Overall Rating Platinum - expired
Overall Score 85.74
Liaison Moira Hafer
Submission Date June 28, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Stanford University
OP-19: Waste Minimization and Diversion

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.49 / 8.00 Moira Hafer
Sustainability Specialist
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures needed to determine total waste generated (and diverted):
Performance Year Baseline Year
Materials recycled 3,108.26 Tons 4,306.57 Tons
Materials composted 8,367.68 Tons 2,542.58 Tons
Materials donated or re-sold 80.76 Tons 7.10 Tons
Materials disposed through post-recycling residual conversion 0 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed in a solid waste landfill or incinerator 8,377.51 Tons 13,982.65 Tons
Total waste generated 19,934.21 Tons 20,838.90 Tons

A brief description of the residual conversion facility, including affirmation that materials are sorted prior to conversion to recover recyclables and compostable materials:

Start and end dates of the performance year and baseline year (or three-year periods):
Start Date End Date
Performance Year Jan. 1, 2016 Dec. 31, 2016
Baseline Year Jan. 1, 1998 Dec. 31, 1998

A brief description of when and why the waste generation baseline was adopted (e.g. in sustainability plans and policies or in the context of other reporting obligations):

Stanford's waste diversion programs started in the 1970s, with peak landfill waste recorded in 1998. Thus, 1998 is now being used as the base year for all waste reduction calculations at Stanford.

This represents a change from Stanford's previous STARS reports, where year 2000 was used as the baseline year. This change was primarily adopted due to 1998 being used as the baseline year in Stanford's central waste management plan. For consistency, 1998 is now being used as the baseline year in this report as well.

Figures needed to determine "Weighted Campus Users”:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Number of students resident on-site 11,251 9,363
Number of employees resident on-site 2,250 2,108
Number of other individuals resident on-site and/or staffed hospital beds 0 0
Total full-time equivalent student enrollment 16,359 12,151
Full-time equivalent of employees (staff + faculty) 14,432 8,012
Full-time equivalent of students enrolled exclusively in distance education 0 0
Weighted campus users 26,468.50 17,990

Total waste generated per weighted campus user:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Total waste generated per weighted campus user 0.75 Tons 1.16 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 No
Plant materials Yes
Animal bedding Yes
White goods (i.e. appliances) 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) Yes

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

Plastic film, grasscycling material, brush-to-mulch program material, logs-to-chips program material, wood waste (in addition to pallets), stable waste

Materials intended for disposal but subsequently recovered and reused on campus, performance year (e.g. materials that are actively diverted from the landfill or incinerator and refurbished/repurposed) :
64.80 Tons

Does the institution use single stream recycling (a single container for commingled recyclables) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Does the institution use dual stream (two separate containers for recyclables, e.g. one for paper and another for plastic, glass, and metals) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Does the institution use multi-stream recycling (multiple containers that further separate different types of materials) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Average contamination rate for the institution’s recycling program (percentage, 0-100):

A brief description of any recycling quality control mechanisms employed, e.g. efforts to minimize contamination and/or monitor the discard rates of the materials recovery facilities and mills to which materials are diverted:

Stanford's average contamination rate for recycling in 2016 was 3.72% by weight, which is higher than usual because of the lack of markets for plastics 3-7.

Constant education and color-coded signage is Stanford's first step to minimize contamination followed by various training opportunities to educate on proper sorting. PSSI, Stanford's recycling contractor, sorts plastics, metal and glass on a sortline on campus and measures the residue off the line. No recycling loads have been rejected by vendors because of contamination.

A brief description of the institution's waste-related behavior change initiatives, e.g. initiatives to shift individual attitudes and practices such as signage and competitions:


Offered by the Office of Sustainability, My Cardinal Green provides personalized recommendations of actions that individuals can perform to help them act more environmentally sustainable. Because each person has a unique lifestyle and role on campus, the program begins with an initial survey to generate suggested actions that are most relevant for them. Each suggested action includes details to help users complete the action and connect them to the plethora of programs and resources available to the Stanford community. Users receive points for each action that they successfully complete and, after earning a certain amount of points, can receive a reward for their efforts. Real-time metrics showcase the impact their involvement has, both at the individual and collective level. Users can view the calculated resource and subsequent cost savings of each suggested action in their list, and track the cumulative impact of My Cardinal Green participants on a personal dashboard where participants record their progress. The platform features flexible content and messaging, as well as actions and results metrics, that can be promoted to specific groups on campus. A Stanford Report article describing the My Cardinal Green program is available here: http://news.stanford.edu/2017/05/05/stanford-launches-cardinal-green-rewards-program-students-faculty-staff/

Waste-related actions have been particularly popular to date. “Take a First Step” actions encourage those who are just embarking on their sustainability journey to get involved in small ways, like “learn how to recycle or compost five new things you were previously throwing away," with the idea that small steps to get started might lead to greater results in the long run. From there, users are prompted to take a next step with actions such as "compost all your food waste next month," or "do not purchase food in disposable/to-go containers this month." In creating a personal experience that connects users to the broader community, we help to establish social norms that drive a shift in not only attitudes, but behaviors as well.


Stanford provides significant programming to directly educate the Stanford community on proper waste management practices. First, Stanford offers several waste trainings to faculty and staff, through both HR and wellness training programs. For instance, each winter, Stanford offers a training entitled "Best Practices in Waste Reduction." In this training, employees learn about reducing their waste impact and becoming leaders in their workplaces. This course demonstrates best practices in waste reduction through the 5R's (reduce, reuse, recycle, rot, rebuy) in order to help jumpstart improvements in employee workplaces. The training is eligible for incentives through Stanford's BeWell wellness program. The regularly scheduled sessions of the Recyclemania waste training consistently reach maximum capacity, and OOS and PSSI now offer customized sessions to individual departments upon request, with attendance ranging from 20-50 people per session.


For the last ten years during Recyclemania at Stanford, all members of the campus community are encouraged to evaluate their own waste and recycling habits. Community members can pledge to reduce their waste via the Sustainable Stanford web portal, and the Office of Sustainability and PSSI offer activities and to help the community learn proper sorting techniques, such as free tours of its on-site recycling center and off-site composting facility. In 2017, Stanford focused its campaign on composting as the largest opportunity to increase the diversion rate, and created a “recipe for diversion” video to highlight the appropriate bins for various waste items in the kitchen. The video was produced by Stanford's Office of Sustainability interns and mimics the popular recipe stop motion films produced by Tasty and others. Stanford also produced a parody video of the popular Meghan Trainor song “All About that Bass” titled “All About No Waste” for the RecycleMania campaign in 2015 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKo0XXiWGVM). Throughout the campaign, Stanford also measures its impact on the campus community by asking people to pledge to reduce waste via the Sustainable Stanford website, with close to 1,300 pledges received during the 2017 campaign, and the visibility of the campaign continues to increase. Below are Stanford’s overall results during the 2017 Recyclemania campaign:

Gorilla: 2 out of 214
Corrugated Cardboard: 5 out of 73
Food Service Organics: 6 out of 142
Bottles and Cans: 6 out of 80
Paper: 6 out of 89
Per Capita Recycling: 18 out of 246
Grand Champion: 73 out of 190
Waste Minimization: 133 out of 135


The Office of Sustainability partners with the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) to host two RecycleMania game day challenges during the RecycleMania, where it engages students, staff and fans to recycle and compost. The diversion rate at these games increased to 36% in 2017 from 5% in 2015 due to increased recycling and composting availability and in-game messaging. A sustainability-themed game is also hosted each football season as part of the national Game Day Challenge campaign. Through additional signage, on-screen messaging, distribution of compostable bags to tailgaters, and expansion of compost infrastructure inside the stadium, Stanford achieved a 31% diversion rate for the Game Day Challenge in 2016 up from 6% in 2015 and also doubled its season-wide diversion rate to 24%. These initiatives are part of the larger Cardinal Green Athletics program. More detail on the waste-related initiatives available through that program is provided in the Exemplary Practice section.


Stanford also houses two elementary schools that are served by PSSI. PSSI organizes initiatives at both schools to train students on proper sorting techniques. Two PSSI student interns coordinate these projects. Additionally, over 90 children, parents and teachers from Escondido Elementary toured the Stanford Recycling Center in October 2015 to learn about best practices in waste reduction. The kids rotated through four active and engaging stations: a tour of the recycling center, a waste reduction relay, a sorting game, and a story about a kid who helps his community recycle. Kids (and parents and teachers) learned why we recycle, how we sort the materials at the recycling center, and where the materials go. They also learned the priority of waste reduction and reuse over recycling, composting, and landfilling by running a relay race with items that could be reused. Lastly, playing a very fast game, they learned how to sort their waste properly.


Many items used in laboratories can be recycled, including cardboard, paper, metal, and certain uncontaminated glass and plastics. However, most labs don’t have easy access to recycling bins. In response, Cardinal Green Labs partnered with E&K Scientific, a local vendor of research supplies, to launch a voluntary lab recycling program in August 2016. The program provides free recycling bins so that labs can sort their waste right at the source. Lab members empty the bins into the closest building recycling receptacle when full. The program is estimated to keep 600 pounds of waste per year out of the landfill per bin provided.

Disposable gloves are ubiquitous in labs but cannot be recycled in the regular recycling stream. In response, Cardinal Green Labs also piloted a separate program for lab gloves in two School of Medicine buildings: Lokey Stem Cell and Medical School Lab Surge. The program provides a bucket for used glove collection in the lab; buckets are emptied into a central building bin when full. The building bin is serviced by the Environmental Health & Safety Department, which ships crates of gloves to TerraCycle, a company that recycles them into plastic patio furniture.


The Green GSE Initiative (http://news.stanford.edu/2017/04/18/experiment-sustainability-change-habits-not-infrastructure/) is the first large-scale partnership at Stanford between one of its seven schools and the Office of Sustainability to foster a schoolwide culture of conservation. Instead of focusing on infrastructure, this collaboration was aimed at getting GSE staff and faculty more routinely involved in everyday activities like recycling and composting. Through this effort, the GSE adopted the desk-side and mini trash bin paper recycling program at every desk and composting in every break room and implemented a policy against purchasing bottled water for events. Employees who organize events are now guided towards more sustainable options, like large beverage dispensers and compostable service ware. All staff were also issued large GSE-branded ceramic mugs and sturdy water bottles, which have the added benefit of showcasing the school’s commitment to sustainability to the rest of campus.

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

Stanford has completed 28 waste audits over the last 7 years. Each year, landfill dumpsters from an assortment of buildings are selected and a team of volunteers sorts the material into 12 categories. Key findings include that over 25% of the waste sent to landfill is recyclable and 39% of the waste sent to landfill is compostable. The waste audits help the university determine next steps in its Zero Waste Program.

A brief description of the institution's procurement policies designed to prevent waste (e.g. by minimizing packaging and purchasing in bulk):

Wherever possible, Stanford strives to minimize waste through its purchases. Minimization of packaging is a central aspect of the sustainable purchasing guidelines used on campus. For more details, please visit:

Stanford’s School of Medicine has also partnered with supply chain logistics coordinator Owens & Minor to provide just-in-time daily delivery of medical supplies to Stanford Medicine’s over 300 restocking stations (including at Stanford Hospital) in reusable totes instead of less frequent bulk deliveries in cardboard boxes. The model not only solves Stanford Medicine’s storage space constraints, but also reduces labor spent on receiving, sorting and distributing supplies and reduces the amount of cardboard waste. More information is available here: http://usereusables.org/sites/default/files/sumc_success_story_final_new_letterhead.pdf.

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

Stanford has a Surplus Property Sales department which reallocates surplus university assets to sell to community and local partners via a Surplus Sales website. Items sold through surplus property include machinery, electronics, furniture, and office supplies. Stanford also has a furniture reutilization program that ensures excess furniture does not end up in the landfill. A REUSE website (http://reuse.stanford.edu) maintained by Surplus Property Sales enables Stanford departments to transfer materials between one other. An article from the Stanford Report with more information about Stanford’s Surplus Property Sales department can be found at the following link: http://news.stanford.edu/2016/08/10/one-stanford-persons-trash-anothers-treasure/

A brief description of the institution's platforms to encourage peer-to-peer exchange and reuse (e.g. of electronics, furnishings, books and other goods):

The Cardinal Green Lab Program, in partnership with Property Management, EH&S, and PSSI, hosts a laboratory sharing event twice per year to help labs donate high-quality, usable items to other labs in need. Approximately 100 labs participate at each event, resulting in an estimated $260,000 in research funding saved since the first event in 2016. Additionally, multiple tons of waste are diverted from the landfill as a result of these events.

Stanford has also hosted two Repair Cafes (https://repaircafe.org/en/) in which volunteers assess and fix broken items, such as bikes, lamps, small appliances, clothing, computers, etc. for others in the community. Fixers at the Stanford Repair Café have established an apprentice program where about a dozen Stanford students volunteer at each event to shadow and learn how to fix items that might otherwise end up in the landfill.

Also, SU Post is an online marketplace for students on campus to post and exchange goods. Students for a Sustainable Stanford is also developing an initiative to collect goods during student move out and give them to low-income students the following year through the First Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) program.

On the employee side, the Stanford Staffers group, of which all Stanford staff members are eligible to be a part, often has postings of unneeded goods on its listserv, which allows the group to act as a staff exchange program.

A brief description of the institution's limits on paper and ink consumption (e.g. restricting free printing and/or mandating doubled-sided printing in libraries and computer labs):

All students must pay a printing fee of $0.10 per page to release a job on any Stanford-owned printer.

A brief description of the institution's initiatives to make materials (e.g. course catalogs, course schedules, and directories) available online by default rather than printing them:

Stanford switched its course bulletin to an online-only format in order to save paper and other resources. Students can view transcripts, course schedules, course directories, grades, and many other academic resources online through Axess, Stanford’s web-based record management system. None of these materials are printed except by individual request.

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

Stanford established and launched a formal “Give & Go” campaign (https://rde.stanford.edu/studenthousing/give-go-donation-program) to reduce waste in residence halls during the annual move-out period by encouraging the donation and reuse of student items that might otherwise be put in the landfill. The campaign has been running for several years and continues to improve each year. In 2016, a new video was created to promote the campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L71wFuaI3Hs

Additionally, in 2016 student interns led an initiative for students in one particular area to bring their items to a central location staffed by a Goodwill representative one week early in order to avoid the chaos of move-out day and encourage increased reuse of goods. The 2016 Give & Go program donated 34 tons of waste to Goodwill that otherwise would have been thrown away.

In addition, Student Housing maintains a comprehensive website resource for move-out, with details about all the materials collected and the corresponding collection points on campus.

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

Stanford's Deskside Recycling and Mini Trash Bin Program is the newest paper waste collection system based on the concept of minimizing waste and maximizing recycling. It consists of two bins, one 14-quart blue recycling bin and one 1.15-gallon mini black trash bin that hangs on the side of the recycling bin. In addition to making it easier for building occupants to recycle their paper waste, this program also encourages minimization of landfill materials due to the small size of the deskside mini trash bin. Custodians are responsible for emptying both the recycling and trash bins on a weekly schedule. To date, 8,277 sets of bins have been placed in 94 buildings on campus.

Student residences are also gradually being moved over to a three-bin waste system to make it easier to sort materials inside rooms. To date, 1,194 student rooms have been outfitted with the new bin system, and the remaining undergraduate rooms are scheduled to receive the bins over winter break 2017. Common areas in 27 undergraduate dorms have also received new common area waste bins that facilitate proper sorting for students. Student Housing is also implementing standards for waste corral design to standardize waste corrals across student residences and thus make the sorting process easier for students as they relocate to new campus residences from year to year.

Additionally, Stanford has recently expanded its composting program, since waste audits have shown that organic waste comprises 39% of material sent to the landfill. For instance, Student Housing has expanded its bathroom paper towel composting program to nearly all undergraduate dorms. A study of bathroom paper towel composting was conducted in engineering buildings in 2016, and the program was implemented in the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation as well. Also in 2015, Stanford launched an interior composting program for the first time, where Stanford's waste management contractor will set up and service compost bins inside academic buildings at a minor cost to each department. As of June 2017, 77 buildings are participating in this program, and the waste composted through this program increased from 1,140 pounds in July 2015 (before the program launched) to an average of 4,501 pounds per month. In 2016, 54,020 lbs of compost were collected through this program alone.

The university also operates a voluntary composting program and continues to strategically add shared compost dumpsters across campus to make it easier for building occupants to discard organic waste from the small compost bins that they individually maintain.

PSSI also offers a robust recycling and composting service for events on campus. "Trios" of waste bins (one recycling, one compost, and one landfill) are available for departments to rent for events, along with signage. The Cardinal Green Events program is also available to help event planners navigate their options for hosting a sustainable, zero-waste event. See

Stanford also continues its endeavors to make sure all recycling and composting bins in academic buildings are labeled uniformly. Stanford has re-labeled over 5,000 recycling bins on campus! The new labels clearly show what types of products should be put in which bins, and their consistency across campus has translated to higher levels of recognition among individuals and, in turn, improved individual recycling habits.

For more information, please visit the following websites:

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The Faculty/Staff Housing area on Stanford's Campus is excluded from the overarching STARS boundary since Stanford does not have operational control over these residences, and they receive electric and gas utilities separate from Stanford's utility systems. Thus, Stanford does not closely track the number of residents in this area. However, this area of the campus, including both single-family and multi-family homes, is served by PSSI, Stanford’s waste hauler, so the number of residents in this area has been estimated for the purposes of this credit using the assumption that an average of 2.5 people live in each of the 900 residences within that area, up from 843 in 1998. These numbers have been included in the "number of employees resident on-site" credit fields for their respective years. This and the Water Use credit are the only two credits in which Stanford includes any employees resident on-site.

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.