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Guest Speaker: Ruth Abbe

Ruth Abbe, the president of Zero Waste USA, the U.S. national affiliate of the Zero Waste International Alliance, visited  O’Dowd earlier this month to participate in the Sustainability Guest Speaker Series.


A Zero Waste practitioner with more than 25 years of experience in recycling and composting program and facility development, Ruth focused her discussion on defining waste, its environmental consequences and emerging prevention methods. She explored these important topics with students, demonstrating the many ways in which a young generation can make active change in their community. Ruth was an inspiring speaker, encouraging students to see a future in zero waste both local and beyond.


As the principal of Abbe & Associates LLC, Ruth is currently working with municipalities across the U.S. to develop the social and physical infrastructure to achieve Zero Waste. In her home city of Alameda, she is a grassroots leader with Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA). Ruth has also assisted in the development of the U.S. EPA’s new online planning tool Managing and Transforming Waste Streams, identifying over 100 policies and programs to reduce the amount of waste disposed in landfills and promote waste prevention and materials reuse across waste generation sectors.



This particular speaker series event explored the Zero Waste philosophy. Ruth provided an overview on the different forms of waste and its effect on the environment. She focused on plastics, in particular, showing students their pervasiveness and detrimental effect on waterways. The Zero Waste concept of “Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” was also explored in depth. Students were encouraged to rethink their current consumptive lifestyle habits and take smalls steps to make a difference. Ruth’s discussion also delved into the opportunities for people to make structural changes in their communities, cities and the world. Campaigning and organizing in order to implement purchasing fees, local bans, taxing and the use of ordinances are all options that were presented.


The semester will continue to feature a wealth of guest speakers, including O’Dowd alumni, parents, and greater Bay Area community members. All of the O’Dowd community is invited to join us for these talks, which take place from 1:50 – 2:50 p.m. on the following dates:

  1. Thursday Mar 30th, 2017 – Climate Change

  2. Tuesday April 25th – Alumni Panel

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