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Winter Campaign: Zero Waste

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2023 Winner Announced - Stanford Takes 1st Place for Reducing Food Waste & 2nd for Recycling Among Large Campuses!

Campus Race to Zero Waste 2023 Winner Food Organics for Large Campus. National Wildlife Federation.

Stanford’s programs to reduce waste and your efforts to properly sort won us First Place in the “Food Organics” category and Second Place in the “Per Capita Recycling '' category for large campuses in the Campus Race to Zero Waste! This demonstrates your commitment to take actions every day to reduce waste going to landfill and reinforces Stanford’s commitment to being a leader in sustainability. The 2023 competition reached 3.4 million students, faculty, and staff across 200 colleges and universities, diverted 29.4 million pounds of waste through donations, recycling, and composting, and kept 205 million single-use plastics out of the landfill. This prevented the release of over 29,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, which is equal to avoiding the annual emissions from 6,128 cars! Proper sorting makes a difference; thank you for your efforts!

Campus Race to Zero Waste

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. 

From January 29th through March 25th, 2023, Stanford is participating in the national Campus Race to Zero Waste. Throughout the 8-week competition, we will be encouraging the Stanford community to help increase our campus recycling and composting, decrease waste destined for the landfill, and develop new reuse habits. We appreciate your contributions in sorting your waste properly while on campus and helping Stanford place as a winner for another consecutive year!

If you are working from home and have questions about your city’s recycling and composting program, feel free to join the #cardinal-green Slack channel on Stanford Workspace and ask us there.

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.

Get In the Race

Week 1: 1/29-2/4

Rethink your waste.  Commit to a personal waste inventory, logging in a journal or spreadsheet how much trash you generate in a day or 7! Did can even hold onto your trash to see it pile up and account for it all at the end of the week.

Week 2: 2/5-2/11

Waste footprint. How much trash did you generate?  Reflect on areas where you can reduce your waste footprint. 

Week 3: 2/12-2/18

Ready, set, reduce and reuse! Did you know that the 3R's are in the order of importance? This week, find one item from your routine/life to reduce or cut out. Consider if you can find a reusable replacement for that item. For example: need to have your coffee from Coupa Cafe every morning? Invest in a reusable tumbler!

Week 4: 2/19-2/25

Rot. What is considered compost and why is the bonus 4th 'R'? Challenge yourself to hold onto your food scraps until you find a compost bin! Not enough compost bins around town? Don't fear - the Zero Waste Building System will soon be arriving across campus and it includes the new standard of centralized waste stations of color-coded recycle, compost, and landfill waste bins.

Week 5: 2/26-3/4

Food Waste vs. Food Recovery. 

Week 6: 3/5-3/11

Calling out Rigid Plastic. Confused about the numbers at the bottom or side of plastic containers indicating whether or not to recycle? The solution: Focus on the firmness or ridgity of the container and toss it in the blue recycling bin. Often times, these containers will be labeled #1 and #2. 

Week 7: 3/12-3/18

Box Overload. With the number of packages we all receive, let's do our part in minimizing delivery boxes and FLATTENING these cardboard boxes when placing them in or beside the recycling bins. 

Week 8: 3/19-25

Zero Waste Week!  


Bonus Tips & Opportunities

  • Use reusables where you can. In most locations, grocery stores allow you to bring in your reusable bags, although you may have to bag groceries yourself.
  • When ordering take-out or food delivery, 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. Use them to share baked goods with co-workers and neighbors, for example!
  • 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. 
  • Use reusables face masks when you can and dispose of single use masks in the trash.
  • Check out Stanford Surplus Property SalesReuse Portal, and for labs, the Surplus Chemical Program

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

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.

If you want to learn more about where our campus waste goes, take a virtual tour (below) or inquire with zerowaste@stanford.edu for in-person opportunities!

Background & 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 9,000 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 winter 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 2-022!