The Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative (SBC) is a coalition of organizations that advances the introduction and use of biobased products. We seek to replace dependence on materials made from harmful fossil fuels with a new generation of materials made from plants. The shift we promote is more than a change of materials, however. A crucial component of this change is the opportunity to create products that are sustainable from cradle to cradle. We promote sustainability standards, practical tools, and effective policies to drive and shape the emerging markets for these products.
We are guided by a vision of an economy based on sustainable biomaterials. We define sustainable biomaterials as:
- sourced from sustainably grown and harvested cropland or forests;
- manufactured without hazardous inputs and impacts;
- healthy and safe for the environment during use;
- designed to be reutilized at the end of their intended use, such as via recycling or composting; and
- provide living wages and do not exploit workers or communities throughout the product lifecycle.
Our roots go back to April 2006, when representatives from businesses, NGOs, government, academia, and farmers met in Minneapolis to develop criteria and strategies for promoting the sustainability of biobased materials. This eventually led to the development of sustainability guidelines for bioplastic products as well as the creation of the SBC.
Our Steering Committee members have essential expertise in areas such as sustainable farming practices, clean production, recycling, and composting. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Clean Production Action, the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, and the American Sustainable Business Council compose the SBC’s Steering Committee.
Our Technical Advisory Committee includes experts in lifecycle impacts of biobased plastics, company sustainability strategies, commercial waste policies, procurement, retail purchasing, and green products.
To ensure that diverse perspectives are represented, we also engage with a wide range of stakeholders including green product businesses, government officials, recycling professionals, and academics, along with advocates focused on environmental health, environmental justice, and rural communities.
What We Do
The Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative (SBC) advances the introduction and use of biobased products that are sustainable from cradle to cradle. We do this by creating robust sustainability criteria, encouraging markets for these products, and promoting policy initiatives.
The SBC is unique in bringing together diverse issues, perspectives, and experts to address the full lifecycle of biomaterials. This lifecycle perspective includes:
- sustainable agriculture and rural development in the growing of crops
- clean production and green chemistry in the manufacture and use of biomaterials
- recycling, composting, and zero waste at the end of product life
Current Activities to Promote Sustainable Biobased Materials
Creating and Promoting Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Specifications for Compostable Biobased Food Service Ware
Based on our Guidelines for Sustainable Bioplastic Products, we have developed purchasing specifications, that give purchasers a roadmap for selecting environmentally preferable food service ware. We chose food service ware for the first purchasing specifications because the products are in widespread use, there is a competitive market, and large institutional purchasers are significant players. This means that there is a significant opportunity for leverage — only a few large institutions can influence the market by changing their purchasing specifications.
We have worked with our Technical Advisory Committee as well as industry leaders such as Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farm to develop and validate the specifications. The Green Purchasing Institute has developed a detailed bid document and the Sustainable Research Group has developed detailed verification criteria.
We are also setting up a conformance process that enable manufacturers to list products that meet the bronze, silver, and gold level criteria as detailed in the purchasing specifications. This is essential for purchasers to easily identify industry-leading products. Using a similar framework, we will develop purchasing specifications for other categories of biobased products.
Supporting the Transition to Sustainable Biomass Feedstocks by Expanding the Working Landscapes Certificates Program
An important goal is to create demand for biobased feedstocks that are grown and harvested sustainably. Unfortunately, resin producers cannot justify devoting entire production lines to such feedstocks because there is not enough current demand. To catalyze demand, we are promoting Working Landscape Certificates (WLCs) for buyers of bioplastic resins. Under this program, buyers continue to purchase resin from traditional feedstocks and also purchase WLCs. These are a pound-for-pound offset program that pays corn growers who agree to raise their crops using prescribed sustainability practices. For corn, this means not using GMO seed, eliminating use of carcinogenic chemicals, and employing practices that promote environmental quality. The program is currently focused on corn-based plastics, but could expand to other biobased feedstocks. The SBC works closely with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and Green Harvest Technologies to promote and expand this innovative market-based approach.
The program is now poised for major expansion. In October 2010, Stonyfield Farms, Inc., the world’s leading organic yogurt company, announced its purchase of WLCs as an integral element of its new policy of using corn-based plastic for multipack yogurt containers. Stonyfield Farms is the first major buyer of WLCs, bringing 490 additional acres of sustainable farming practices for corn production. This purchase is spawning new interest from other businesses and farmers.
Raising Awareness and Providing Policy Expertise on Sustainable Practices
We offer webinars on cutting-edge issues, speakers with expertise on technical and policy issues, and technical guidance. We have engaged with key stakeholders such as the Biodegradable Products Institute, European Bioplastics (an industry association), Vincotte (a Belgium bioproducts standards organization), NatureWorks (the largest bioresin manufacturer), many leading green businesses such as Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farms, Inc., government purchasers such as the City of San Francisco and Fort Bragg (NC), and federal agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture.
Our Core Principles
The Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative uses the following principles to guide our work. While there are significant challenges for each of these principles, taking steps in the right direction will at least start the process of systemic change.
- Reduce the amount of material, product, and packaging used
- Eliminate single-use products that can’t be recycled or composted
- Avoid fossil-fuel-based materials in favor of materials and products derived from renewable feedstocks
- Address sustainability across the lifecycle of the product: feedstock growth, manufacture of product, use of product, and reclamation of material
- Define sustainability to include issues of environment, health, and social and economic justice
- Design and use products that are reusable, recyclable or compostable
- Encourage agricultural systems that are sustainable for farmers, the environment, farm workers and communities
- Support small- to mid-sized family owned and operated farms
- Do not use genetically modified organisms in agricultural feedstock production
- Use chemicals that meet the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry
- Avoid engineered nanomaterials and chemicals that have not been tested for environmental and public health effects across the lifecycle
- Decentralize production and buy local to reduce the environmental footprint of production, transportation, and consumption.
A five-member Steering Committee is the decision-making body of the SustainableBiomaterials Collaborative. It is led by two co-coordinators and a staff coordinator.
Brenda Platt, Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)
Brenda Platt is a leader in the field of recycling, and co-director of the non-profit Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). She currently directs their Sustainable Plastics project and co-chairs the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, a coalition dedicated to spurring the introduction and use of biobased products that are sustainable from cradle to cradle. In her 25 years with ILSR, she has authored over a dozen reports on all aspects of recycling, and is known for her work in documenting recycling-based jobs and programs with the highest diversion levels. In her most recent report, “Stop Trashing the Climate,” Platt argues that aiming for zero waste is one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective strategies available for combating climate change. Platt is also a former board member of the National Recycling Coalition, the Container Recycling Institute and the GrassRoots Recycling Network. She is a member of the U.S. Composting Council and sits on its Legislative Committee. Additionally, Platt is active in the Business-NGO Working Group for Safer Chemicals and co-leads a Young Activist club in her community working to replace disposable Styrofoam lunch trays with durable, washable trays.
Jim Kleinschmit, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP)
Jim Kleinschmit directs IATP’s Rural Communities program, which focuses on strengthening the link between rural economic policy and local, democratic decision-making in order to aid communities in creating and retaining the wealth that comes from their natural and human resources. Jim grew up milking cows and learning about sustainable agriculture on his family’s farm in Nebraska. Before joining IATP in 1995, he worked in the Baltic States and Russia, where he promoted sustainable rural development. At IATP, Jim has worked on a wide array of issues, including sustainable agriculture; water quality and quantity; biofuels, bioenergy and bioplastics; climate change; and rural development strategies. He has an M.A. from the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington-Seattle, and a B.A. from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. In addition to his work at IATP and SBC, Jim is a member of several organizational boards and steering committees, including Rural Advantage and the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance.
Cathy Crumbley, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production (LCSP), University of Massachusetts Lowell
Cathy Crumbley has worked to promote more sustainable practices in industry and globally for the past 25 years. As program director, she manages the development of new projects as well as day-to-day activities of the Lowell Center. Previously, she managed the United Nations Environmental Program at Tufts University, and worked with the Coolidge Center for Environmental Leadership where she organized numerous workshops, conferences, and training programs on environmental issues and sustainable development for mid-career professionals and visiting scholars from throughout the world. She has conducted research, education, training, and communications projects at several firms and nonprofit organizations concerned with environmental and social justice issues.
David Levine, Environmental Health Fund
David is a consultant with the Environmental Health Fund, where his work is focused on building broad efforts around chemicals policy, environmental health, and sustainable solutions particularly through green chemistry and sustainable materials. In particular, he is building strategic partnerships and broad stakeholders initiatives to enable a shift towards an equitable and sustainable economy. Levine has over 25 years of experience as a social entrepreneur and nonprofit executive. His work has encompassed social enterprise start-ups, community and organizational development, popular education and workforce development, facilitation, and the catalyzing and building of collaborations across issue areas with a strong focus on sustainability. He sits on the steering committees of the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, Maine Bioplastics Initiative, NYC Apollo Alliance, and the American Sustainable Business Council.
Mark Rossi, Clean Production Action (CPA)
Dr. Mark Rossi is the Research Director for Clean Production Action, an environmental group that promotes the development and use of green chemicals, sustainable materials, and environmentally preferable products. Dr. Rossi is the co-author of two tools that promote safer substitutes in products: the Green Screen for Safer Chemicals and the Plastics Scorecard. His other projects include chairing the Business-NGO Working Group, a collaboration of over 30 businesses and 20 environmental groups promoting green chemistry and healthy materials; and greening hospital purchasing through Health Care Without Harm and the Global Health and Safety Initiative. Dr. Rossi serves on the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act Advisory Committee and is a Research Fellow at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production. His doctorate is in environmental policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Technical Advisory Committee consists of 15 members with varying expertise and backgrounds. The committee was formed to analyze and review the comments received on the BioSpecs for Food Service Ware. The membership includes NGOs, academia, local government, and retailers.
Clinton S. Boyd, Sustainable Research Group (SRG)
Clinton S. Boyd, PhD, is the Senior Scientist of the Sustainable Research Group, a consulting firm that provides sustainability research, marketing, project design and management services that advance an organization’s integration of sustainable development principles into its business model. He has a PhD in Biochemistry from Rhodes University, South Africa. Dr. Boyd has worked in academia as a research biochemist studying the pharmacological and toxicological effects of chemicals and other environmental factors on neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. His research led him to the conclusion that health-based outcomes should form the foundation and be the driver for a sustainable future.
Dr. Boyd now applies Design for the Environment, industrial ecology, industrial biotechnology, life cycle analysis, green (sustainable) chemistry, and biochemistry to enhance the design, development and use of chemicals, materials and processes that have reduced impact on human and ecosystem health. Dr. Boyd is a member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the Chair of the Environmental Health Indicators Work Group of the Greater Grand Rapids Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, and sits on the Green Chemistry Roundtable that advises the State of Michigan on its Green Chemistry Support Program. Dr Boyd is also the Chair of the Integration Work Group for the “Greener Chemical Products and Processes Standard” currently under development by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and NSF International. He has also provided critical technical review of (1) the NGO Priority List of Substances of Very High Concern developed by the International Chemical Secretariat for the EU REACH chemicals legislation; and (2) the NSF Protocol P352-Validation and Verification of Eco-Efficiency Analyses. Dr. Boyd serves in an advisory capacity for a number of initiatives addressing biobased products, green chemistry and chemicals policy.
Dr. Joseph Green, California State University (CSU) — Chico
Dr. Joe Greene is a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Mechatronic Engineering and Manufacturing Technology Department at CSU, Chico. He received a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 1993 from the University of Michigan. Dr. Green began teaching in August of 1998 after a 14-year career with General Motors Corporation in Detroit, Michigan. His research interests include compostable and biodegradable polymers, recycled plastics, composting technology, anaerobic digestion, and biodiesel technology.
Lee Kane, Whole Foods
Lee Kane spent nearly twenty-five years working in health care and hospital administration in the Boston area, until he “career-hopped” into the natural products industry with Whole Foods Market in 1996. He was particularly drawn to Whole Foods by the company’s Core Values, especially Core Value #5: “Caring for our communities and the environment”. After spending 6 years on the operations side, as a Store Team Leader in several locations, Lee took on the brand new role of EcoCzar for the North Atlantic Region. As such, he is responsible for creating, implementing and overseeing all programs and initiatives which fall under the umbrella of Whole Foods’ “Green Mission.” These include forming “green teams” in every location, and helping them to establish composting, recycling, and source reduction initiatives, overseeing energy and resource conservation programs, consulting with Construction and Marketing teams, and new team member training and development. Lee also works closely with Whole Foods’ Global Green Mission Task Force on such initiatives as sustainable packaging, biofuels, “green” cleaning products and practices, and renewable energy.
Tom Lent, Healthy Building Network (HBN)
Tom Lent is Policy Director for the Healthy Building Network (HBN), a national network of design professionals, environmental health specialists and activists working together to advance the use of building materials that are safer for human health and the environment throughout their life cycle. Tom has spent over 30 years working on the environmental impact of buildings, materials, and energy in both the private sector and with public interest groups. Tom helped coordinate development of the Green Guidelines for Health Care (GGHC), the US Green Building Council’s LEED for Healthcare and the Sustainable Bioplastic Guidelines and has co-authored a wide range of studies of the comparative health and environmental impact of floorings, plastics and other building materials. Tom currently oversees the development of the rating framework for the Healthy Building Network’s Pharos Project, which evaluates building materials on a range of health and environmental criteria. Tom has been honored with the Environmental Award for Outstanding Achievement by Region 9 of the US Environmental Protection Agency for his work to bring health concerns into green buildings.
Jack Macy, City of San Francisco
Jack Macy has 24 years experience in developing and implementing composting, recycling and waste management policy and programs at the state and local level on the east and west coasts. Jack is currently the Commercial Zero Waste Coordinator for the City and County of San Francisco in their Department of the Environment. Prior to this position, he was the City’s Organics Recycling Coordinator where he helped initiate, develop and implement the US’s first large-scale urban commercial and residential food composting program. He continues to take the City lead in evaluating and developing new organics technologies as well as working on local and state policy issues regarding organics issues. He is also on the Board of the California Organics Recycling Council, working on state policy and education efforts.
Jack helped establish San Francisco’s policy goals of 75% diversion by 2010 and zero waste to landfill by 2020. San Francisco has documented with the state a 77% diversion rate for 2008. He also helped develop and implement local legislation requiring compostable and recyclable food service ware and banning the use of supermarket plastic carryout bags replaced by reusable, compostable or recycled content paper. He wrote and helped pass a landmark Mandatory Recycling and Composting legislation that requires everyone in San Francisco to separate recyclables and compostables from trash to landfill. Prior to his work in San Francisco, he developed and directed a composting program for the state of Massachusetts that created and achieved compliance with a statewide landfill ban on yard trimmings.
Dr. Ramani Narayan, Michigan State University
Ramani Narayan, is University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University—the highest honor bestowed by the University. Dr. Narayan has 130 referenced publications in leading journals to his credit, 25 issued patents, edited three books and one expert dossier in the area of bio-based polymeric materials. His research encompasses design & engineering of sustainable, bio-based products, biodegradable plastics and polymers, biofiber reinforced composites, reactive extrusion polymerization and processing, studies in plastic end-of-life options like biodegradation and composting. His research involves developing carbon and environmental footprint of bio-based and biodegradable plastics and products using biocarbon content analysis (ASTM D6866) and LCA (life cycle assessment) methodology respectively. He has won several awards and is a successful entrepreneur having been responsible for commercializing several notable technologies.
Julia Olmstead, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Julia Olmstead joined IATP as a Senior Program Associate in the Rural Communities program in February 2009. Her work focuses primarily on biofuels and the bioeconomy. Julia has spent much of the last ten years working both domestically and internationally on issues related to sustainable agriculture and the bioeconomy as a journalist and scientist, as well as in industry. Her writing on agriculture and biofuels has appeared in magazines and newspapers nationwide including the Los Angeles Times, Des Moines Register, and Smithsonian Magazine. Julia was formerly a graduate fellow with the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, and is a member of that organization’s Prairie Writers Circle. She has an M.J. from the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, an M.S. in plant breeding and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Tom Wright, Sustainable Bizness Practices (SBP)
Tom Wright is a business and food service industry consultant and founder of Sustainable Bizness Practices. His client list includes Whole Foods, Calistoga, Tazo, Crystal Gyser and Knedsen. A fourth generation Californian, he began in the US natural and organic foods industry in 1973, with a small seed company in San Francisco. The company supplied edible sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the first US makers of trail mixes and granolas.He has a B.A. in Economics from Revelle College, University of California San Diego, and an M.A. in Holistic Studies (Ecological Economics) from John F. Kennedy University. Mr. Wright’s interest in ecology and systems thinking began with a chance meeting and lecture by R. Buckminster Fuller when he was 11. For 28 years, Mr. Wright worked as a national brand and sales manager to several companies in the natural and specialty channels of food and beverage: Arrowhead Mills, R.W. Knudsen’s, Crystal Geyser Water Co., Seventh Generation, and the Perrier Group.
After being trained in The Natural Step (1996), Mr. Wright created SustainableBizness.com in 2000. In 2002 Whole Foods Markets engaged him to develop several “green” programs. The “Green Mission” brand was trademarked. The first project was on-site solar development in three Southern Californian stores. He organized the collaboration between WRI and Whole Foods that created the largest private wind REC purchase at that time (2005). Anther project involved both ‘trash audits’ and waste reduction programs, including establishing seven regional industrial scale compost systems. He spearheaded the plan to promote reusable bags, and get rid of cheap flimsy plastic shopping bags. Current projects include a responsible packaging initiative, a non-gmo supply chain initiative, green accounting including carbon and ecological footprints, and several eco-literacy programs for leadership. In 2004 Mr. Wright began producing the bi-annual “Responsible Packaging” forums and awards for the North American organics foods industry.
Susan Kinsella, Green Purchasing Institute
Susan is a national and international expert in recycled and environmental paper issues as well as the recycling system. Susan has more than 25 years of specialized experience in recycled product, source reduction, and EPP policy and program implementation, helping to lay much of the groundwork for state and national EPP programs. She participated as a central, key advisor in national debates on recycled content definitions, standards, labeling and content requirements that led to the Federal Executive Order requiring federal agency purchases of recycled content products, as well as the subsequent nationwide adoption of consistent standards by most state and local governments. She also co-authored the Single Stream Recycling Best Practices Manual and has written extensively about the impact of collection systems on recycled product manufacturing.
Susan began her recycling work as Director of Research and Communications at Conservatree, the company that developed the recycled paper markets in North America. After the paper company closed, she converted its advocacy and education missions to a nonprofit Conservatree focused on procurement tools and organizing strategies, and using corporate and government purchasing policies to leverage change in paper production processes. She founded the Environmental Paper Network, a global collaboration of environmental groups that work to convert paper production processes to environmentally sustainable systems, and led the Californians Against Waste statewide Buy Recycled Campaign. She also designed recycled product purchasing and federal Executive Order policy implementation programs for U.S. Naval Station bases in Honolulu and San Diego, which won a White House Closing the Circle Award and the top Department of Defense Environmental Security Award (co-project with Earth Circle).
Susan has also led workshops, trainings and extensive research into a wide range of non-paper products, including automotive and transportation, building and construction, office equipment and furnishings, food service, institutional tissue and paper, landscaping and outdoors materials, maintenance, office products, packaging and shipping, toner cartridges and rechargeable batteries, as well as developed model EPP policies for a number of local governments. She holds a B.Sc. from Purdue University in Psychology and Sociology, and a M.A. in Speech and Communications, with a specialty in Diffusion of Innovations, from San Francisco State University, where she also taught public speaking and group dynamics.
Josephine Miller, City of Santa Monica
Josephine Miller serves as an Environmental Programs Analyst for the City of Santa Monica, Office of Sustainability and the Environment. Her work includes the development, implementation and evaluation of the award winning Non-Recyclable Plastic Disposable Food Service Container Ban, the development of Sustainable Food policy, zero waste pilot programs and the proposed Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance. Josephine is a member of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce Environmental Affairs Committee, the City of Santa Monica Economic Development Division Buy Local Steering Committee, judge for the Sustainable Quality Awards, and serves as City staff for the Task Force on the Environment. Previously, Josephine worked with the Sierra Club Productions, Canyon Bridge Productions and the City’s Human Services Department. Josephine is a California Resource Recovery Association Certified Resource Management Professional and lectures locally and nationally on Sustainable Packaging.
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