Campus Race to Zero Waste Commences

The University of Rochester is proud to be participating for the thirteenth time in a row to the annual Campus Race to Zero Waste competition (formerly RecycleMania). Beginning on January 30, the University will join hundreds of colleges across the United States and Canada in a friendly eight-week long competition that is designed to help college campuses find ways to reduce or eliminate waste.

Each participating school tracks and self-reports data weekly on recycling activities to improve efforts to reduce or eliminate waste. There are four main categories of competition:

  • Diversion – recyclables, food organics, and trash
  • Per Capita – recyclables
  • Zero Waste – recyclables, food organics, trash weights, and materials for reuse
  • Food Organics – food waste and any organic materials handled alongside food waste

There are also four optional special categories (Electronics, GameDay Basketball, One-Building Challenge, and Case Study). The competition recognizes three winners per category by classifying schools using the Carnegie’s size classification: small/very small, medium, large/very large. This allows for more campuses to be recognized and levels the playing field.

Campus Race to Zero Waste also offers digital campaign ideas focused on waste reduction and recycling education as well as the new Plastics Reduction Partner certification program that launched in Fall 2021. The Plastics Reduction Partner certification requires a report to be submitted every three years for renewal. Colleges choosing to participate in this program are also eligible for AASHE STARS innovation credits.

Despite some of the competition being shifted to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2021 Campus Race to Zero Waste Competition, 2.9 million students and staff were reached from more than 200 colleges and universities. 230 million plastic containers were kept out of the landfill, 25.8 million pounds of waste was donated, recycled and composted and campuses prevented the release of 30,669 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E) into the atmosphere, equivalent to preventing annual emissions from 6,463 cars. A significant outcome is expected this year as well.

The University’s Campus Race to Zero Waste promotional campaign is led by Facilities Team Green who is working with co-sponsors Grassroots, Dining Team Green, GreenSpace, and more. This year, the competition is expected to follow a format of hybrid events similar to last year to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The kickoff event is scheduled on February 3, at 6 p.m., in which Christina Das, Natural Resource Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County, will be delivering a talk over Zoom on waste reduction practices. During the second week (February 6 through February 12) and fifth week (February 27 through March 5), the Caught Green Handed campaign will take place, when Facilities Team Green members will reward people on campus found engaging in sustainable actions. In honor of Valentine’s Day, an “I love the earth because…” expression wall will be displayed near Starbucks in Wilson Commons, from February 13 to February 19. There will be a virtual “I love the earth because…” promotion included on Menti and social media as well. The annual Zero Waste Dinners will take place on February 24 and March 3, at Douglass Dining Hall, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. These dinners are organized by Dining Team Green, in which the amount of food waste produced by students is measured at the first and second dinners to see if there is a reduction. The competition will conclude with a finale event on March 23, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Hirst Lounge. For a full detailed list of event, see the campaign promotional event poster.

Campus Race to Zero Waste encourages the University community to focus on sustainable efforts to make the campus “ever better” which is in line with the spirit of “Meliora”. The UR Sustainable Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages will feature updates, photos, promotions and more throughout the competition, so be sure to follow us to stay in the loop!


Written by Hanyia Ahmed, Class of 2022

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