Be the Change – Become a Zero Waste College Campus
We are a College Campus Sustainability Consultant

A college or university campus is a microcosm of a modern urban area. There is a similar mix of multi- and single-use buildings, infrastructure, and related services. It is a complex whole made up of a wide variety of operational fragments.

And like a city, managing the collection and disposal of its collective output — that’d be “taking out the trash” — is a complex and serious endeavor. We are sustainability consultants who can help with that multifaceted task to become a zero waste college campus.

Like a municipality, a campus has all of these types of source inputs:

  • Housing — Most campuses have both multi-dweller apartment buildings (dorms) and oftentimes single-family dwellings as well (grad student and faculty housing).
  • Medical — At a minimum, most campuses have an onsite medical facility providing health care for students. But many campuses include large hospitals and/or bioresearch facilities with far more stringent waste handling requirements.
  • Food — Campus cafeterias, like restaurants, produce a constant stream of biodegradable refuse. Then there’s the simple fact of dorm life as undergraduates graze at all hours of the night and day.
  • Special Event — Most campuses include stadiums, arenas, and theaters that host large numbers of the people. In some cases, we’re talking about facilities that host tens of thousands of people at one time.
  • Office — Not only do professors and administration need offices, but the continued growth of support staff in recent decades has meant more and more office facilities to manage on campuses.

Luckily, Reduction In Motion has experience with all the types of waste sources listed above. Our clients range from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens to major medical facilities to office parks — and a few higher education institutions as well.

Therefore, if your goal is to create a zero waste college campus, we can help you by building a comprehensive waste diversion program. We understand both the complexity of instituting a campus-wide system and the particulars of all the things that make up an institution of higher learning. We can work on both the macro and micro level and “dig into” your trash and waste issues.

As waste management consultants, Reduction In Motion has a long track record alleviating the amount of waste deposited into landfills. We’ve worked with many large, complex entities and have helped them reduce costs and lessen their environmental footprint. We understand the need for focused, well thought-out, and thoroughly verifiable systems implementation.

Taking on any aspect of a complicated entity like a college or university is a big job — the kind of job we’ve taken on before and are ready to take on again and elevate your college to be known as a zero waste college campus.

Why What We Do Matters

There are a host of reasons why higher education leaders need to think hard about waste management and sustainability.

There’s only one Earth

The environmental challenges we all face today — most especially the young people who will encounter climate and environmental challenges throughout their lifetimes — can only be met by collective action. There is no single magic bullet. Entities both large and small must do their part.

For decades — perhaps most strikingly since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring — there has been a growing recognition that the modern economy not only brings wonders, but also dangers. Academia has been at the forefront of the environmental movement and has led the way in changing cultural norms.

What we do at Reduction In Motion is to develop and implement the particulars of environmentalism — zero waste college campus consulting, landfill diversion, waste diversion, and recycling support. We help create the routine, everyday procedures that mitigate the human impact on planet Earth. Our specialty is creating modes of sustainability and waste reduction for organizations large and small.

And Then There’s Your Budget To Think Of

What we do is definitely not all “pie in the sky.” Higher education is facing the continuing challenges of a declining student base due to demographic changes and the ongoing conundrum of rising student debt. Any area on campus where there is the opportunity for budgetary savings must be explored.

And what we do can save money.

The fact is one of the great successes of the environmental movement was ridding the nation of unregulated and dangerous landfills. No longer is waste just dumped in a glorified hole in the ground. Landfills are now lined, monitored, and operated with a much higher degree of technical sophistication.

But modern landfills definitely cost more to operate. And that price is passed onto customers. Large-volume users like college campuses and universities end up with a significant line item in their operating budget for trash disposal.

We can help you cut down on the amount of trash going to the landfill and become a zero waste college campus. This will provide savings on an annual basis.

Sustainability Does Not Go Unnoticed

Though institutes of higher education operate for the public good, they are also part of a highly competitive sector of the economy. Schools compete for students, faculty, donations, and publicity.

Implementing a robust, effective, and well-publicized sustainability agenda will heighten the status of a university to a zero waste college campus. It will signal to the wider public a commitment to the future and an acceptance of not-for-profit corporate responsibility.

For example, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) was founded in 2005 and supports “… empowering higher education faculty, administrators, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation.” It provides resources and its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) is used to recognize institutions that pursue sustainability programs.

There has also been a growing movement to use campuses as a “living lab,” where innovative sustainability methodologies can be explored and tested — with an eye on taking what is learned and extrapolating it to the wider community. The Campus as a Living Lab program of the Institute For Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one example of this line of thinking.

“Transforming university campuses into ‘living laboratories’ is a timely and important campaign,” said Ximing Cai, iSEE’s Associate Director for Campus Sustainability. “Sustainability isn’t just happening ‘out there;’ it’s a consideration every day right here on our campus. By using our own facilities and community as a miniature model of the world at large, we can learn things that will make this campus better, but also make the world better.”

This kind of systematic implementation of cutting-edge sustainability and waste reduction programming is what we do at Reduction In Motion. We’ll help you design a zero waste college campus. It’s our day job.

A Brief Introduction to Our Process

When you bring Reduction In Motion in as your partner — to develop or improve your waste management and sustainability systems — you are bringing in well-oiled team. One that, as an initial step, will gather your team together to review our plan to develop your university into a zero waste college campus.

We’ll listen to and share our knowledge with your institution’s key leaders. This will begin the process of formulating the preliminary goals that you want to pursue. We’ll bring our expertise and experience to the table, along with our perspective as outsiders who can examine your current systems with a fresh viewpoint with the goal in mind to elevate your school into a zero waste college campus status.

We’ll listen to both administrative leaders and members of your facilities management staff in order to gauge what is wanted and what is possible. This can be the beginning of a comprehensive new plan for your campus — or a “tune up” of your already established sustainability programs.

The fact is we can talk trash with the best of them. We’ve been in the business since 2002 and have seen — and been a part of — the sweeping changes in waste management that have occurred during the first decades of the 21st century.

Why You Need a Plan

The goal is to produce an actionable, highly refined Waste Management Plan that can be part of your institution’s long-term management portfolio.

Any plan that is going to legitimately handle a system as complex as a zero waste college campus will have to be thoroughly researched and contain a fair amount of complexity. It will include a guide for handling, limiting, and getting rid of waste via the common waste streams — organic, hazardous, recyclable, and municipal solid waste (MSW, the stuff that ends up in the landfill). It will include the services of outside contractors that have an impact on waste handling on your campus.

It will ensure that there are clear lines of authority, goals for both the short- and long-term, an examination of the final destination for all waste streams and whether there are better options, a gauging of the transportation requirements of the plan, and the creation of employee training and recordkeeping systems that will be important parts of the plan’s implementation.

The Waste Analysis

After goals have been identified, hard data has to be collected and analyzed. That’s where the waste analysis comes in. This is the step in the process where we get our hands dirty and take a methodical look at the reality of your waste disposal operations.

And we mean it — we’ll get our hands dirty (well, actually, we’ll probably wear gloves). But what we mean is that we’ll literally dig through your trash at key choke points in your system, including the end-of-the-line waste management facility.

We’ll want to identify where waste streams are intermingling and thereby sending material to the landfill that should be going into recyclable waste streams. Many campuses strive to achieve landfill diversion rates as high as 80 percent — meaning only 20 percent or less of overall waste ending up in expensive and increasingly scarce landfills.

From this data, we’ll be able to create a detailed analysis of not only what’s in your waste stream but ways to make the process more efficient and less wasteful. It is from this data that we begin to build the detailed and comprehensive plan for improving or implementing your waste disposals system.

The Plan

We will share our findings and recommendations with the major stakeholders within your institution’s management structure.

Items that will be covered include:

  • A critique of your current systems and identifying departments that will be key to implementing an upgraded system.
  • An analysis of current data collection methodologies and whether these are satisfactory. If we feel better metrics needs to be developed, we will begin doing so.
  • We’ll give our take on whether your current sustainability goals are well understood and where better communication may be needed.
  • Based on best practices and our experience in the field, we’ll provide an action plan — which will include subsidiary plans for specific departments — that we believe can be realistically carried out on your campus. It will most likely be a mix of the continuation of some current programs, expansion, or refining others, and perhaps the implementation new ones.

What we provide you is an instruction manual for creating the best and most effective campus-wide waste mitigation and sustainability plan that is feasible for your particular set of realities. This is the Waste Management Plan.

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Have you looked in your trash can recently?

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We can teach you to “know where to throw!”

Implementation

We won’t disappear after we’ve handed over our Zero Waste College Campus Plan. After it’s been reviewed, and decisions have been made, we will continue on as robust partners while it is implemented.

It’s good to have a methodical and carefully planned rollout of the zero waste college campus program. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

Our services will include:

  • Education — Training campus staff not only on what they will be required to do — but why it’s necessary — is vital. Just parachuting big changes in will not do. We recognize human nature, which includes the asking of the “why” question when making changes.
  • Deployment — Especially during the rollout phase, we’ll be on campus with you. We’ve lived through more than a few of these and can add not only perspective, but also practical help with signage and the installation of new waste containers.
  • Both remotely and with periodic onsite visits, we’ll help your new systems run smoothly and collect data on their effectiveness.
  • This will include documentation that will provide feedback and evidence regarding your waste mitigation programs.
  • We can also help you handle the application process for any certification (such as LEED) or recognition awards (such as the AASHE STAR program).

Conclusion

The environmental challenges facing future generations will be profound. As an institution that serves — and depends on — young people, colleges and universities have a particular responsibility to be good stewards of the environment. Building a zero waste college campus is one way to do that.

Reduction In Motion is a full-service waste management and sustainability consultant that has helped many universities become a zero waste college campus. We will be your partners in implementing programs that will make a difference today — and tomorrow.