student sorting waste

Zero Waste at Macalester

Macalester College is continuously striving toward zero waste. In 2009, we diverted an average of 19.1% from the landfill. Since then, we have improved that rate to around 80% by implementing several key changes:

  • Implementing campus-wide composting
  • Switching to compostable dishware and utensils for single-use needs
  • Offering specialty recycling for items such as styrofoam, e-waste, padded mailing envelopes, plastic bags, and rechargeable batteries
  • Creating the Mac Free Swap
  • Producing a Zero Waste Event Guide
  • Starting the SustainaCup program, providing free menstrual cups to all students who request one
  • Supporting food recovery from our dining services
  • Offering DIRTY Training to all incoming students during Orientation to introduce them to zero waste and other sustainability and environmental justice efforts on campus

For the past several years, our diversion rate has stayed relatively steady. To get ourselves to the next level, we are re-evaluating the College’s goals and incorporating social justice into the Sustainability Office initiatives. Some of our recent initiatives include:

  • Hosting weekly events on campus such as Sustainabili-tea, raising awareness and engagement within the Macalester community
  • Collaborating with the Post Landfill Action Network to create a new zero waste strategic plan that moves beyond diversion rates toward broader systems change needed for true sustainability and environmental justice
  • Sponsoring a Macalester student for the Zero Waste Atlas Fellowship
  • Revising DIRTY Training to be more environmental justice- and community care-based
  • Creating an interactive, educational map of what happens to trash, recycling, and compost after it leaves our campus
  • Partnering with mutual aid organizations in the Twin Cities to find new homes for items donated during Move-Out
  • Partnering with Facilities Services and Bon Appétit to implement a reusable take-out container program in Café Mac

Zero Waste Programs and Resources

    • Compost: Labeled compost bins are readily available around the Macalester campus. Learn more about campus composting guidelines and commitments.
    • Recycling: Macalester uses single sort recycling and also collects special waste items like batteries, lightbulbs, and styrofoam.
    • Mac Free Swap: The Free Swap is open to all members of the Macalester community. The project is based on the circular economy model and keeps the benefits of free items within the Mac community.
    • MacNest Climate Justice Internship Program: 
    • Move Out: Move out is an important opportunity for reducing waste. The college encourages reuse and recycling by providing large bins for easy sorting. In 2022, the college will experiment with a free community garage sale, rerouting unneeded items to new homes.
    • Make Art Not Waste: An annual student-led event that seeks to encourage students to take action against environmental injustice through the medium of art. Culminating in an exhibition during Earth Week, the initiative brings together sustainably minded student artists, highlighting the impacts of the climate crisis by repurposing materials that would otherwise head to landfills.
    • Zero Waste A to Z Sorting Guide
    • Ramsey County A to Z Recycling and Disposal Guide
    • Zero Waste Event Guide
    • Zero Waste Atlas Fellowship: Sustainability students Jeanarry Rodriguez and Susanna Deal are the 2021-2022 Zero Waste Atlas Fellows. First, they conducted interviews with campus stakeholders to get a thorough picture, beyond just diversion metrics, of how far the campus has come to reaching zero waste. Then, they hosted conversations to understand what resources (staffing, time, money, etc) it would take to get the campus to establish a more circular economy and move toward true zero waste. Finally, they will write a visioning statement to present to college senior staff, together figuring out what would be possible moving forward with an official zero waste plan.