Sustainability Initiative at Aquinas College

Zero Waste Initiative

As a part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, Aquinas College is working to achieve campus-wide zero municipal solid waste. Zero waste is defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance as over a 90% diversion of waste, such that less than 10% of discards are landfilled/incinerated.

Resources for Zero Waste at Home
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Progress Update
Since 2015, all trash, recycling, and compost is weighed in each building and a diversion rate is regularly published for each building. This allows the Aquinas community to see where we need improvements or where we are already meeting our goal. In the past, diversion has been calculated by estimating the volume of trash, recycling, and compost dumpsters and converting that estimated volume into an estimated weight. Actual weights allow for much more accurate diversion calculations. Thus the approach is more convenient, more accurate, and provides more timely, actionable information.
 
We have seen incredible improvement and progress since our formal zero waste initiative began in 2012. You have all been a part in improving our diversion rate from an estimated 55% in the spring of 2013 to 65%(FY 2017). We recognize the last 25% or so will be the hardest to eliminate, but our past progress is an indicator that we can reach this goal. We are grateful for the continuing community support for this initiative which has become an important part of our institutional culture and has helped us “walk the talk” of sustainability!
 
The table below displays the waste diverted from each building since July 1, 2017. Diversion rates calculate the percent of waste that is diverted from the landfill or incinerator via composting and recycling. A 90% diversion rate or higher is considered zero waste, according to the Zero Waste International Alliance.

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**** Please note: Buildings with unique uses, such as Albertus Hall, the Performing Arts Center, and the Art and Music Center, have very unique waste streams. Therefore, it is more difficult to move these buildings closer to zero waste and requires a dedicated and intentional effort to improve the diversion rate.


Collection Systems
Click on the links below to learn more out about recycling, special collections, and composting programs.
 
Recycling: Aquinas’ recycling program is a single stream system, meaning all paper, plastic, glass, and tin can be disposed of in the same bin. Blue recycling bins can be found in every building on campus.
 
Special Collections: Special collections to recycle other "non-traditional" materials are located in nearly every campus building. The stations offer an opportunity to dispose of styrofoam, Terracyle items, e-waste, batteries, ink cartridges, and goodwill donations.
 
Composting: Aquinas College has partnered with Michigan-based, Spurt Industries to compost the campus' organic waste. Spurt Industries has built a business around recycling organic waste materials, helping to reduce the amount of waste that enters landfills while creating nutrient-rich soil products. The top soil and mulch products are sold for use in lawns, gardening, flower beds, and other applications. Like our recycling program, green composting bins can be found in every building on campus. Targeted collections for paper towel are in place in bathrooms and select labs.
 
One Saint's Junk is Another Saint's Treasure
An online forum where members of the Aquinas Community can connect with others on campus to find items for donation and advertise unwanted goods. Click here to access the forum to find unwanted items and advertise your own!
 
Take the Pledge
Demonstrate your commitment to the Zero Waste Initiative at Aquinas by pledging to seriously address waste in your office. Sign the Zero Waste Office Pledge today! >Download the PDF
Click here to view a list of the offices who have already committed to Zero Waste.
 
Education
If your department or office is interested in a personalized zero waste training, please contact Jessica Eimer Bowen in the Center for Sustainability.
 
Rethinking Waste
Compostable Products with CDS: In response to AQ’s zero waste initiative, Creative Dining Services (CDS) has phased in all compostable coffee cups. CDS also made changes to the “to go” containers used on campus.  We now use Pactive EarthChoice to go containers which can also be composted. To check out other sustainability initiatives of Campus Dining, please visit their website.