Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 66.71
Liaison Greg Kozak
Submission Date March 6, 2020

STARS v2.2

Northwestern University
OP-18: Waste Minimization and Diversion

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.91 / 8.00 Sarah Tulga
Sustainability Program Coordinator
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures needed to determine total waste generated (and diverted):
Performance Year Baseline Year
Materials recycled 1,996 Tons 1,333.82 Tons
Materials composted 635 Tons 777.78 Tons
Materials donated or re-sold 5 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed through post-recycling residual conversion 0 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed in a solid waste landfill or incinerator 3,777 Tons 4,321 Tons
Total waste generated 6,413 Tons 6,432.60 Tons

A brief description of the residual conversion facility:

Start and end dates of the performance year and baseline year (or three-year periods):
Start Date End Date
Performance Period Sept. 1, 2017 Aug. 31, 2018
Baseline Period Sept. 1, 2011 Aug. 31, 2012

A brief description of when and why the waste generation baseline was adopted:

Aligns with other baselines used for sustainability metrics and data is more reliable.

Figures needed to determine "Weighted Campus Users”:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Number of students resident on-site 4,859 4,577
Number of employees resident on-site 15 15
Number of other individuals resident on-site 0 0
Total full-time equivalent student enrollment 19,112 18,379
Full-time equivalent of employees 10,316 7,898
Full-time equivalent of students enrolled exclusively in distance education 700.67 175
Weighted campus users 22,764.00 20,724.50

Total waste generated per weighted campus user:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Total waste generated per weighted campus user 0.28 Tons 0.31 Tons

Percentage reduction in total waste generated per weighted campus user from baseline:

Percentage of materials diverted from the landfill or incinerator by recycling, composting, donating or re-selling, performance year:

Percentage of materials diverted from the landfill or incinerator (including up to 10 percent attributable to post-recycling residual conversion):

In the waste figures reported above, has the institution recycled, composted, donated and/or re-sold the following materials?:
Yes or No
Paper, plastics, glass, metals, and other recyclable containers Yes
Food Yes
Cooking oil Yes
Plant materials Yes
Animal bedding No
White goods (i.e. appliances) Yes
Electronics Yes
Laboratory equipment Yes
Furniture Yes
Residence hall move-in/move-out waste Yes
Scrap metal Yes
Pallets Yes
Tires Yes
Other (please specify below) No

A brief description of other materials the institution has recycled, composted, donated and/or re-sold:

Materials intended for disposal but subsequently recovered and reused on campus, performance year:

Does the institution use single stream recycling to collect standard recyclables in common areas?:

Does the institution use dual stream recycling to collect standard recyclables in common areas?:

Does the institution use multi-stream recycling to collect standard recyclables in common areas?:

Average contamination rate for the institution’s recycling program:

A brief description of any recycling quality control mechanisms employed:

We have never had a load of recyclables rejected. Custodial staff are instructed to dispose of items in recycling bins if the majority of the contents are trash/contaminants.

A brief description of the institution's waste-related behavior change initiatives:

Various efforts are incorporated to minimize waste. All incoming freshman are given a reusable water bottle and water filling stations have been installed in every residence hall and across our campus facilities. Our labs are offered a monthly glass blowing service to repair cracked glassware when feasible. All of our Procurement bid documents are electronic. Reusable envelopes are utilized for inter-campus mail.

We do divert many items for reuse/donation but do not have great way to track weights for these items. Our current waste audit and Solid Waste Management Plan will address this issue.

A brief description of the institution's waste audits and other initiatives to assess its materials management efforts and identify areas for improvement:

A comprehensive waste audit was conducted in 2017, providing a full analysis and composition of our waste, including analysis of waste by building type. These results were used to develop a Solid Waste Management.


A brief description of the institution's procurement policies designed to prevent waste:

The following information is included in the current Procurement Policy:

"Northwestern considers environmental impact in purchasing decisions, when appropriate. Procurement and Payment Services (PPS) will consider the use of products and services with less environmental impact than competing products when it is a good best-value decision to do so (based on a thorough total-cost-of-ownership analysis). When establishing contracts and agreements on behalf of the University, PPS considers the initial price as well as the factors listed below. Northwestern also encourages departments/schools to consider the use of products and services that impact the environment less than competing products, when it is a good best value decision to do so.

A good best value decision based on a thorough total cost of ownership analysis considers the initial cost of the item as well as factors such as:

-Shipping Materials. Purchase products that are shipped in containers that are returnable or reusable and made from recycled content (i.e. cardboard boxes). Also request bulk packaging when multiple items are ordered for delivery at the same time.

-Recycled Content. Purchase products made with recycled content suitable for the intended use. Look for a high percentage of post-consumer content. “Post consumer” is material that has served its intended purpose and has been discarded for disposal or recovery by a business or consumer. Other recycled content includes post-industrial wastes, which are by-products of a manufacturing process that would normally not be reused in the process.

-Other. Environmental performance of the supplier and/or producer should also be considered, such as waste prevention, waste reduction, pollution prevention, clean air and water programs, re-use of materials, minimization of scrap material, and any other green factory initiatives, etc. The University strongly desires to minimize the amount of waste sent to landfills. Both the product purchased and the packaging materials associated with it should be minimized to prevent waste as much as possible."

A brief description of the institution's surplus department or formal office supplies exchange program that facilitates reuse of materials:

The Surplus Property Exchange is an online bulletin board where Northwestern departments/schools can list surplus University property for other departments/schools to purchase or take for free. Available items include computers, furniture, toner, lab supplies and more. Staff can also subscribe to a listserv to receive an email notification when a new item is posted on the Exchange. University employees and students may bid on items for personal use after the item has been listed for more than 30 days.

A brief description of the institution's platforms to encourage peer-to-peer exchange and reuse:

See above

A brief description of the institution's limits on paper and ink consumption:

All Northwestern University libraries, plus many public areas, labs and classrooms charge for printing. These printing charges encourage responsible printing and reimburse the university for the cost spent on printing materials. Printing is free for students in certain schools, but where free printing is offered, it's in black and white.


A brief description of the institution's initiatives to make materials available online by default rather than printing them:

All course catalogs, directories and schedules are distributed to students online, through department websites and CAESAR, the student academic portal. Students are able to browse classes, course descriptions, course times and comments from previous students through CAESAR.

Our Graduate School went paperless for admissions in 2013. All admissions materials are delivered electronically. The Student Organizations and Activities Office offers financial incentives for student groups to go paperless at information fairs. The Library sponsors Paperless Month every April with targeted messages around reducing printing, utilizing 'print to Pdf' options, and sharing information on the amount of paper used in the Library.

Professors are also becoming more cognizant of making materials online, for reducing cost to students and paper waste. Many professors opt to assign readings in PDF or online form or recommend electronic textbooks. And students are encouraged to look for electronic options as a cost-savings option https://www.northwestern.edu/financial-wellness/saving-in-college/buying-books.html.

A brief description of the institution's program to reduce residence hall move-in/move-out waste:

During campus move-in additional cardboard recycling dumpsters are placed throughout residential areas. In addition to these dumpsters, cardboard "corrals" are erected in convenient areas during the heaviest move-in days. A "sustainNU crew" is deployed to remind new students about campus recycling and assist with recycling during the Freshman Move-In day. These crews both take cardboard to recycling locations and dumpster dive to retrieve any cardboard that might end up in the trash.

During campus move-out, collection boxes are placed in every residence hall and the campus recreational sports center for the collection of clothing, linens, small household items and nonperishable food. Nearly 10,000 pounds are collected for donation and reuse annually.

A brief description of the institution's programs or initiatives to recover and reuse other materials intended for disposal:

Website URL where information about the institution’s waste minimization and diversion efforts is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.