Cardinal Green

Zero Waste Stanford

During Stanford’s annual waste minimization campaign, we ask the campus community to join Sustainable Stanford as it works toward its goal to become a zero-waste campus -- defined as 90% diversion from landfill or higher -- by 2030. Stanford has maintained a diversion rate around 65-67% for the past ten years, and needs to advance reduction and reuse practices on campus to jumpstart efforts on the path to zero waste. 

In February and March, Stanford is participating in the national Campus Race to Zero Waste. During this competition, Stanford will be competing with other universities to increase recycling and composting and decrease landfilled waste. We appreciate your help sorting your waste properly while on campus! Even with the pandemic in 2020, we reached a 65% recycling rate!  

If you are working from home and have questions about your city’s recycling and composting program, feel free to ask us on the Cardinal Green Slack channel.

If you are working in a lab on campus, we also have new waste reduction resources for labs including the

Don’t forget you can earn points toward your $75 incentive for completing these and other zero waste actions in My Cardinal Green, our online sustainability engagement platform designed to reward you for your contributions to sustainability on and off campus.

Take Waste Reduction Actions Now


Sign into My Cardinal Green for a complete list of waste reduction actions, and earn rewards

Whether you attend a virtual tour, arrange a training for your department, or commit to bring your own reusables for the week, you'll earn points for conserving resources and advancing campus sustainability.

Earn a Be Well berry and points toward your $75 reward in My Cardinal Green when you attend a group training! Contact Office of Sustainability to set up a training. 

Interested in learning more about how to reduce your waste impact and be a leader in your workplace? Office of Sustainability's Best Practices in Waste Reduction training course provides a hands-on lesson in how to reduce and sort waste properly.  Class participants will learn how to recognize opportunities to improve waste reduction and how to implement them in their work space. If you have ten or more people interested in the course, we can work with you to schedule a private Zoom training for your office, dorm or group meeting! Send an e-mail to inquire.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are unable to schedule in-person tours at this time but we have developed two virtual tours. 

Background and Results

Over the last 30 years, Stanford has increased waste diversion to 65% by recycling paper, bottles and cans, yard trimmings, food scraps, wood, and construction and demolition debris. Stanford has also reduced the amount of waste sent to the landfill. In 1998, Stanford landfilled about 14,000 tons of trash. By 2019, Stanford reduced that number to around 9000 tons.

Stanford has performed more than 30 waste audits over the past several years, with interesting results. These audits reveal that most of what ends up in Stanford's landfill bins, is not actually landfill at all.  26% of the waste is recyclable and 36% is compostable, it is just in the wrong bin!

During Stanford's waste minimization campaign, the campus reports its diversion and landfill numbers on a weekly basis to the national Campus Race to Zero Waste competition.  The Campus Race to Zero Waste results have been consistently strong over the years with Stanford winning 1st place for Food Organics in 2020 and 1st place for Per Capita Category for Large Campus in 2021 and 2022!

Waste Minimization Tips during COvid-19

  • Use reusables where you can. In most locations, grocery stores are allowing you to bring in your reusable bags, although you still have to bag groceries yourself.
  • When ordering take out, opt out of receiving single use items like utensils and packets that you don’t plan on using or need.
  • Reuse the plastics containers you get from takeout as much as possible. I like to use them to share baked goods with my neighbors.
  • Break down your cardboard boxes. It is easier to collect them when they are flattened.
  • Be sure to remove food from any type of recyclable containers. Food left in containers makes recycling more difficult.
  • Compost your food scraps--one of the best climate change mitigations!
  • Snack foods such as chip bags, candy wrappers, creamers, ketchup and soy sauce packets all go into the landfill. 
  • Usable reusables face masks when you can and dispose of single use masks in the trash.
  • Check out Stanford Surplus Property Sales, Reuse Portal, and for labs, the Surplus Chemical Program