Overall Rating Platinum - expired
Overall Score 88.00
Liaison Sam Lubow
Submission Date Feb. 22, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Stanford University
OP-19: Waste Minimization and Diversion

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.02 / 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 3,080.66 Tons 4,306.57 Tons
Materials composted 7,536.10 Tons 2,542.58 Tons
Materials donated or re-sold 193.88 Tons 7.10 Tons
Materials disposed through post-recycling residual conversion 0 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed in a solid waste landfill or incinerator 7,004.77 Tons 13,982.65 Tons
Total waste generated 17,815.41 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, 2018 Dec. 31, 2018
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 used as the base year for all waste reduction calculations at Stanford.

Figures needed to determine "Weighted Campus Users”:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Number of students resident on-site 11,367 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 16,517 12,151
Full-time equivalent of employees (staff + faculty) 15,620 8,012
Full-time equivalent of students enrolled exclusively in distance education 0 0
Weighted campus users 27,507 17,990

Total waste generated per weighted campus user:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Total waste generated per weighted campus user 0.65 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) :
80.02 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 2018 is 6.4% by weight. This represents an increase from prior years due to the Chinese Waste Ban, which makes plastics #3-#7 and #1 plastic thermoforms difficult to recycle. Despite this, Stanford has not changed what is generally accepted in the recycling streams because we expect to be able to recycle this material in the future.

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:

As part of Stanford's long range planning effort, Stanford set the goal in spring 2018 to achieve Zero Waste by 2030. Consistent with that goal, the strategies and programs discussed below will be optimized and expanded over the next several years and new programs will be introduced to allow Stanford to achieve its goal.

The Zero Waste by 2030 plan is completed and additional studies are underway. The plan follows the waste hierarchy of prioritizing reduction and reuse, followed by recycling and rot (compost)), and will incorporate upstream solutions related to purchasing and contracts. The new plan will also have a robust education and outreach program to engage the community so that reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting become an ingrained set of behaviors. A few articles summarizing Stanford's Zero Waste initiatives and plan are provided below:

Presentation to the Faculty Senate on the progress of the Zero Waste plan: https://news.stanford.edu/2018/11/09/faculty-senate-hears-reports-sustainability-lecturers/
Stanford's Commitment to Zero Waste in the face of the Chinese Waste Ban: https://news.stanford.edu/2018/08/03/stanford-remains-committed-zero-waste-goal-despite-shakeup-global-recycling-industry/


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. 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. Waste-related actions are the most popular type of action in the platform. “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.


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 2018, Stanford focused its campaign on "tracking trash." All actions were promoted through the My Cardinal Green online engagement platform. Besides traditional recycling and composting related activities, actions promoted included collecting your landfill trash for a week to measure how much you produce. One of the most popular outcomes of Stanford's RecycleMania campaign is a parody video of the popular Meghan Trainor song “All About that Bass” titled “All About No Waste”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKo0XXiWGVM Below are Stanford’s overall results during the 2018 Recyclemania campaign:

Gorilla (total tons recycled): 2 out of 229
Per Capita (tons recycled per person): 14 out of 228
Grand Champion (diversion rate): 55 out of 170
Waste Minimization: 164 out of 179

Throughout the campaign, Stanford also engages the campus community via My Cardinal Green. The RecycleMania campaign led to 500 new sign-ups and 1,000 waste-related actions completed through My Cardinal Green.


The Office of Sustainability partners with the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) to host sustainability games for football, men's basketball and women's basketball. The goal of each sustainability game is to engage students, staff and fans to recycle and compost. The diversion rate at the women's basketball game increased to 68% in 2018 from 36% in 2017 due to increased recycling and composting availability and in-game messaging. The diversion figures from these games are reported through the Recyclemania Game Day Challenge and the Pac-12 Zero Waste Bowl.

Stanford Stadium has also increased its diversion rate, both at its sustainability-themed games and overall. Through additional signage, on-screen messaging, and expansion of compost infrastructure inside the stadium, Stanford achieved a 43% season-wide diversion rate inside the stadium in 2018, up from 23% during the 2016 season. In 2017, Stanford won the "Most Improved" award in the Pac-12 Zero Waste Bowl.

Stanford measures waste in its tailgate areas separately and reached an overall 16% diversion rate in tailgate areas in 2018, an impressive endeavor given the difficulty of collecting waste in such spread out locations and the array of products used by fans while they tailgate. One way DAPER increased its diversion rate in tailgate areas was by distributing "tailgate kits" to tailgaters with appropriately colored bags for compost, recycling, and landfill, which helped tailgaters sort their waste correctly. 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. The Cardinal Green Labs program works with lab occupants to set up appropriate recycling receptacles in lab spaces. If the lab generates a large amount of recyclable waste, the program sets up large bins that are serviced directly by Stanford’s waste hauler. If the lab generates a moderate amount of recyclables or there is not enough space in the lab for a large bin, the program provides free buckets for lab occupants to sort their waste and empty them in serviced bins in the hallways. Bins and buckets are custom labeled with common lab items.

To address the ubiquitous stream of disposable gloves in labs, Cardinal Green Labs administers Kimberly Clark’s glove recycling program. The program provides a bucket for used glove collection in the lab; lab occupants empty buckets 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, the company that recycles them into plastic patio furniture.


The Green GSE Initiative 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. See details at: http://news.stanford.edu/2017/04/18/experiment-sustainability-change-habits-not-infrastructure/

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 29 waste audits since 2008. 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.

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 maintained by Surplus Property Sales enables Stanford departments to transfer materials between one other: http://reuse.stanford.edu 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/
Stanford's Surplus Property Sales department also manages the university's toner recycling program. Through this program, any campus building or department can request a toner recycling bin, and the Surplus Property Sales department will collect the spent toner cartridges on a regular basis and coordinate their recycling.

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. Items that don't get claimed are distributed via Surplus Property. Approximately 100 labs participate at each event, resulting in over $100,000 in research funding saved on average at each event and multiple tons diverted from the landfill.

Stanford also hosts Repair Cafes 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. Visit: https://repaircafe.org/en/
Stanford University (SU) Post is an online marketplace for students on campus to post and exchange goods. 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 $0.12 per page to release a job on any Stanford-owned printer.

Additionally, Stanford is rolling out a new centralized printing initiative throughout campus, led by the Procurement Department, that will minimize the number of printers required on campus, reduce the amount of wasted print materials, and hold departments more accountable for how much they print. Stanford's new campus in Redwood City will be one of the first locations to support the centralized print system, beginning in Spring 2019.

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 has a formal “Give & Go” campaign 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 has expanded significantly since its launch. Most items are collected at convenient locations distributed across campus and donated to Goodwill. R&DE maintains a comprehensive website that details the collection points and types of materials collected. In 2017, R&DE introduced a program to collect particularly high quality goods, such as mini fridges and printers, and give them to low-income students the following year through the First Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) program. In 2018, 39 tons of materials were diverted from the landfill as a result of Give & Go. For details, visit: https://rde.stanford.edu/studenthousing/give-go-donation-program

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

All undergraduates have a three-bin waste system in their rooms to make it easier to sort materials. All graduate students receive 1 recycling bin per apartment and are able to collect a compost bucket from their front desk if they would like one. Additionally, common areas in 30 residences have received custom common area waste bins that facilitate proper sorting for students, and a plan and funding are in place to install these same multi-stream bins in all graduate student buildings by 2030. 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. For instance, in 2018-19, R&DE began a study to ask graduate students to report which dumpster enclosures they're using in order to better understand how to optimize the layout and locations of dumpster enclosures. In order for the study to be successful, R&DE recognized that high participation in their survey was critical, so they came up with a creative way to label the dumpster enclosures--each with a different, cute type of animal--that would allow students to more easily remember the enclosure they use.

Stanford's Deskside Recycling and Mini Trash Bin Program is available to academic buildings. 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, 8,735 sets of bins have been placed in 103 buildings on campus.

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.

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 two primary recreation centers on campus 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 2019, there are 107 collection points in 43 buildings through this program. In 2018, 41.1 tons of compost were collected through this program.

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:

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:

Data source(s) and notes about 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 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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.