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10 Ways to Incorporate Sustainability on Your Campus

Make Your University Greener and More Forward-Thinking

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword these days. It means taking real, actionable steps to have a positive impact. Universities all around the world are recognising the importance of embracing sustainability on campus. Sustainability helps set your university apart as a forward-thinking institution, which can help recruit top faculty and encourage higher admissions.

Whether you’re just starting your sustainability journey or trying to find new ways to improve, here are ten ways to incorporate sustainability into your campus culture.

1. At the beginning of the year, have pop-ups with fun prizes like reusable water bottles and bags.

Most universities host an abundance of activities at the beginning of the year to welcome students back to campus. This can be an excellent opportunity to start the year off right and include a sustainability pop-up with education and engagement material. Here you can let students know about various sustainability initiatives around campus, how they can get involved, and maybe even offer free giveaways and prizes that the students can choose from such as reusable water bottles, cloth produce bags, and recycled paper notebooks.

2. Find alternatives to packaging in the dining halls.

Single-use plastics and packaging in the food courts and dining halls are a huge source of waste on campus. These take resources to make, and most get thrown in the landfill, where they take thousands of years to decompose.

By finding alternatives to single-use and encouraging students to dine-in, as opposed to eating on the go, universities can decrease the amount of overall waste. Organisations like Green2Go, Again Again, and Returnr all work with large organisations and universities to create reusable contain return schemes to reduce waste in the dining halls and food courts. The basic idea is that students “check out” a clean container and then return it the next time they’re at the dining hall. Many of these programmes even have apps to help students track whether they have containers checked out. It’s like a library for food containers.

3. Implement a consistent, streamlined recycling program on campus.

We’re huge advocates of recycling here at Method. Getting a successful recycling system up and running can be an awesome sustainable initiative. Set up streams that make the most sense for the type of waste that is generally produced on campus. You can get a good idea of what waste is found on campus through a robust waste audit.

A consistent, colour-coded system across campus can help students familiarise themselves with the streams and quickly identify which bin they need. Recycling bins should be available all over campus, from the dining hall to the library. Increasing the visibility of recycling will help increase recycling rates and make it convenient for people to make the best choice for the planet. Additionally, clear signage on all stations can help busy, on-the-go students place their waste in the correct streams and decrease contamination.

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4. Set up a campus composting program.

The UN estimates that 17% of global food production is wasted – from production to table. Most of that wasted food ends up rotting in landfills, where it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

By reducing the amount of food waste your campus sends to landfills each year, you can significantly increase your sustainability and decrease your impact. Start a composting program or worm farm and get students involved in the process. It’s a great activity for team building and creates compost to use around campus in the landscaping or give away to community gardens or farmers.

5. Go Paperless.

Paper makes up a considerable percentage of waste within any university. This is despite the fact that technology has made it possible to avoid printing altogether. No longer are the days of handing in physical essays or assignments – these can be completed online. Editing, collaboration, and research can be done quickly through computer programs, virtually eliminating the need for paper at all.

Encourage faculty to use digital textbooks, assignments, and programs to decrease the amount of paper overall. This will reduce waste and allow the school to save tremendous amounts of money on paper, printing, and toner costs.

Nick sokolov qif H Iocq Fx E unsplash Bike share program

6. Start a bike-share program.

Bike-share programs have grown in popularity in recent years as more people are embracing alternative forms of transport. Cities like New York, Melbourne, Paris, and many others have implemented city-wide bike share programs for residents and visitors. These programs have been so successful that many universities have taken notice.

Universities are a prime place to set up a bike-share program as they generally have many car-free areas, transient students who need to move around quickly, and young, active users. Additionally, bike shares are not only great for the environment, but great for users' health as well. It’s a win-win.

7. Ensure easy access to refill stations to cut back on plastic bottle waste.

Refill stations – also known as hydration stations – are a simple solution to help fight plastic pollution. These stations can generally be installed into pre-existing water fountains and produce clean, filtered, and sometimes cold water. By placing these at convenient locations around campus, students and staff will be more inclined to ditch the single-use plastic bottles for reusable ones.

Duke University found that they saved around 400,000 plastic bottles a year by outfitting the campus with refill stations. That’s a lot of plastic prevented from going to landfills.

8. Switch to LED lights.

LED lights, on average, are 80% more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs. Think about how many lights are on a university campus. Hundreds? Thousands? By switching to LED lights, you save a ton of electricity and money, plus they are generally safer than other lights. Additionally, if you can set them to be motion-activated, you’ll avoid having to waste energy on empty lecture halls.

While switching out perfectly good lights for LEDs isn’t sustainable, switching them as they go out can be a great goal to increase sustainability over time.

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9. Offer sustainability seminars and activities.

Students come to university to learn and grow, which should include sustainability. Offering ways for students to actively learn about sustainability and get involved, can have a positive impact that they can bring into their own lives.

If you don’t already, host seminars and workshops around sustainability to engage and educate students. Workshops could include learning to hem clothes to reduce clothing waste or learning to garden. Seminars could include in-depth recycling talks or talks about the circular economy. You could bring in guest speakers or have passionate students lead these. Anything that gets students talking about and engaging with sustainability in everyday life.

10. Host a furniture drive at the end of each semester.

Students often buy the cheapest furniture available and toss it when they move out at the end of the year, which generates a lot of waste. During the last week of classes, the dumpsters outside student resident halls are often filled to the brim with IKEA shelves, Kmart desks, and cheap decorations that are still usable, if not the prettiest.

Host a drive at the end of each year to encourage students to sell or donate their old furniture to others, so they can find a new home with someone who might need it and to help avoid it ending up in a landfill forever. You may even be able to partner with a charity shop or shelter to pick up larger furniture.

Be A Green Campus Champion

Sustainability on campus can take many forms – from reducing waste to educating students. Whether you’re working your way to becoming a Carbon Neutral campus or just looking to become greener, implementing any of these options can reduce your environmental impact and make the campus healthier and happier.

Ready to reduce waste on your campus? Speak with one of our recycling experts

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