Friday, July 29, 2016

New Additions to Campus and Upcoming Events

Excited for the new semester to begin? When you get back to campus there are a few changes you’ll want to look for as well as some sustainability events to mark on your calendar!

New to Campus

15 more Water Bottle Refill Stations
4 more gooseneck attachments to water fountains for filling water bottles

More water refill stations in high traffic areas means less plastic bottles thrown out on campus. So make sure to carry a reusable water bottle around and to refill it at one of the many refill stations or water fountains!

Sustainable Living Experience
This fall the Oxford Houses, located just across the street from the Nichols Arboretum, will be home to the University’s first ever Sustainable Living Experience. This residential community will foster environmentally-minded students that will act as sustainability leaders on campus. Students participating in the Sustainable Living Experience will have access to pre- and post-consumer composting at Oxford’s Twigs dining hall as well as fresh fruits and veggies from the onsite garden.
ArborBike | Instagram

ArborBike Stations
Don’t worry if you forgot your bike! ArborBike stations are located across campus with a new location coming to the corner of South Forest and Washtenaw. These bikes can also be returned to any station. They are the perfect solution to getting around campus or town without having to drive or take the bus!

Pop Up Gardens
If you’re out walking or biking the campus, make sure to stop at the various pop-up gardens before the season is over! Growing food locally is a great way to avoid packaging and reduce waste.

Fall Sustainability Events You Shouldn't Miss
M Farmers Market
Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables on Thursday, September 16 and Thursday, October 13 at the M Farmers market on Central Campus and on Thursday, September 29 and Thursday, October 27 on North Campus! Exact locations to be announced. Check here for new information!

On Wednesday, September 21 head to the diag for free food, live entertainment, games, and loads of information and fun centered on sustainability for our campus and planet!

Hang Out With Rufus On Campus
Rufus the Recycler will back this fall with his visits to the diag. Spoiler: Rufus is getting an updated look this summer so come prepared for pictures with the most stylish recycler on campus. Dates and times to be announced.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Eco-Friendly Moving Guide

August approaches with the reminder that student move in is on its way! U-M residence halls and off campus neighborhoods will be welcoming back thousands of students along with their overstuffed boxes and suitcases.

Packing and moving in and out can produce a lot of waste from the things left behind to the packing materials used to protect breakables. So whether you are moving into the dorms or between leases, this moving guide will help you reduce waste and divert waste from landfills!

Planning Ahead
Instead of waiting to pack the night before, sort through your belongings a few weeks in advance to figure out exactly what you’ll be bringing with you. Organize the items that didn’t make the cut so that they can be donated, recycled or properly disposed. Find out where you can dispose medications, harsh cleaning products, and unwanted electronics in your town. These items can release harmful chemicals into the environment if they are flushed down the drain or placed in landfills.

Try not to go grocery shopping the week before you move. Instead, use up anything fresh in your refrigerator and eat up all of your frozen veggies. This will help you reduce the amount of food waste you’ll throw out come moving day. If you can’t eat everything up, bring it with you or put it in the compost bin!

Image by Ashley Poskin
Coordinate with friends, family, or local businesses to find out if they have spare cardboard boxes for you to reuse and pack your belongings in.

Before you begin stuffing boxes with newspaper, consider using linens, towels, rags, or even socks to protect breakables during the move. When you run out of reusable packing materials, take advantage of newspapers and old school work that can be recycled at your new place. It’s best to avoid materials like packing peanuts made from styrofoam because they are often not recyclable. Go to if you’re moving to a place off campus to find out what materials can be recycled.

Reduce the number of cardboard boxes and save space by packing clothing in laundry baskets and suitcases. To make moving clothes into your new closet even easier, just twist a rubber band around the hooks of your hangers and move the clothes in a cluster- no packing materials necessary and you won't have to spend time rehanging every shirt!

Move In
Congratulations! You’ve successfully moved all of your stuff into your new place. Before you settle back into college life though, make sure to collapse and recycle cardboard boxes and plastics. You may also want to keep the cardboard boxes around for your next move or use them as a collection bin for future recyclables.

If you’ve just moved into a residence hall, follow your hall’s directions for how to take care of cardboard, bubble wrap, styrofoam, and packing peanuts. You can find more information about where/how to dispose of packing materials in the residence halls here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Divert Waste from Landfills?

When we throw away the things we no longer need or want, we make a choice about where that trash goes. Recyclables get made into new products. Compostables breakdown into compost.

Trash is sent to the landfill and returned to the Earth. Or is it?

Contrary to common belief, trash stored in landfills is not meant to break down. Rather, landfills are designed to preserve trash so that pollutants produced from decomposition cannot escape to the surrounding environment and nearby water sources.

Landfills prevent breakdown by fostering anaerobic and dry conditions-this means that there is very little oxygen or moisture found in landfills to support the microorganisms responsible for decomposition. Landfill excavations show that many items, like newspapers and food, look roughly the same after spending years buried in a landfill.

Despite these conditions, landfills still release methane and carbon dioxide emissions from the breakdown of organic materials. According to the EPA, “landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States.” Both methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

The story of a landfill is bleak. Landfills don’t provide a solution for our waste, rather they just provide convenient spots for us to relocate our trash. It’s imperative that we reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.

The University of Michigan is committed to both waste prevention and climate action, as stated in the following Campus Sustainability Goals.

2025 Goals:

Reduce waste tonnage diverted to disposal facilities by 40% below 2006 levels

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 2006 levels

U-M’s improving recycling and composting rates show how U-M is actively working towards the goal of reducing waste sent to landfills.
The University progresses towards the emissions reductions goal by pursuing renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency across campus buildings. While U-M does not include emissions from landfills in its calculation of the emissions reduction goal, the effect waste diversion has on greenhouse gas emissions is an uncalculated bonus that aligns with the University’s commitment towards sustainability.  

Recycling allows us to divert materials from landfills that can then be reused to make new, purposeful products. Recycling also reduces emissions because less energy is spent extracting and transporting raw materials-another environmental benefit that goes unmeasured.
Composting food waste is another solution to diverting waste from landfills that produces very little emissions and that provides many benefits for the environment. The US Composting Council reports that the incorporation of compost in soil promotes carbon sequestration and indirectly reduces emissions by improving soil health. Improved soil health results in less reliance upon irrigation and fertilizer use.

Never doubt that that your choice to reduce, reuse, recycle, or compost waste will have a positive impact on the environment and your U-M community.

EPA: "Climate Change and Waste Reducing Waste Can Make A Difference"

For more information about waste reduction and recycling on campus visit the WRRO’s website:

For more information about landfills, waste reduction, and greenhouse gases referenced in this post, visit these sites:

PDF published by the U-M Greenhouse Gas Committee

PDF about the connection between waste reduction and climate change:

EPA’s basic information about landfills and methane:

Article by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council about why things don’t break down in a landfill:

A guide to how composting and GHG’s relate:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Alternative Uses for 5 Common Food Waste Items

Do you find yourself throwing out food in your kitchen? Well, you’re not the only one.

The Food Waste Reduction Alliance estimates that “25 – 40% of food grown, processed and transported in the US will never be consumed.” Most of that food waste will end up in landfills and only a small portion of it will be sent to compost centers. Diverting food waste from landfills is important because food waste releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, when stored in landfills. Food waste does not release harmful chemicals when it breaks down into compost, and it can be used to fertilize soil and promote plant growth.

However, the best way to handle food waste is to REDUCE your food waste! The second best option is to donate food to people or livestock. The last option is to either compost or throw away food waste.

Here are a few quick tips for reducing and repurposing food waste!
  1. Do you buy milk by the gallon but never seem to finish the jug? Use the leftover milk to make yogurt before it goes bad. Recipes typically call for a half gallon of milk, so say goodbye to milk waste!
  2. Use used coffee grounds or orange peels  to get rid of ants. Just sprinkle the used grounds or place peels near the pests! Just don’t forget to sweep up once the pests are gone.
  3. You can also fertilize potted plants with used coffee grounds by sprinkling a light cover of grounds on the soil.
  4. Obsessed with guac? Well don't let all of those squeezed limes go to waste. Clean your kitchen sink  by throwing leftover squeezed limes or lemons down the garbage disposal. Your kitchen sink will smell fresh and clean again and you will prevent introduction of harmful chemicals found in harsh cleaners to your community’s water supply.
  5. Bananas seem to over ripen so easily. Use those overly sweet bananas for baking banana bread. You can even bury blackened banana peels in the soil near roses to act as a natural fertilizer.

We all contribute to food waste, including the University of Michigan. Learn more about how U-M is reducing food waste on campus at: