The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) is launching what it says is the first zero waste business certification program in the United States.

The Corona Del Mar, Calif.-based advocacy group said in a news release that it also issued its first zero waste certifications to three Whole Foods Market stores in San Diego County.

 Businesses participating in the zero waste certification program should have to goal of diverting all end-use material from the landfill, incineration and the environment, while achieving a minimum of 90-percent diversion based on the standards set by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA).

 The USZWBC audited the waste diversion processes at the Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market's stores in La Jolla, Hillcrest and Encinitas and found that all three stores met those goals in reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting. Each of the Whole Foods Market stores received a bronze-level zero waste certificate for achieving better than 90 percent diversion.

 "We are thrilled to launch the new certification program and to verify the achievements of Whole Foods Market,” said Stephanie Barger, founder and executive director of USZWBC. “Our goal is not only to provide credibility to zero waste businesses, but also to offer the resources needed to create value and save money through zero waste practices."

USZWBC was launched in the spring of 2012 with a mission to educate, inform and document the performance of zero waste businesses using scientific methods to help businesses and communities become more healthy and sustainable.