Campus Efforts


One simple question (“How can students reduce the huge amount of dorm appliances and decorations that enter the waste stream at the end of every school year?”) led a group of students, five years ago, to a simple answer with a big ripple effect: the “Sustainable Move-Out.” Students, administrators, and custodial staff now gather and sort items each June from students vacating their dorm rooms. They clean and sort the items over the summer, and re-sell them at the “Sustainable Move-In” event each fall. In 2011, the fall sale raised more than $10,000 to fund student projects on campus. Materials removed from the waste stream, check. Newly purchased items (with their attendant energy and waste-related costs) reduced, check. Funding available for student initiatives that make an impact, check, check, check, check.

There are other creative stories like this on campus and there could be more! We know that there is still a lot of stuff wasted at Dartmouth, for a variety of reasons. But for each challenging problem today, there is an opportunity to do better by buying better, using better, reusing better, and re-homing what we can’t use. We’d love your ideas!.


In June of 2010, Dartmouth launched a campus-wide “Waste Centralization” and zero-sort recycling effort with an ambitious goal: to raise our rate of recycling paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic from about 20 percent to 45 percent by the year 2015.


When ’53 Commons was completed, it changed how Dartmouth prepares food. Gone were most packaged foods, prepared in factories far far away. Instead, Dartmouth cooks are starting with real food, raw ingredients and making dishes as you would at home. Now, students are shifting the culture at Dartmouth to support Real Food as users. Real food nourishes the people that eat it, the people that produce it, and healthy communities. Check out the awesome poster these students made and their video.[link to poster and link to video on youtube:]


Dartmouth composts more than 300 tons of food waste each year. Those scraps, mixed with horse manure and bedding, and yard waste also collected from campus, are transformed by the team at Dartmouth’s compost facility. It all comes back as nutrient-rich compost for use on Dartmouth’s grounds. That loop serves as a sustainable model — but there’s room to grow the circle beyond student dining areas and the Hanover Inn... 


We know not everyone “hearts” tiny trash cans. But we do. Why? Because they’re working. After replacing standard wastebaskets in offices around campus with very small plastic buckets [link to], our recycling rate dramatically changed—increasing by one third -- even though we did not manage the change as well as we could have. Can we do better next time? Certainly. Lessons were learned. But a longer-lasting impact: the reduced sense of the new normal. Where else can we shift our culture? 


Our students are passionate about sustainability here, and are eager to learn about sustainability through their own experiences testing and implementing programs that affect Physical Stuff. Among recent student initiatives: “Drink Local,” a re-usable water bottle campaign; “Carry Your Trash Week;” and an institutionalized “Green Greeks” program in fraternities and sororities.

We've changed behaviors on campus, raised awareness, have found fun ways to engage students. But changes don't always last. How can we do more? Or maybe more importantly, how can we do with less? How do we move beyond internal goals and become a national leader?

Have an idea? Contact us.
Want to learn more? Check out the draft report of the Materials Flows Working Group.