Macalester College earned top marks for its sustainability efforts in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2023 Campus Race to Zero Waste competition. The college ranked #1 among small schools in three categories: Zero Waste, Food Organics, and Diversion. 

“We are really proud of being recognized as one of the top small schools in the competition,” said Megan Butler, the college’s sustainability director who led the campuswide effort.  “It shows that we’ve invested in the infrastructure to be able to divert our waste. It also reflects that we have a culture in which the people in our community use that infrastructure and are committed to sustainability.”

Macalester joined more than 200 colleges and universities in 40 states and Canada in an eight-week competition challenging campuses to reduce waste and increase recycling at their facilities. The competition takes place in February and March. As a result, the participating schools have kept more than 200 million single-use plastic containers out of landfills and prevented the release of 29,108 metric tons equivalent of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equal to avoiding the annual emissions from 6,128 cars.

 “The impact these colleges and universities have on reducing their waste footprint is tremendous and almost hard to comprehend. To prevent the release of more than 29,000 metric tons equivalent of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and more than 200 million single-use plastics out of landfills is staggering and truly something to be proud of,” said Kristy Jones, director of higher education programs at National Wildlife Federation. “The collective efforts to minimize waste and reduce stress on natural resources is inspiring and creating a better world for wildlife and the environment.”

Macalester came out on top among all participating small schools in three of the competition’s four categories: 

  • #1 for Zero Waste: Participating campuses are required to choose three campus buildings and report on their trash recyclables, including cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard food organics, as well as food that is donated, used for biofuels or composted.
  • #1 for Food Organics: The main goal of the category is to recognize campuses that are successfully implementing food waste minimization activities, as well as how food waste is managed. 
  • #1 for Diversion:  Winners are determined by the percentage of the total weight of recyclables and food organics diverted from the total waste generated. 

While these results demonstrate that Macalester is a leading institution in the country when it comes to reducing campus waste, the college is still short of the ultimate goal to divert 90 percent of all waste, said Dr. Butler. Right now, the college diverts between 70-80 percent, which means there is work to be done. 

“But I think we can do it,” she said. We have really good infrastructure, so it’s about education and messaging in order to get even more people on campus to reduce, reuse, recycle.” 

More information about Macalester’s waste minimization efforts can be found on the Sustainability Office’s webpage.  

About Campus Race to Zero Waste

Campus Race to Zero Waste – formerly known as RecycleMania – is the nation’s premier waste reduction and recycling competition among colleges and universities, managed by National Wildlife Federation, and governed by RecycleMania, Inc. Campus Race to Zero Waste has been helping campuses minimize waste and improve their recycling efforts, since its launch in 2001.

May 23 2023

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