Reducing Our Impact and Maximizing Our Resources

October 5-7, 2021

Early Bird Full Access Pass: $65 (early bird ends Aug 16)
After Aug 16:
Student Full Access: $55

– AND –
(Members, please use the promo code you received in the mail)

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The keynote will discuss the portfolio of work that Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) and partners have implemented over the past 15 years in Illinois which have led to residential curbside composting programs, zero waste events, SGA’s Zero Waste Schools program, the founding of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition and the Wasted Food Action Alliance, and statewide efforts to advance food scrap composting. Participants will walk away with a variety of program strategies and resources to apply across the Midwest, including SGA’s Food Scrap Composting Challenges and Solutions in Illinois Report; Economic Impact & Market Study Report on Composting; Food Waste Reduction Toolkit; and Residential Food Scrap Composting Guide for Municipalities.


Founder/Executive Director, Seven Generations Ahead

Gary Cuneen is the Founder and Executive Director of Seven Generations Ahead (SGA), a non-profit organization formed in 2001 with the mission of promoting ecologically sustainable and healthy communities in the Chicago area and Midwest. Gary designs and manages SGA’s initiatives, while consulting directly with municipal, business, and community decision-makers to facilitate sustainability planning and implementation. Gary led the development and direction of PlanItGreen, a community engagement, planning, and implementation project designed to create a sustainable Oak Park and River Forest. Through his leadership, PlanItGreen was selected as one of fifteen projects across the country to participate in the National Renewable energy Laboratory’s Solar Energy Innovation Network. Gary developed SGA’s current Fresh from the Farm program with program staff, and continues to play a leadership role in advancing farm to school and healthy eating initiatives across Illinois. Gary designed and led implementation of the Chicago area’s first zero waste school initiatives, which implement operational changes and educational activities within schools leading to significant, metrics-driven waste reduction. Gary co-founded and drives the Fox Valley Sustainability Network (FVSN) and co-founded and produces Green Town: The Future of Community, a conference implemented 20 times in 4 states since 2007 targeting municipal and private sector leaders to learn and act on sustainability best practices, policies, and planning. Gary co-founded the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, and has developed and implemented scopes of work on policy, implementation and research designed to build a robust Illinois food scrap composting industry. Gary currently facilitates the Illinois Wasted Food Solutions Task Force, a coalition designed to reduce waste food and promote strategies that recover edible food for people in need while diverting food scraps from landfills for use in compost creation. Gary created and currently facilitates SGA’s It’s Our Future program, designed to equip youth to advocate for climate crisis solutions and their futures. Most recently, Gary co-founded the CPS Goes Solar! project with Chicago Public Schools’ Chief Sustainability Director.

Prior to founding SGA, Gary was the principal of his organizational development and leadership firm, which worked with top-level government, judicial, human rights, and university leaders from Guatemala and El Salvador and with Chicago area corporations and public sector institutions. A former high school teacher and basketball coach, Gary spent part of his early career within education, founding the On-Line Expeditions environmental education curriculum project, designing and facilitating teacher training for Chicago public school teachers, and consulting with area principals on strategic planning around increasing academic achievement. Gary worked for five years as a community organizer in low-income neighborhoods within Philadelphia, PA and Wilmington, DE, addressing housing and employment issues through a variety of community-based strategies, and was a former counselor in the New Jersey youth prison system. Gary is a 1983 graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. in Political Science, received graduate secondary teaching certification from Trenton State College, studied in Mexico City at La Universidad de Anahuac, and received counseling and theology training at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Gary has been in the sustainability field for 28 years including 20 as the founding executive director of Seven Generations Ahead.

Awards: Natural Home Magazine Earth Mover Award 2007; William Fitzsimmons Health Award 2008; Chicago Tribune Good Eating Award 2008; 2012 Oak Park Villager of the Year; 2013 Organizing for Action “Climate Hero”; 2014 Oak Park Villager of the Year Runner-Up; Illinois Association of Park Districts 2019 Community Service Award; 2018 Illinois Association of Park Districts Community Service Award.


Implementing Policy to Influence Recycling and Resource Management

There are a range of policies to reduce consumption and increase recycling, including extended producer responsibility, landfill bans, deposit laws, and Buy Recycled Campaigns. Learn how they work and their impact in states across the country.

Strategies for Community Education in Nebraska

Learn strategies for your community to reduce litter, contamination at the drop off site, and ways to engage your residents by using community based social marketing.

Composting for Small to Mid-size Municipalities and Transfer Stations

Organic materials such as wood waste, yard trimmings, and food scraps are expensive to dispose of and can be turned into a lucrative product for resource managers. This session will demonstrate options that small to mid-size municipalities and transfer stations have in processing this product for the benefit of their communities.

Best Practices for Rural Recycling Systems

Participants will learn about creative partnerships, funding resources and strategies, communication with residents and organizations, and the economic benefits to a rural recycling program.



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1 pass to full access all 3 days
Recognition during the program
Logo, link, & short description of business on NRC website
Listed in post-event press releases
List of all attendees after virtual event

NRC Member Vendor Spot: $175

Non-Member Vendor Spot: $400*

*Includes a one-year membership beginning January 2022


The Nebraska Recycling Council’s Annual Awards will be presented at our Fall Conference. Any NRC member is eligible, including new members. Deadline for nominations is July 30, 2021. Nominations may be made in more than one category. Self-nominations are welcome. Winners will be notified in advance so NRC can produce a brief video presentation. This year’s categories are:

COMMONWEALTH AWARD recognizes a business, organization, or individual that gives its time, talent, and treasure to the community in which it operates to improve the natural environment or health, welfare, and common good for all stakeholders through better materials management.

END MARKET OF THE YEAR is presented to a local, regional or international member organization that utilizes recycled commodities from Nebraska recycling generators, processors, collectors and haulers for the manufacture of new goods. The organization is committed to the highest ethical standards that support the recovery of Nebraska’s resources.

GREEN TEAM OF THE YEAR AWARD recognizes a highly-organized, mature green team with the capacity to sustain itself and engage other employees. The team will have implemented systems to identify impacts, set goals, prioritize and implement projects, measure performance and review processes.

ADVOCACY CHAMPION AWARD recognizes an individual, municipality, organization, or elected official for significant achievements in advancing resource recovery in Nebraska by working to challenge and change policies, systems, or practices. This individual or entity has performed a vital and critical role in our society through their advocacy efforts, demonstrating leadership and perseverance in supporting recycling and waste diversion systems. This is the only award that does not necessarily require NRC membership.

WASTE DIVERSION PROJECT/PRODUCT/SERVICE OF THE YEAR AWARD is presented to a business, community, or organization for a project, product, or service that demonstrates exemplary, innovative, and measurable waste reduction, eliminates or replaces hard-to-recycle materials, and/or creates a closed loop system for recycling or reuse. The recipient applies the highest possible standards for responsible resource management.


Early Bird Full Access Pass: $65 (early bird ends Aug 16)
After Aug 16:
Student Full Access: $55

– AND –
(Members, please use the promo code you received in the mail)