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% for the past ten years, and needs to advance reduction and reuse practices on campus to jumpstart efforts on the path to zero waste. 

This year we encouraged everyone to Say Goodbye to Single Use and take action to reduce and reuse as much as possible. While the campaign is over, you can log in to My Cardinal Green throughout the year for specific steps that you can take to minimize your waste footprint.

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

Sustainable Stanford hosts many events to encourage waste minimization. 

  • Zero Waste Game Day Challenges
  • Stanford Recycling Center Tours
  • Shoreway Environmental Center Tour
  • Redwood City Q&A Drop-In Sessions (remaining March sessions will be rescheduled)

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 responsible waste management. 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 training for your office, dorm or group meeting! Send an e-mail to inquire.

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 2017, Stanford reduced that number to around 8,190 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. If Stanford recycled all aluminum cans, plastics bottles, glass jars, office paper, and paper packaging, another 385 tons could be added to the university’s recycling total!

During Stanford's waste minimization campaign, the campus reports its diversion and landfill numbers on a weekly basis to the national RecycleMania competition.  RecycleMania results have been consistently strong over the years. The table below provides a snapshot of Stanford’s performance in four of the most fiercely competitive categories:

Waste Minimization Tips

  • Reduce – Reduce the amount of waste you generate. Try to limit single-use disposable items like coffee cups and snack packaging.
  • Reuse – Use reusable plates, cups, and utensils when it's unnecessary packaging or uneaten food from the dining hall. 
  • Recycle – Recycle all cardboard, paper, plastics, metal and glass. Plastic bags, air pillows, and bubble wrap can be placed in the paper recycling bins. (Check out the Zero Waste flyer for recycling guidelines).
  • Rot (Compost) – Compost all coffee grounds, food scraps, and BPI-certified compostable service ware (Check out our How to Guides for voluntary composting and Café composting programs to add “Rot” to your building’s sustainability checklist).
  • Re-buy – Buy recycled or repurposed products when necessary and possible. Check out Stanford Surplus Property Sales, Reuse Portal, and for labs, the Surplus Chemical Program