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Sustainability at ESF
Zero Waste & Circularity

We traditionally think about materials that are thrown in the trash as "waste" and therefore, they are assigned minimal value. The term "materials management" recognizes that all items have inherent value and are oftentimes created from finite resources (think traditional plastics) and harmful extractive practices. Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) challenges us to systematically rethink how we use (or avoid using) and reuse materials more productively throughout their entire lifecycle.

Instead of placing equal importance on "reduction", "reuse" and "recycling", SMM most heavily emphasizes source reduction (not using or producing something in the first place). All members of the campus community are encouraged to help in this effort by reducing what they purchase, reusing what they can and avoiding single use products, even if they are recyclable or compostable, to the greatest extent possible.

ESF Goals

ESF's zero waste goals include:

  • Reducing the "waste" that the College sends to landfill and/or incineration by 90% by 2025 (compared to 2018 baseline)
  • Achieving a diversion rate of 90% by 2025 (recycle and/or compost 90% of the items that we discard on campus
  • Obtaining TRUE Pre-Certification at the Syracuse campus (Portfolio)
  • Implementing and upholding the College's policies related to zero waste, including the Green Purchasing and Break Free From Plastic Policy and Sustainable Facilities Maintenance and Renovation Policy
  • Deeply engaging with other institutions of higher education, SUNY and NYS to assist and lead the transition to circular operations state, region and nationwide

Zero Waste Progress

Since 2018, trash produced by all ESF campuses has declined from ~365,000 lbs to 214,850 lbs (41% decrease). At the Syracuse campus, trash during this time period declined from 235,000 to 92,000 lbs (61% decrease). The campus-wide diversion rate now stands at 52% with the Syracuse campus boasting a 65% diversion rate. In 2018, the campus-wide diversion rate was 28% and the Syracuse campus diversion rate was 31%.

Be sure to follow the live linked years in the spreadsheet below. Each linked year will take you to another spreadsheet, featuring tabs providing detailed campus by campus trash, recycling and compost data.

Zero Waste Data

people performing waste auditESF staff conduct an audit during the Fall 2022 semester

Zero Waste Programs

The links included below will take you to associated project pages, which contain detailed information about each program.

The Mighty Oak Student Assembly's SustainabiliTEAM manages Centennial Hall Move In/Out Program, with assistance from the Office of Sustainability, Division of Student Affairs, Centennial Hall and Office of Sustainable Facilities & Operations.

Housed at ESF, and in collaboration with Syracuse University, the Center for Sustainable Materials Management (CSMM) is working to bring together people and organizations to innovate the way we manage materials in New York.

ESF launched campus-wide composting at its Syracuse campus in August 2019 and the program is still going strong! Learn more about how to properly compost on campus here.

ESF passed its Sustainable Facilities Maintenance & Renovation Policy in late 2021. This Policy sets ESF's construction and demolition debris recycling diversion rate goal at 90%. This is more strict than the SUNY Construction Fund's goal of 50% material diversion.

Members of the campus community have access to free reusable pads and menstrual cups!

ESF passed its Green Purchasing and Break Free From Plastic Policy in late 2021. In doing so, it became the first SUNY school to largely ban the expenditure of state funds to purchase most single use plastics for use on campus or at College events. The Policy also reiterates ESF's commitment to abiding by NYS Executive Order 4 and NYS Executive Order 22.

ESF created a Green Purchasing Guide to aid campus purchasers in complying with the College's Green Purchasing and Break Free From Plastic Pledge and NYS green purchasing mandates.

The College has a robust recycling program. Learn how to properly sort recyclables on campus here.

The Ranger School, Newcomb and Syracuse campuses all operate reusable container programs.

Opt for reusable dinnerware over single use options, even if those options are recyclable or compostable. The Reusable Plate Program will help you do this with ease.

Why purchase new when you can reuse items already available for free on campus? Our surplus property program helps keep usable material out of the landfill/incinerator.

Student clubs, student employees and the general campus community all routinely participate in trash and recycling audits.

The Syracuse campus is pursuing TRUE Precertification. TRUE is a zero waste certification program dedicated to measuring, improving and recognizing zero waste performance.

During August 2019, the Syracuse campus standardized bins throughout many campus locations, added campus-wide composting and swapped traditional office trash bins for 1.15 gallon linerless mini bins. Learn more about our zero waste infrastructure here.