University wins zero waste award in national competition

The University of Michigan was one of the top universities in the 2022 Campus Race to Zero Waste competition.

UM ranked first in the Large Campus Division for Zero Waste, which is for campuses with advanced waste reduction programs, zero waste plans and policies in place, and the ability to weigh sources of waste. waste and materials collected for reuse.

The university tracked all sources of waste generated in three campus buildings over an eight-week period, aiming for the highest diversion rate by recycling, composting and reusing items to reduce the amount sent to landfill.

The UM buildings competing in the zero waste category were:

  • Art and Architecture Building – Staff and students are involved in a variety of sustainability efforts, including composting and sustainable office certification. Facility staff also hired students weekly throughout the competition.
  • Biosciences Research Building — The building staff and maintenance team are actively involved in efforts to reduce building waste, including participating in pilot recycling projects and waste sorting during the semester. winter.
  • Bursley Hall – This building has a consistently high diversion rate among halls of residence. Students and staff participate in composting and waste reduction efforts, including a compost education campaign led by Planet Blue student leaders and waste sorting during the winter semester.

“Staff and students in these three buildings are active participants in waste reduction and zero waste efforts year-round and are great partners in sustainability,” said Alison Richardson, Program Manager. to the Office of Campus Sustainability. “Everyone’s efforts were essential for UM to win this award.”

A September 2021 “lab swap” event at the chemistry building found new homes for about $20,000 worth of lab supplies and saved 2,250 pounds of landfill waste. It’s one of many creative efforts underway on the Ann Arbor campus to reduce waste throughout the year. (Photo courtesy of Office of Campus Sustainability)

At the Ann Arbor campus, UM collected more than 748,400 pounds of recyclables and 349,600 pounds of compost during the eight weeks of competition in February and March. Diverting this waste from landfill avoided 1,225 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to taking 260 cars off the road for a year.

Along with the nationwide Campus Race to Zero Waste competition, OCS is hosting a challenge among participating facilities on the UM campus.

In the UM edition, each facility competed against its composting and recycling performance in 2021 in three categories: greatest rate of waste reduction, greatest diversion of waste from landfills to recycling and composting, and most improved diversion rate.

Photo of compost and recycling bins
High levels of commitment to programs such as composting have fueled UM’s success in the campus race to zero waste. (Photo courtesy of Office of Campus Sustainability)

This year’s winners were:

  • Biggest waste reduction — Mosher-Jordan Hall (30.5% reduction).
  • Highest diversion rate — Golf Course Clubhouse (90.7% diverted from landfill).
  • Most improved diversion rate — Madison Buildings (50% improvement).

Over 200 US and Canadian campuses participated in the Campus Race to Zero Waste. They recycled, composted and donated 9 million pounds of trash.

UM has built a solid foundation for zero waste success with initiatives such as:

  • Compost bins in over 150 campus buildings, including residence halls.
  • The Where to Discard tool and training help campus users learn how to properly dispose of items.
  • Sustainable Procurement Resources and Guidelines.
  • Reuse programs, including student moves, office supply donations, and lab exchanges.
  • Engagement programs that empower students, faculty, and staff to reduce waste.

As waste reduction efforts continue to expand, UM is making progress toward its university-wide carbon neutral commitments.

Recently unveiled action measures include expanded plans for geothermal heating and cooling systems, $10 million in funding for additional LED lighting in approximately 100 buildings across three campuses, and $300 million in “green bonds.” for projects that align with UM’s carbon neutral goals.

The Campus Race to Zero Waste and related efforts support the Ann Arbor campus’ goal of reducing the total amount of waste sent to landfills by 40 percent. The goal is part of UM’s 2025 Ann Arbor Campus Sustainability Goals, established in 2011.

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