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Mighty Goal | Less Waste

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New recycling logo at UMD New garbage logo at UMD

A change is coming to UMD. Starting this summer, employees will be assuming greater responsibility … for their trash.

UMD’s Facilities Management is announcing a new program that, when implemented, will eliminate trash and recycling service in individual offices. Instead, departments will use centrally located garbage and recycling bins. “It's a growing trend across university campuses; individuals managing their own office waste has shown to increase recycling rates and reduce overall waste volume,” explains Mindy Granley, campus sustainability coordinator.

The reason for the change is partially financial. Three employees in the custodial services division have opted for early retirement and their positions will not be filled. By easing some of the office duties, the remaining staff will have more time to focus on the public spaces. "These are the places that campus visitors see. Whether that is future students and their parents, or potential faculty or staff members. First impressions of campus are important," says Granley.

But the larger motivation is sustainability. “It just makes sense to do the right thing,” says Christine Lovejoy, custodial operations and events supervisor. “It’s the right thing to do for our environment, and it helps with goal six of the strategic plan, sustainability.”

UMD’s Facilities Management department has been studying the issue for a few years. Here’s a closer look at the numbers:

  • 49           percentage of UMD waste that goes into a landfill
  • 15           estimated percentage of non-recyclable/non-compostable waste that should go in landfill
  • $5,000    per-year average saved by eliminating trash liners
  • 130,000   less plastic liners going into the landfill each year
  • $120,000 saved by University of Colorado Boulder by eliminating office waste pick up

Staff members in Darland have been participating in a pilot program for the last few years and the proof is in the (probably composted) pudding. The amount of waste was measured on a Monday before the change was implemented and on a Monday after the change was implemented. Here are the results:
Before the switch - Recyclable items made up 29% of waste sorted

After the switch - The total amount of waste sent to the landfill was reduced by nearly 20%. But more importantly, recycling items made up only 15% of waste sorted.

A 20% reduction in landfill waste

Granley thinks this is because the change promotes personal responsibility for waste generation, something Larissa Trygg, who works in the development department in Darland, can attest to. “It makes me think cognitively of what I put in the trash and what I’m recycling, because it’s a smaller receptacle.”

The receptacle that Larissa’s talking about is about the size of a coffee can. Each employee has one and empties it into the department’s centrally located garbage can as needed.  

When the change is implemented, these mini garbage cans will be available for people who’d like them in their offices. Thanks to a reuse partnership with Dining Services, things like coffee, yogurt, and cottage cheese containers will be readily available for their new roll as tiny trash cans.

Cover of "Green Guide"

UMD Green

Even before the new policy goes into place, UMD is being commended as a sustainability standout.

This month “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges: 2014 Edition” included UMD among the schools that demonstrate a strong commitment to the environment and to sustainability.

UMD was chosen based on the “Green Rating” scores tallied in 2013 for 832 schools. The score ranges from 60 to 99. UMD scored 87 and garnered praise for its LEED-certified buildings, the Sustainable Living Learning Community in Ianni Hall, and its rain gardens and biofiltration areas.

More information about the “Green Guide”

Earth Week

Rain gardens and biofiltration are advanced eco concepts, but UMD is going back to basics with the theme “simply sustainable” during “Earth Week,” which starts April 21, hoping to illustrate how easy it is to make sustainable choices.

On Wednesday, April 23 the bus hub will be hopping. “People can play recycling games and win prizes, and Champ will be hanging with us. We will have a sticky wall where students can pledge to do something for the earth and get a selfie of themselves hugging the earth, a blow-up earth beach ball, or Champ, or both,” says Granley. Participants can hashtag those selfies at #SimplySustainableUMD.

More information about UMD’s Earth Week celebration.


Story by Lori C. Melton

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UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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