University of Minnesota Duluth
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Duluth
UMD Sustainability

Waste and Recycling at UMD

– What are the upcoming changes happening with office waste?  And what is a mini-trash bin?

By the end of the 2014-2015 academic year, staff and faculty in individual offices will be in charge of sorting trash and IMG_4539recycling into central containers within an office suite or area.  Individual offices will no longer be serviced for trash and recycling. Each office will have their own mini-trash bin to manage themselves. The mini-trash bins are actually re-purposed food containers, that were washed/dried for Custodial Services by UMD Dining Services.

The changes in office waste/recycling services will allow Custodial Services more time to prioritize public and student spaces on campus, including adding recycling bins in many classrooms that previously did not previously have recycling.

The overall goal of this operational change is to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill and increase recycling rates. The most immediate change will be eliminating hundreds of thousands of plastic bags that used to line office trash bins from going to the landfill (and a little over $5,000 in purchasing costs!)

Read more about this switch to create Less Waste.

Email if you want to get started with your mini trash-bin today!

– Will office trash and recycling changes affect my laboratory space? 

No.  Lab spaces are considered student, academic spaces and will remain at the same (or have greater) levels of service, including both recycling and trash removal.   

– How can I get my mini-trash bin cleaned?  

Your mini-bin is a fairly small container, and can be easily washed at any sink on campus.  However, upon request, Custodial Services can clean these for you.  A good rule of thumb for cleaning these would be rinsing them once per month.

– What percentage of campus waste is diverted from landfill?

In 2010, the campus recycling rate was 42%, but it rose to 50%  in 2013.  Efforts to both increase recycling and add organics recycling by placing compost bins around campus probably helped increase this landfill diversion rate.

– What can be recycled at UMD?

  • Recycling at UMD is pretty easy: everything that can be recycled can be co-mignled.  That includes aluminum cans, glass or plastic bottles newspaper, magazines, and paper.  All can be co-mingled.  (Note: In some areas, there is a separate Paper bin, to reduce cleaning tasks.)
  • Food waste: All food waste (even meat!) can be placed into compost bins around campus, along with compostable plates, spoons, forks, and cups provided by UMD Dining.
  • Corrugated cardboard: place near doors of offices or near recycling bins (not in) for custodial staff to pick up.
  • Film plastic (shopping bags, bread bags, non-crinkly plastic wrap) can be recycled at the bin in front of UMD Stores.  (And yes, you can bring in any/all of your clean plastic bags from home to recycle!)
  • For hazardous waste questions (batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, refrigerants, lab waste) contact Environmental Health and Safety Office.  Hazardous waste recycling quantities from 2008 include: Electronics – 67,509 lbs Lead acid Batteries – 3,597 lbs Oil – 563 gal Fluorescent Lamps – 15,826 lamps Lithium Batteries – 22 lbs Alkaline Batteries – 473 lbs X-ray film – 220 lbs

– How do I recycle notebooks and binders? 

  • Spiral-bound notebooks with paper/cardboard covers: These can go into Paper recycling.  (No need to remove spiral binding or staples.)
  • Spiral notebooks with vinyl/plastic covers: First, tear off the vinyl/plastic cover and throw it in the trash. The rest of the notebook can go into Paper recycling.
  • Plastic/vinyl 3-ring binders:  Three-ring binders can be re-used, so please offer up as a donation to another department on campus or to a local charity.  However, if binders are broken or unusable, they are unfortunately trash.  These have multiple commodities together (aluminum, plastic, metal screws, etc.), so they should be disposed of in the trash.

– Is food waste recycled from the Dining Center?

Food waste is recycled from the Dining Center, via a partnership with the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD). The food waste from the DC is turned into compost and sold through WLSSD’s Garden Green program. Food waste from the Food Court is not separated for composting. Recently, many catered events at UMD have provided composting bins, but contamination of the compost by trash (individual ketchup packet wrappers, for example) can be a problem. Ask for composting when you plan your next event.

– Many of the products used in the Food Court are biodegradable, why aren’t ALL of them?

New bins for composting were placed in the Food Court in Fall 2014, and most items are compostable including plates, napkins, coffee cups, sub wrappers, utinsels, and food waste.  The biggest exceptions include a foam oval plate at Taste of Italia (used for heavy sauce dishes) and Coca Cola cups, lids, and straws (these are all trash).  UMD Dining has not found a compostable straw, lid, and cup or heavy plate for Taste of Italia that meets their needs and the customer demand.
Sorting your food waste and other compostable items is a great way to reduce waste and landfill methane emissions!

Energy Use at UMD

– How much does UMD invest yearly in energy-saving retrofit projects?

For the 2010-2011 fiscal year, a total of $350,000 was budgeted to upgrade buildings for energy efficiency. Ideas from students, faculty, and staff are always welcome.

– Why is saving energy important at UMD?

Conserving electricity and natural gas use saves the university money on utility bills. It also reduces carbon emissions; as a signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, UMD has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

– How much does UMD spend on energy in a year?

Millions of dollars are spent on electricity and natural gas for our heating plant. In 2009, utility bills totaled around five million dollars.

– Is saving energy a recent idea at UMD?

No. UMD has been working on improving energy efficiency for many years by upgrading lighting, improving steam distribution systems, replacing windows and rooftops, and installing efficient heating, cooling, and air ventilation systems. However, there is a lot more work to do, and many buildings at UMD could be upgraded for ventilation and building controls to save energy.

– What are the primary energy sources for electricity procured and fuel combusted on the UMD campus?

A majority of the electricity that the UMD uses is produced by coal and provided by Minnesota Power. Natural gas is used to heat the campus from the Lund Heating Plant.

– What percentage of the electricity UMD uses comes from carbon-neutral sources?

About five percent of Minnesota Power’s fuel mix comes from non-hydroelectric renewable resources* and less than one percent of the total energy used on campus is produced by the solar arrays on the Bagley Classroom and atop Malosky Stadium.
*Renewable energy from Minnesota Power, including hydroelectricity, totals over ten percent. For more information, visit the EPA’s web pages on Hydroelectricity and Non-Hydroelectric Renewable Energy.

– What forms of clean or renewable energy are most likely to prove feasible on campus?

Solar photovoltaic arrays are present on campus already, but solar thermal, biomass, geothermal have all been (and will continue to be) considered.  Smaller scale or building-mounted wind turbines might also be used as demonstration or research projects.

– Why don’t we have a wind turbine on campus?

Local wind studies have shown that the north shore of Lake Superior can support some community wind projects. However, wind studies on the UMD campus shows that we do not have wind speeds to sustain a large turbine. Smaller or building-mounted turbines may be more appropriate installations on campus in the future to provide opportunities for demonstration and research, including at the UMD Farm.

– Why don’t we have more solar panels on campus?

Solar panels are a great source of renewable energy, but they are also quite expensive. The panels at UMD (Malosky Stadium and Bagley Outdoor Classroom) are tied into the electricity grid and provide some clean power for our campus, but it is less than 1% of our electricity needs. Linking renewable energy demonstrations to academics and research is a great way to add value to UMD, but it would be economically unwise to invest in more solar panels before we upgraded buildings to be more energy efficient first. Energy efficiency and conservation are the biggest results for each dollar spent on energy.

– Which buildings on the UMD campus consume the most energy?

Research buildings with laboratories: Swenson Science Building, Chemistry Building, School of Medicine, and Life Science Building – all have energy intensive equipment and a high frequency of air changes for safety.

– Why do energy conservation messages mention closing fume hoods?

Fume hoods account for a lot of energy use on campus- the estimated operating costs vary from around $1,500 to $5,000 per fume hood each year. The fan on a fume hood uses some energy, but the larger impact is that fume hoods bring in fresh air from the outside, which has to be heated or cooled. Many fume hoods are “variable air volume” systems, which means that the speed of the air circulating into the hood remains constant, but the volume of air cycled depends on the size of the sash opening. The larger the fume hood opening, the larger the volume of air circulated through the hood, and the more energy it uses. Closing the sash saves!

– Why is saving energy important at UMD?

Conserving electricity and natural gas use saves the university money on utility bills. It also reduces carbon emissions; as a signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment , UMD is committed to the environmental impact of its operations.

– How much can UMD cut its operational costs through energy conservation?

There are many opportunities for campus members to help conserve energy such as shutting off lights, keeping windows closed and locked during the heating season, taking the stairs if you are able, and shutting down computers, printers, and other appliances when leaving for the day. Even though each of these choices saves a small amount of energy, the savings can add up when multiplied by the thousands of people across campus. For example, on average, a computer set-up draws about 150 Watts. Shutting down a single computer overnight (for 12 hours) saves 1.8 kwH per computer each day. This might not sound like a lot, but if each of the estimated 1,800 faculty, staff, and lab computers on campus changed from being left on overnight to being shut down, we would save nearly $50,000 each year. Adding in an estimate of 2,800 student computers in housing, and this could result in an annual savings of over $125,000 each year. This is the saving from only one energy conservation practice, UMD has the potential to save much, much more.

UMD’s Carbon Footprint

– What is the carbon footprint of the UMD campus?

In 2007, greenhouse gas emissions were estimated to be around 57,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent (CO2e)*. UMD’s carbon footprint is about equal to the annual emissions from 10,342 automobiles, emissions from 2,352,708 propane cylinders used for home barbecues, and emissions from burning 295 railcars of coal. *CO2e accounts for the greenhouse gases produced by the direct burning of fossil fuels on campus, emissions from production of electricity that we use, along with commuting, refrigerants and landfilled waste. It accounts for emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide, and several fluorinated gases; these are converted all to CO2 equivalent using their greenhouse potential.

– Does UMD have a commitment to lowering its carbon footprint?

Yes. UMD is a signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). It is a pledge that UMD is working toward climate neutrality through steps such as gathering greenhouse gas emission statistics, developing an action plan (and taking preliminary actions during the development of the plan), and making the relevant data transparent by providing it to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for posting and dissemination.

– Besides CO2, what are the other greenhouse gases covered by the ACUPCC?

NOx (nitrogen oxide), CH4 (methane), and a few fluorinated gasses.

– What is UMD’s carbon footprint relative to its size?

Our energy intensity is around 16 metric tons of CO2e per 1,000 square foot, a number that has been decreasing in recent years. This equates to about 5 metric tons of CO2e per full time equivalent (FTE) student.

– How big of an impact does commuting have on our campus carbon footprint?

Commuting accounts for less than 3% of our annual carbon footprint. Factors that keep this portion low include the fact that many students close to campus and that UMD provides a UPASS to students and faculty/staff. Students are commuting nearly half of their miles through walking, biking, and busing.

– What is the UPass program?

Using their UCard, UMD students and staff can ride DTA buses free. Since the program’s inception, the DTA has had over five million rides taken using the UPASS program.  (NOTE: The structure and funding mechanisms for the UPASS may be changing.  Stay tuned for updates before Fall 2014.)

– What actions does our campus Energy Plan include to reduce carbon?

The foremost priority for the campus Energy Action Plan (or any entity, really) is energy efficiency. Energy retrofits can gain efficiency (do more with less). We also want to encourage energy conservation behaviors that further reduce UMD’s carbon footprint. We will also look for ways to integrate renewables, consider fuel mix changes, continue to support mass transit for students, and look for ways to purchase/create clean and renewable electricity.

– How many LEED certified buildings does UMD have?

UMD has constructed four new buildings and had one total renovation building qualify for LEED certification.

Operating UMD

– What types of sustainable operation practices are used at UMD?

UMD uses green-cleaning methods and chemicals , scheduling buildings to save energy when few people are on campus , low-energy lighting, low-flow faucets/fixtures, recycling (plastic, aluminum, glass, paper, cardboard, and hazardous/e-waste collection), composting food waste across campus and in the Dining Center, responsible stormwater management, alternative/native/edible garden plantings, and supporting mass transit through the UPASS program. Some of these choices can also save money.
One example in cleaning, UMD Facilities Management recently switched its methods for its terrazzo flooring maintenance, from chemical methods to scrubbing with special pads.  This small change is expected to save $40,000 over five years in labor, and eliminates the need of many hazardous chemicals.

– Why does Facilities Management apply herbicides on campus? 

UMD Grounds embraces sustainability in our daily operations. Environmental, economic, and social concerns are taken in consideration when making decisions about maintenance practices. The decision to use herbicides isn’t one that is made lightly. The herbicide treatments used are an attempt to create a healthy plant community and to preserve our campus landscape amenities.  Herbicide is applied carefully by trained FM staff, and only in ideal weather conditions.  The goal overall is to establish healthy plant communities and convert unused areas of sod to native landscapes over time, in order to minimize future herbicide use.

– How much does UMD spend on energy in a year?

Millions of dollars are spent on electricity and natural gas for our heating plant. In 2013, utility bills totaled nearly six million dollars.

– Why can’t the air conditioning be turned on for a 60 degree day, and then turned back off?

Turning on the air conditioning for buildings at UMD is not as easy as flipping a switch. The air conditioning system requires a 2-week prep time to flood the coil loop that circles campus and to test the system.  Also, when the cooling coils are full of water and the temperature dips below freezing overnight, frozen pipes and leaks are a possibility.

– Why don’t we have separate air conditioners for each building?

A centralized campus chiller system helps to save money and energy. Keeping this system tuned helps us operate more efficiently than having separate air conditioning systems in individual buildings.

– How has ITSS implemented computing energy management measures?

ITSS is making heavy use of server consolidation, including encouraging other units on campus to make use of our virtual servers. ITSS has not done a data center energy audit because our data center is so new (2 years old). It was constructed with the latest and greatest. The conversion to Active Directory allowed some functionality to control power management as well.

– What types of sustainable grounds practices are used at UMD?

Stormwater runoff is slowed, cooled, and filtered through rain gardens (near Lot B, Labovitz, Ianni, etc.), pervious pavers (near Civil Engineering and Lund building), green roofs (Bagley Outdoor Classroom and Civil Engineering), native and alternative plantings, filtration swales, and ponds. Grounds crews have strict fertilizer application guidelines, and work to reduce salt in winter snow removal. UMD fleet vehicles include hybrid vehicles and FM uses electric carts for grounds staff.

– How does UMD manage snow on campus?

With a couple feet of snow covering campus, a question was raised today:  where does UMD Grounds put all the snow it plows from parking lots and roads?  The answer is:  it says right here! Snow is piled up temporarily in parking lots, and when these piles get large it is trucked to two major “snow dumps” on campus.  One snow dump is near the Lund Heating Plant and the other is behind the Central Utility Building (built in 2013) along W. St. Marie Street.  The snow in these areas is allowed to melt and is filtered through drain tiles and green spaces in the spring when it thaws. You can read more about the UMD snow removal policy, as well as other best practices in our UMD Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.

Campus Foods

– How much local food does UMD purchase each year?

Local foods are a great choice because they don’t travel as many food miles and they help support local economies.  UMD purchases some food (estimated at around 5% of total purchases) from local vendors and especially from the UMD Farm via the Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP).  In fact, as of Fall 2013, UMD had purchased over 20,000 pounds of food from the SAP!  There are plans for more purchases, and along with this, UMD Dining supports the operations at the Farm via funding student employees and a part-time Farm Manager position.
Unfortunately, there are some real barriers to providing local foods at the Food Court and the Dining Center. Cost is certainly an issue; in the past UMD has tried to purchase locally grown green beans directly from the field, after processing, the beans simply weren’t cost effective. Availability is also an issue; local farms don’t have the volume that UMD requires, including the annual usage below: Annual lettuce usage: 26,688 lbs Annual baker potato usage: 2,100 lbs Annual broccoli usage: 3,105 lbs Annual apple usage: 52,402 apples Annual egg usage: 29,880 eggs Annual ground beef usage: 31,543 lbs Most of this food is consumed over 32 weeks of the year, these varying levels of operation make it extremely difficult for local producers to accommodate.

How to Contribute

– What can I do to make a difference on campus as a student?

Recycling, using your U-Pass, conserving energy and water on campus, carrying a reusable mug, water bottle or bag, turning off lights and electronics, close fume hood sashes in labs, purchase things carefully, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you can. Many classes have sustainability themes and students can also get involved in the Sustainable Development Research Opportunity Project (SDROP). In addition, UMD has several clubs that promote sustainable practices including the UMD Cycling Club, the Student Sustainability Coalition, Clean Snowmobile Club, Environmental Science club, and the Sustainable Agriculture Project.

– What can I do to make a difference on campus as a staff or faculty member?

A few tips include being energy wise, shutting down your computer at the end of the day, unplugging appliances and electronics at the end of the week, conserving water, using your U-Pass, encouraging students to attend sustainability events, incorporating sustainability into your curriculum and/or teaching practices, reducing paper use, and recycling. Sign-up for the Green Office Certification program and a member of our office will be glad to stop by and start a conversation with your colleagues on green practices.

UMD Sustainability
The UMD Sustainability website is administered by the University of Minnesota Duluth's Office of Sustainability.
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