case 6 - Hayward "City of Hayward Climate Action Plan"

CAP Case 7 - Alameda County "StopWaste Climate Action Plan Template"

CAP Case 8 - Kansas City "Climate Protection Plan"

CAP Case 9 - Apple Valley, CA "Town of Apple Valley Climate Action Plan"

CAP Case 10 - City of Eugene "A Community Climate and Energy Action Plan for Eugene"