Beyond Waste Campaign

Beyond Waste

Beyond Waste is a 2-month institutional waste reduction campaign that empowers every member of the Cornell campus community to rethink our relationship to products we use everyday.  Beyond Waste invites us to move beyond recycling and waste management into a creative life-cycle approach to how we purchase, use, reuse, and dispose of goods and materials across campus systems.

The campaign is part of the national Recyclemania (Campus Race to Zero Waste) competition and includes events, waste-reduction acitivites for individuals & teams, and institutional waste tracking for the national competition.

Participate in Beyond Waste 2022 

Campaign begins February 14th, 2022
With events and opportunities through March 26th, 2022

Open to all students, faculty, staff, and Cornell community members 

Campaign Goals

From electronic waste to fast fashion, we need to think beyond worn-out, one-size-fits-all solutions to the waste that results from our society's linear use of materials. Together, we need to fundamentally reimagine the ways we produce, distribute, and consume goods in order to move beyond a "waste disposal" mindset - where goods are simply disposed of at the end of their life - and into a "beyond waste" mindset. Let's work together to envision what it would mean to radically extend the life, use, and re-usability of all the materials and goods we touch. 

OUR GOALS AT CORNELL for this campaign include:

  • Encourage individuals to reduce waste and sort waste properly. 
    As we move beyond waste, we need to maximize recycling, composting, and reuse, and drive down landfill waste. 

  • Empower campus partners to create and host events.
    Make this campaign your own by taking action or hosting an event where you live, learn, and work on campus.

  • Tackle key impact areas where individual action matters. 
     How can you commit to waste reduction by taking action?

Get Involved

What are the biggest opportunities on campus this year to reduce your overall waste footprint?  Commit to taking action and sharing your action with friends, colleagues, and connections to help us create a shared culture of sustainable behavior.

Implementing sustainable practices at Cornell's thousands of annual events can help reduce the impacts of food, waste, transportation, and more. If your organization is planning an upcoming event, you can take simple steps to make it more sustainable.

Check out our new & improved Sustainable Events Certification to learn how you can:

Cornell's Service Centers have become inundated with excessive packages. If you live on campus, we encourage you to rethink how you are shopping for and shipping items. Simple changes can make a big impact, and help reduce packaging waste, carbon emissions, and headaches, like long wait times when picking up packages.

Ship smarter & reduce your package deliveries

  • Check if essential items are available locally. Many stores and pharmacies offer same-day delivery services, in-store and curbside pickups, or are conveniently located on TCAT bus routes. 
  • Choose to group shipments together to reduce the number of packages you receive. You can often consolidate package shipments with one click and still receive them within the same week. 
  • Properly dispose of your boxes and packaging materials (or reuse them). Cardboard boxes should always be flattened and recycled on campus, ideally within your residential community's loading dock, trash room, or recycling dumpster. See Cornell's Recycling Rules guide for what materials go into the landfill, recycling, and compost in Tompkins County.
  • Of course, you can always rethink some of your purchases from the beginning. Use what you already have, repair and share items, visit Ezra's Exchange, get thrifty in Ithaca, or Swapp items with other Cornell students.

In 2021, mini-bins were rolled out in offices across Cornell to help reduce overall waste and increase recycling rates on campus. In the new waste initiative, employees manage their own recycling and mini-landfill bins, emptying them into central kitchen or shared office waste stations. Consistent with national studies, Cornell's pilot programs demonstrated an overall waste reduction of 39% with significant improvements to waste sorting. 

Maximize the use of your mini-bin

  • Attach your mini-bin on the inside or outside of your recycling bin
  • Practice recycling. Apart from personal meals, most office waste is recyclable. Take a few minutes to relearn what can be recycled at Cornell, and fill up your recycling bin instead of your trash can.
  • Check out the wide-ranging benefits of mini bins, including positive impacts on building care, reduced use of plastic bin liners, and mindful waste disposal

In Fall 2021, Cornell Dining began offering free Reusable Takeout Containers to every student who has a meal plan with swipes. This reusable program enables students to reduce their use of single-use disposable containers while conveniently taking out food from campus dining rooms.

Getting started

  • Pick up your first reusable container at one of Cornell's Dining Rooms by simply asking the door-checker for one. If you have a meal plan with meal swipes, it's free! If not, you can buy into the program for a one-time fee of $7.50 using a credit card, Cornell Card, BRBs, or MealChoice. (Note: Containers are not available and cannot be used at Risley & 104West!) 
  • Once you have a container, you are part of the program! Simply use your container to take out food, then return it to any participating dining room whenever it's convenient for you. Upon return, you can decide whether to exchange it for a freshly sanitized container or "check it in" so you can check out another one in the future. Then the cycle of reuse continues!
  • No time to clean your container? No problem! Bring back your container as is, food residue and all. Cornell Dining's industrial dishwashers will clean and sanitize each container for you. 
  • Pro tip: Cornell Dining is currently offering free reusable utensil sets too. Simply ask the door-checker for a set, then keep them handy. You can use them anywhere on campus, including dining rooms. Use them, clean them, keep them in your bag, and then repeat.
Resources to connect with sustainable waste at Cornell
Cornell Sustainable Waste Map

Looking for more resources?  Find out where to recycle e-waste, drop off items for reuse, and more on the campus map.

View Full Waste Map 

Events, Opportunities, and Training

Participate in key events during the campaign to sharpen your skills and knowledge, and collaborate with others to imagine our collective path to a beyond-waste campus. 

Beyond waste campaign logo with green background
Click here to download the Beyond Waste Campaign logo to use for your events | Image: Campus Sustainability Office

Host or Tag Your Beyond Waste Event 

Any individual, team, or organization can host a Beyond Waste event that connects sustainability, waste, and life-cycle issues to our campus impact. 

Beyond Waste efforts are not limited to “green groups.” No matter your major, discipline, or job title, your creativity and efforts are crucial to helping us all imagine a campus that reduces waste, and eventually moves beyond waste.  Here's how to include your event in the campaign:

  1. Create an event in the Cornell events calendar. You must use a Cornell NetID. Events must follow all current University guidelines and safety procedures.

  2. Enter your event details, partners, and contact information.

  3. Tag “Sustainability” under Departments

  4. Tag Sustainability as a University Focus Area 

  5. Use #beyondwaste” as an event Hashtag

Events should be hosted during the campaign timeframe but opportunities a few days before or after these dates may also be included. Contact our event organizers for support. Contact information is listed at the bottom of this webpage. 

Keynote Speaker for Beyond Waste

Aja Barber: Colonialism, Climate Change, Consumerism, and the Need for Collective Change
Thursday, February 24th, 3:00pm to 4:15pm EST
Join us for a discussion with Aja Barber, writer, stylist and consultant whose work deals with the intersections of sustainability and the fashion landscape.  Her work builds heavily on ideas behind privilege, wealth inequality, racism, feminism, colonialism, and how to fix the fashion industry with all these things in mind. 

Sponsored by: Alice Cook House, Campus Sustainability Office, Carl Becker House, Ecology House, Hans Bethe House, Holland International Living Center (HILC), Jameson & High Rise 5, Latino Living Center (LLC), North Campus Faculty Programs (CKB/Mews & Loving House), Women's Resource Center

View more  Beyond Waste events in the Cornell Events calendar.  

Upcoming Events

Become a Residential Compost Manager 
February 19th, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Join Cornell's student team of 55+ Compost Managers, who are diverting food scraps from the landfill each week. Sign up to become a Compost Manager for the spring '22 semester by Friday 2/18, then attend our virtual training on Saturday 2/19 at 12pm.

Beyond Waste Meme Competition
Submissions accepted February 14th - March 14th 2022
Create and submit your memes around themes related to waste, consumer culture, (un)sustainable resource usage, or any topic related to the Beyond Waste campaign

Human Ecology Upcycle/Recycle "Synergy" Exhibit
Call for submissions due February 2022 | Exhibit March 3rd - 29th, 2022
CHE’s Green Ambassadors will be curating “Synergy”, an upcycling/recycling exhibit, to be held in the Jill Stuart Gallery, Human Ecology Building from March 3 - March 29, 2022.  We are looking for submissions from the CHE community, as well as local artists, so please spread the word.  Installation will be on March 1. 

*New* Sustainable Cornell Book Club
March 7th - May 8th
Register here  |  Virtual Event with zoom chats
Do you want to better understand how climate change, racism, wealth inequality, and consumerism are connected? Are you looking for ways to make sustainable change happen both individually and collectively? Join the Campus Sustainability Office for our new Sustainable Cornell Book Club, featuring our inaugural book: Consumed | The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism. 

Sustainable Events Workshops
March 7th & March 31st, 5:00pm - 6:30pm 
Learn practical ways to make your organization’s events more sustainable, from concept to clean-up. Gain firsthand experience using guides and decision-making tools designed to make any campus event more sustainable. Walk away with an action plan to jumpstart your organization’s sustainability practices, ranging from purchasing food to managing waste, advertising, transportation, giveaways, and more. Open to students and employees. Two available dates.

Residential Compost Manager Appreciation Week
March 14th - March 19th
Sign our not-so-secret group thank you card for Cornell's team of 60 Compost Managers, who enable 6,500+ students living on campus to give new life to their food scraps

Sustainable Soil Nutrients: Urine Capture and Biochar on Campus
March 13th, 1:00pm - 2:30pm 
Join us from 1-2:30 pm at Leland lab to tour the biochar facilities and learn how carbon is sequestered from organic waste; then we will mosey over to Caldwell farms where we are turning human urine and straw bales into sources of nitrogen and phosphorus. Get to see a microcosm of a circular economy starting with redefining waste and cycling it back into our food systems. We will also show how to assemble your own urine capture device! Learn about how to get involved and all the different ways to pee/poo-cycle!

Beyond Waste Prom
March 26th, 8:00pm - 11:00pm 
You are cordially invited to the most sustainable prom of the year. Skip the fast-fashion and only-wear-once clothes, and come dressed in something you love - whether it's thrifted, shared, vintage, handcrafted, or a closet staple. More details coming soon.

Campus Waste Tracking

Cornell University competes against other campuses nationwide during the competition (February - March) for overall waste reduction, increased recycling rates, and more.

Contact Us

The Campus Sustainability Office coordinates the annual Beyond Waste campaign with support and key partnership provided by campus organizations.  For inquiries related to this year's campaign, contact staff supervisor and collaborator Kim Anderson or student organizers Emma Goldenthal , Alora Cisneroz , and Andrea Miramontes Serrano.