To promote Zero Waste best practices and knowledge-sharing across the city, the Office of Sustainability is sitting down with members of the Zero Waste Partnership Program to discuss their goals and achievements.

Our latest conversation was with John Halko, Director of Innovation at Oat Foundry. Oat Foundry is an award-winning agency of engineers designing and building products for brands and companies – as they would say, they “build cool stuff”. From their iconic Split Flap Displays to reusable face shields manufactured for frontline workers, Oat Foundry is known for creative problem-solving and innovation. That ethic carries over to their approach to Zero Waste.

Oat Foundry joined the Zero Waste Partnership Program in February 2020 and has already implemented several Zero Waste Actions, including composting and replacing single-use materials with durable alternatives. Headquartered at the Frankford Arsenal, Oat Foundry and many of its team are Philly natives. As John tells us, “the company is committed to Zero Waste because one of Oat Foundry’s missions is to improve our environment and our community; to that end, Zero Waste augments our waste reduction strategies that feed our greater goal to sequester more carbon than we emit.” Oat Foundry is fostering cultural change in its offices that it hopes will radiate throughout Philadelphia.

What motivated you to join the Partnership Program?

Oat Foundry was born and bred in Philadelphia, and we’re driven to contribute to the community. Whether we’re volunteering as a company on a litter cleanup or working on a project with another Philly business, we want to have a positive and sustainable impact upon this city. Zero Waste is another way for us to pitch in when it comes to bettering Philly’s environment. It’s exciting for us to say we’re part of the Philadelphia Zero Waste Partnership because we’re now part of a collective of businesses that understand the importance of environmental stewardship and community. Not to mention, we’re a bunch of engineers – we appreciate having standards to meet and an authority checking our work on Zero Waste (we are so proud you can find the sticker right on our front door!).

What are your goals as a new Partner?

We believe strongly in incorporating Zero Waste into our company culture. As a new Zero Waste Partner, we hope to identify sustainable materials and products to use in the office and in manufacturing. This provided an opportunity to make a number of small changes relatively quickly. For example, we began using fewer paper towels in favor of reusable dish rags and using any misprinted t-shirts as shop rags. Behavioral change isn’t easy, but implementing these small changes ultimately makes us more aware of how we engage with the products we use and the impact of using those products. Small steps make it easier for us to follow through on loftier Zero Waste goals down the road. The lessons we teach and the habits we create here impact Zero Waste culture far beyond our headquarters.

We also strive to advocate for and augment the Zero Waste Partnership. As we implement programs within our company, we hope to share the processes we develop with Zero Waste and other partners throughout the city to make it easier and more rewarding for other businesses to implement sustainable practices.

What are some Zero Waste Actions you’ve implemented or are working towards?

Right away, we assigned a Zero Waste coordinator to take ownership of Oat Foundry’s Zero Waste program. This person is in charge of auditing our waste throughout the month and making sure proper disposal methods are in place for the materials that pass through our headquarters. We’re particularly lucky to have access to a grassy plot of land at our office complex, which we’ve used to set up a compost pile. We keep a bucket in the office kitchen to collect food scraps throughout the week, and when the compost is ready, we take it home to use in our yards and for our houseplants. In the future, we’d like to expand this resource to the community within our complex and start a composting project with the neighboring schools. Both of these actions have progressed our mission; Zero Waste is quickly becoming second-nature here at Oat Foundry.


Partners are added to an online directory of all Zero Waste Partners across Philadelphia. Recognition, whether in the form of a directory, blog, or social media post by the City of Philadelphia, serves to promote the Zero Waste Partnership Program, not individual Partners. Recognition of Partners does not indicate that the City of Philadelphia favors Partner businesses or organizations over Non-Partners in any way; it does not recommend patronage or tenancy at these properties over Non-Partner properties.