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SUNY ESF Becomes Nation’s First Higher Ed Institution to Achieve Campus-Wide TRUE Precertification for Zero-Waste Operations

Syracuse, N.Y. – June 13, 2024 – The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is the first higher education institution in the country to be awarded Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE) precertification for its campus-wide policies and actions to reduce waste and prioritize sustainability.  The College intends to achieve full TRUE certification in the future.

Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), TRUE helps facilities measure, improve and recognize zero waste performance through sustainable waste management and reduction practices, which contribute to positive environmental, health and economic outcomes.

"ESF remains committed to fostering a cleaner and healthier campus for future generations through proactive waste reduction initiatives," said Mark Lichtenstein, executive operating and chief sustainability officer. "We value our role as a national leader for other higher ed institutions to be more green, and are grateful for state and SUNY support to achieve this milestone that’s directly tied to the College’s mission to improve our world.”

The entire Syracuse campus achieved pre-certification, which requires policies in place and actions taken to elevate the diversion rate toward the requisite 90% needed for eventual full TRUE certification.

In 2023, ESF achieved a combined 51% diversion rate. This includes measurements of ESF’s Syracuse campus at 64.5%, Heiberg Memorial Forest, Tully Field Station, and the LaFayette Road  Experimental Station at 30%, Ranger School at 19%, and ESF’s Syracuse campus residential hall at 41%. Importantly, the campuses listed above have reduced the amount of trash they send to landfill and incineration by 35% since 2018, with the Syracuse campus leading the way with a 55% reduction.

To help achieve this success and maintain momentum, ESF has implemented the following zero-waste initiatives:

  • Development of a comprehensive Sustainability Action Plan (to be adopted early summer 2024)
  • Development of an online reuse “marketplace” to better enable reuse of campus materials (launching mid-June 2024)
  • Integrating zero waste and circularity planning and tracking into Facilities projects of all sizes
  • Utilization of reusable containers at the Trailhead Cafe
  • Implementation of food and food container composting, while maintaining a preference for reuse
  • Regular waste audits
  • Implementation of waste reduction policies
  • Establishment of the peer-to-peer educator “Sustainability Ambassadors” program involving ESF staff

“TRUE precertification reaffirms our leadership in sustainability,” said Sue Fassler, director of sustainability. “Students come to ESF because of our dedication to being a sustainable and a zero-waste campus, they expect us to lead in these areas. When they leave ESF, they take that mission with them and spread that message and practices.”

“By pursuing TRUE certification, ESF demonstrates a dedication to circular thinking, prioritizing processes, operations, and actions that minimize waste and resource consumption throughout their lifecycle,” said Peter Templeton, president and CEO of U.S. Green Building Council and GBCI.


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.

About Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI):

GBCI is the foremost sustainability and health certification and credentialing body globally, independently recognizing excellence in performance and practice while advocating for the adoption of building and business practices that continuously enhance health, equity, resilience, and environmental well-being. GBCI administers various project certifications and professional credentials, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL Building Standard, the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES), EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies), TRUE certification for zero waste, and the Investor Confidence Project (ICP) for energy efficiency retrofits.