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 Campus Race to Zero Waste competition and includes events, waste-reduction acitivites for individuals & teams, and institutional waste tracking for the national competition. Check out Cornell University's 2022 Results.

Participate in Beyond Waste 2023 

Campaign begins February 14th, 2023
With events and opportunities through March 31st, 2023

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 continue to process high volumes of 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, get thrifty in Ithaca, or swap items with other Cornell students.

Mini-bins have 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

Cornell Dining offers Reusable Takeout Containers to enable students and employees to reduce single-use disposable containers while taking food to go. Containers are free for every student who has a meal plan with swipes.

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. 

Featured Event

Electronic Waste Recycling
Every Wednesday during March, 8:00am to 3:00pm
3/1, 3/8, 3/15, 3/22, 3/29

Recycle your home and office electronic waste sustainably (and for free) by bringing items to Cornell's R5 Recycle Center (251 Solidago Rd) between 8:00am to 3:00pm on Wednesdays throughout March.

Upcoming Events

Become a Residential Compost Manager 
February 23rd, 4:00pm-5:00pm
Join Cornell's student team of 95+ Compost Managers, who are diverting food scraps from the landfill each week. Sign up to become a Compost Manager for the spring '23 semester by Wednesday 2/22, then attend our virtual training on Thursday 2/23 at 4pm.

Matter Out of Place
March 2nd, 7:00pm
Waste on the shores, waste on the mountains—a meditative film about rubbish, which has spread across the world, to the most remote corners of the planet.
Part of Cornell Cinema's series on Environmental Action on Screen

Diverse Paths in Sustainability: Alumni Career Panel
March 9th, 6:00 - 7:30pm
This virtual career panel showcases three recent Cornell alumni pursuing diverse career paths to construct a more sustainable future for the world. They share the identity of international students coming from China, while devoting themselves to sustainability in the fields of public policy, energy transition consulting, and city planning. As international students, how have they utilized their international experiences and multicultural strengths to empower their sustainability careers?  How do they address the challenges and differences posed in different contexts and ecosystems in the United States and their home country?
Part of the Cornell China Center's student career series

Modern Approaches to Functional and Sustainable Thermoplastics
March 13th, 4:00pm - 5:00pm 
Plastics are the largest synthetic consumer product in the world, with an annual production of over 360 million metric tons annually. Creating sustainable materials that compete with the performance and value proposition of polyolefins is a grand challenge for the field of polymer science. The goal of research in the Leibfarth group is to develop synthetic methods that transform readily available starting materials into functional and sustainable thermoplastics with molecular-level precision.

Sustainable Events Workshops
March 21st, 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.

Exhibit Opening Reception: Threading the Needle
March 23rd, 2023 at 4:30pm to 6:30pm
Using needle and thread, warp and weft, 28 artists mend and explore the meaning and self-expression behind textile creation and envision a future of textiles and “slow fashion” that brings storytelling back into the conversation and back into our own relationship with the textiles in our lives. 

Refreshments will be served. 

Residential Compost Manager Appreciation Week
March 20th - March 25th
Sign our not-so-secret group thank you card for Cornell's team of 95 Compost Managers, who enable 7,500+ students living on campus to give new life to their food scraps. (coming soon)

Sustaining Style: Towards Responsible Fashion
March 23th, 8:00am - 5:00pm
Booming fast fashion has made stylish clothing more affordable than ever before, but costs to industry workers and the natural environment have been serious. Issues include rising global carbon emissions, microplastic pollution of the world’s oceans, and widespread pesticide use, to name just a few. “Sustaining Style” explores ideas and innovations being investigated here at Cornell University and around the world to realize a more sustainable way of producing and consuming fashion.
Part of Mann Library's Threads of History: Textiles Across Cornell programming series

Tour Cornell's Compost Facility
March 24th, 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Sign-up to see where Farm Services turns 4,000 tons of organic waste annually into high quality compost. Learn more about our campus compost facility.

Hatfield Lecture 2023 with President Pollack
March 24th, 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Join Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano '87 and Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack for a conversation about how the future of hospitality will be shaped by empowering associates, accelerating innovation, and creating a positive and sustainable impact wherever we do business.

Human Ecology Upcycle/Recycle Exhibit
Call for submissions coming soon | Exhibit April 1st - 30th, 2023
Calling all artists! CHE’s Green Team will be curating Cornell's annual upcycling/recycling exhibit, to be held in the Jill Stuart Gallery, Human Ecology Building from April 1 - April 30, 2023. Submission 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 organizer Alora Cisneroz.