Waste Reduction

UofL is not only committed to recycling, reuse, and composting, but more importantly minimizing waste in the first place.

Total Waste Generated at UofL

The University of Louisville is taking a variety of steps to reduce the amount of waste generated on campus and to divert a greater percentage of our waste from going to landfills.

UofL had been making progress in our goal of reducing our total annual waste generation since a peak in 2009, but we need to step up our efforts to reduce the amount of solid waste produced on campus. While each year's total fluctuates with various factors such as major construction and renovation projects, we can see the need to tackle this problem through a multifaceted, university-wide approach.

There is still much more we need to do in order to achieve our goal of Zero Waste. In 2016, we recycled over 20.4 million pounds (78.7%) of our waste, the majority of which came from two major demolition projects - Crawford Gym and the Student Services Annex. Recycling is a key principle, but true sustainability demands that it must always come AFTER efforts to significantly reduce waste generation in the first place and to reuse items whenever possible. UofL's landfill diversion programs include extensive recycling, reuse, composting, waste minimization, and other waste reduction efforts from the classroom to the construction site.

Transition to shared services yielding time, paper savings(UofL News, Sept. 12, 2016)
UofL's Business Operations team shows off how much paper was saved during the shared services soft launch.

In 2013, UofL reduced its total annual waste generation by over 886,000 pounds (a 10% reduction from 2012) and we recycled nearly 4.5 million pounds (57.4%) of our waste.

Video: Waste Reduction @ UofL

Mini-bin on desk

The mini-bin is a reminder that we can recycle most everything at UofL!

UofL students in GRASS (Group Recycling And Sustainable Solutions) have helped change the disposable culture on campus through awareness raising campaigns such as "dumpster dives."

UofL's Solid Waste Reduction Committee

In 2013, the Sustainability Council convened a new committee to take our existing programs to the next level. Phase I of our “Mini Bin” Garbage Reduction and Single Stream Recycling program are in place and the program has been the major factor in increasing recycling rates across the University, particularly in the areas of cardboard, paper, aluminum, glass and plastic. While the numbers have increased every year since the program’s inception in 2009, there are areas that need to be improved, including:

  • Promotion of recycling programs - increasing awareness, understanding of program, individual prompts to increase recycling
  • Changing University-wide culture to normalize recycling through behavioral change and institutional change
  • Improving current methods and discovering new opportunities to reuse items University-wide
  • Developing university-wide goals and systems to measure progress and provide feedback to the University community
  • Custodial staff training, development of policies regarding waste disposal, performance review standards, etc.
  • Identification of specific waste streams that can be minimized or eliminated, including modifications in purchasing habits
  • Recycling at special events, including sports venues, conferences, catering, other large events
  • Expanding pre- and post-consumer food waste composting

UofL's Solid Waste Reduction Committee is attempting to address these concerns and we'd love to have your input. This voluntary committee will report to the Sustainable Operations Committee. To get involved, contact: Aaron Boggs at 852-8181.

Remember that the famous “Three Rs” are in order of priority: Reduce, Reuse…THEN Recycle! Learn why at The Story of Stuff.

Reduce...

  • 42 Ways to Not Make Trash
  • Go Paperless! Instead of printing, use electronic file-sharing like SharePoint or Blackboard.
    - Instructors: Get the mobile app for paperless exams!
  • If you must print, use both sides! All UofL Uniprint Stations now automatically print double-sided! This switch alone reduced our paper consumption by about 30,000 pages per month!
  • Bring reusable shopping bags instead of accepting new paper or plastic bags.
  • At mealtimes, use reusable items like mugs, cups, utensils, cloth napkins and towels rather than disposable products. If you're headed out, bring your own! In Fall 2015, UofL Dining by Sodexo launched a brand new pilot take-out service in truly sustainable style – without adding to the waste stream!! Anyone could purchase a Ville Grill To-Go Club membership in person at The Ville Grill for just $10. Membership earned you a reusable container, unlimited washing of the container and compostable cutlery & napkins, should you need them. We are in discussion with our new UofL Dining services provider, Aramark, about relaunching the service.
  • Use reusable filters instead of disposable ones in your furnace, coffeemaker, etc.
  • Use rechargeable batteries rather than disposables.
  • Avoid unnecessary purchases and excess packaging. Buy in bulk.
  • Save some money and the planet by first seeking used and pre-owned items before shopping for new. UofL departments can freely exchange durable items like furniture and equipment for reuse through UofL Surplus.

Louisville Pure Tap at Campus Sustainability Day 2016Back to the Tap! (UofL Today, Jan. 14, 2015)
UofL & Louisville Water Co. promote tap water (Courier-Journal, Jan. 14, 2015)

Sustainability on Tap

UofL and Louisville Water Company are working together to educate students, faculty and staff on the value of getting back to the tap on campus. This partnership includes messaging at drinking water fountains, events and guest lectures. Louisville Water's story of science, engineering and public health brings a real-world example to the classroom. Louisville Water Co. will provide staff for guest lectures and tours of the water treatment facilities. Curious about how drinking water is made or the engineering behind it? Perhaps you'd like to explore the political and global issues around water or dive into the marketing of tap water.

Contact Kelley Dearing Smith, Louisville Water to arrange a tour or guest lecture: ksmith@lwcky.com or 502-569-3695

  • Drink Louisville's award-winning tap water instead of bottled water. Fill up your bottle easily at one of our many filling stations around campus, including:
    Water Filling Station + SignBelknap Academic Classroom Building - all floors
    Bettie Johnson Hall - lobby
    Boat House
    College of Business - all floors
    College of Education - 1st floor Lobby and near Dean’s office
    Community Park - lobby
    Davidson Hall - 1st floor
    Ernst Hall - 1st floor
    Ekstrom Library - 1st & 2nd floors, & Tulip Tree Café
    Ford Hall - 1st & 3rd floors
    Get Healthy Now Employee Wellness Center
    Gottschalk Hall - 1st floor
    Humanities - 1st floor
    J. B. Speed - 1st floor at elevator
    Kurz Hall - lobby
    Law School - 1st floor & 2nd floor east and west
    Life Sciences - 3rd floor
    Louisville Hall - lobby
    Lutz Hall - 1st & 3rd floors
    Lynn Soccer Stadium
    Music Library
    Natural Sciences - 1st floor
    I Commit To Boycott Bottled Water (Campus Sustainability Day 2016)Service Complex - 1st floor
    Strickler Hall - 1st & 4th floors
    Student Activities Center - all floors
    Student Rec Center - all floors
    Threlkeld Hall - lobby
    Unitas Hall - lobby
    University Tower Apts - lobby
    Urban Studies Institute - 1st and 2nd floors
    W.S. Speed - 1st floor
    Kornhauser Library 2nd floor
    K Building 2nd floor
    Dental School 1st floor hallway
    School of Medicine (55A) 1st floor student lounge

In order to discourage the use of disposable bottled water on campus (to reduce expenses, solid waste generation, and the emissions and environmental impact of packaging and shipping water), and to comply with our sustainability goals and LEED requirements, University Planning, Design & Construction has established a policy to install chilled water bottle filling stations in all of our new construction and major renovations. Two recent examples of this policy include:
1. Belknap Academic Classroom Building - Featuring 16 chilled water bottle filling stations, each with two drinking fountains adjacent; and
2. SAC Renovation / Expansion - The project is adding 6 chilled water bottle filling stations, each with two drinking fountains adjacent.

New ‘green’ efforts would place fee on disposable plastic bottles (The Louisville Cardinal, Jan. 30, 2013)
"Having conducted about 200 Tap Water Challenges on campus, I have found that about 88% of students prefer the taste of Louisville Tap to Aquafina (which is simply tap water from Indiana) or Kroger bottled water (tap water from Virginia)!"
- Bess McLaughlin, UofL Senior, Spring 2011

Reuse...

IFIXIT - Don't trash it, FIX IT! The free repair guide for everything, written by everyone.

DonorsResource.org - Don't trash it, donate it! Find a local nonprofit that needs the items you want to donate. Members of the UofL community are encouraged to seek creative ways to see that durable items are reused. This helps save money, reduces the amount of waste we send to the landfill, and reduces the environmental impact of producing and transporting new goods.

Free Store Donation BinSustainability at UofL: GRASS develops Free Store (The Louisville Cardinal, 4/3/13)

  • In April 2016, UofL solidified an on-going partnership with Goodwill Industries of Kentucky to capture even more items for reuse. Permanent Goodwill collection bins are now available in the lobbies of all nine Belknap Campus Housing locations: Bettie Johnson Hall, Community Park, Kurz Hall, Louisville Hall, Goodwill Collection Bins in UofL HousingMedical-Dental Apartments,Miller Hall, Threlkeld Hall, Unitas Tower & University Tower Apartments. Please use these bins at your convenience to donate any of the following items and help us keep more stuff out of the landfill:
    • Clothing
    • Other textiles (towels, linens, curtains, pillows)
    • Books, music, media (VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs, computer/gaming software)
    • Shoes
    • Accessories (purses, backpacks, belts, neck ties, hats)
    • Décor
    • Kitchenware

    Goodwill CANNOT accept any of the following items: Glass, Paint, Chemicals, Car batteries, Tires, Computers or computer components, or Televisions.

In 2016, students kept 5331 pounds of useful items out of the landfill by donating them to Goodwill through the new bins!

  • During Move-Out Time, UofL residents are also encouraged to exchange reusable items through the "Lighten Your Load" (or "Give and Go") collections and associated temporary Free Stores hosted at the end of the year by Campus Housing in partnership with Goodwill Industries of Kentucky. During UofL's 2015 Give & Go Move-Out Waste Reduction campaign, students donated 8,475 pounds of reusable goods to Goodwill! Look for signs and collection bins as you think about moving out!
  • Prior to the opening of the UofL Free Store, roughly 2000 pounds/year of used clothes and shoes were collected from 2012-14 in light green bins set up by a non-profit organization at Miller Hall, Threlkeld Hall, Kurz Hall, Unitas Hall, and University Tower Apartments. The Gaia Movement is a non-profit organization which uses revenue from used clothing to support and on‐going environmental and community development projects around the world. Clothes collected at UofL helped fund efforts including a solar power project in Quissanga District in Mozambique; a biogas project in Capo Delgado Province, Mozambique; a solar power project in Changalane District, Mozambique; and the Seeds for Life project in India.
  • Prior to the opening of the UofL Free Store, roughly 2000 pounds/year of used clothes and shoes were collected from 2012-14 in light green bins set up by a non-profit organization at Miller Hall, Threlkeld Hall, Kurz Hall, Unitas Hall, and University Tower Apartments. The Gaia Movement is a non-profit organization which uses revenue from used clothing to support and on‐going environmental and community development projects around the world. Clothes collected at UofL helped fund efforts including a solar power project in Quissanga District in Mozambique; a biogas project in Capo Delgado Province, Mozambique; a solar power project in Changalane District, Mozambique; and the Seeds for Life project in India.
  • Clean Styrofoam coolers used in shipping can be reused! For on-campus reuse, contact Cathy Price (Dept. of Environmental Health & Safety) at 502-852-2956. Also, the local non-profit Supplies Overseas can use such coolers (and other things like saline bags) for shipping medical supplies to needy communities. They welcome both one-time and regular donations of surplus medical supplies and equipment from all individuals, hospitals, medical clinics, and other health care organizations throughout the region. They accept drop-offs at their warehouse (1500 Arlington Ave.) 8am-4pm, Monday-Friday. 502-736-6360.

A surplus auto refractor, donated by UofL, is used to determine a patient’s proper eyeglass prescription in Tamale, Ghana
Surplus medical equipment from UofL gets a second life in Ghana
(UofL News, Feb. 6, 2017)

...THEN Recycle!

  • From cans to magazines to batteries to computers...learn about the wide array of items that can be recycled at UofL here.

Compost...It's Happening Here!

  • Compost Bins at Garden CommonsOrganic wastes can be "recycled," too! You can compost your own food scraps on campus in outdoor compost bins at the:
    • - Garden Commons (4 rolling compost bins next to the greenhouse behind the Cultural Center)
      - Horticulture Zone garden behind the Urban Studies Institute at 426 W. Bloom St. (behind Bettie Johnson Hall).
    • Special indoor collection bins for plant-based materials picked-up for composting by volunteers are available at:
      - All Campus Housing residence halls (common kitchens or trash rooms):
        Bettie Johnson Hall
        Community Park
        Kurz Hall
        Louisville Hall
        Miller Hall
        Threlkeld Hall
        Unitas Hall
        University Tower Apartments (UTA)

      - Cardinal Park (Athletics)
      - Natural Sciences Building (Mathematics Department)
      - Strickler 310 (Communication Department)
      - Urban Studies Institute
      (1st floor kitchen)
      - The Playhouse (Theatre Arts)
  • No meat, bones, or dairy products are accepted in any of these on-site composting bins. This helps reduce problems with odors and vermin.
  • UofL has been turning about 500,000 pounds of campus grounds waste into valuable compost and mulch on site for many years. UofL's research facilities also generate about 400 tons/year of waste animal bedding. This used to be sent to the landfill, but in February 2012, UofL began sending this waste stream to off-site composting facilities, where it is turned into an environmentally-responsible soil amendment.
  • In July 2010, UofL volunteers began on-site composting of pre-consumer plant-based food waste from our dining facility kitchens. This effort continues to capture various waste streams, but in March 2012, UofL established a new contract with Blue Skies Recycling/QRS Recycling for collection and twice-weekly pick-up of all food wastes from UofL dining facilities as well as our Early Learning Campus. This allows us to compost both pre- and post-consumer food wastes, meats, bones, and dairy-products, now totaling over 400,000 pounds/year.
  • Weigh The WasteUofL Dining hosts an annual a Weigh The Waste campaign to raise awareness during the fall UofL Sustainability Week. Food scraps are collected from patron's plates during a full lunch period at The Ville Grill. Total weights are gathered each year and shared to increase awareness about food waste.
    - In Spring 2017, UofL Dining began monthly Weigh The Waste events to raise awareness over the lunch period: February 16th, March 23rd, and April 20th.
    - In 2016, Weigh The Waste was expanded to two consecutive days. We collected: 94 lbs. on October 17th, and 103 lbs. on October 18th.
    - In 2013, 230 lbs. of food waste was collected for composting during one lunch period on Oct. 24th (with 507 guests = 0.45 lbs of waste per person).
    - In 2012, 159 lbs. of food waste was collected for composting during one lunch period on Oct. 24th (with 466 guests = 0.34 lbs of waste per person).
  • Full details about all of our Composting Programs here.