When it comes to waste, mindful practices and a collaborative spirit define the scene at Oxy.
Since zero waste is the ultimate ideal, Oxy's waste strategy emphasizes reduction right from the source. Reducing the need for waste by reusing what we can is key. When you do need to throw something away, recycling and composting are excellent options available on our campus.
Reducing the amount of waste entering the waste stream is the most effective sustainability strategy. Below are highlights of key reduction strategies around campus. Campus Dining has implemented even more as part of their operations.
As of Fall 2023, all to-go meals at our largest dining facility, the Marketplace, are served in reusable containers known as "eco-clamshells." These containers are dishwasher and microwave safe. All students wishing to take food to go must enroll in the Reuse Pass program. This program saves nearly 2,000 single-use to go boxes per week.
Bring Your Own & For-Here Mugs
The Marketplace, Tiger Cooler, and student-run Green Bean Cafe all allow customers to bring their own mug or cup for drinks! Save up to 20 cents per use. The Green Bean also offers a "for here" mug program in an effort to reduce waste.
Water Bottle Refill Stations
Carrying around a reusable water bottle at Oxy is handy. Water bottle filling stations are located in a majority of residence halls, Johnson Student Center, the Academic Commons, Johnson Hall, Rush Gym, and several other academic and administrative buildings. Each year another station is installed thanks to the efforts of the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund (RESF) and Facilities Management.
Extending the life of a variety of items is central to Oxy Ecossentials’ mission. At the end of each semester, especially during spring Move Out, the student club collects gently used items from each residence hall. In the fall, they resell these items back to the Oxy community at very low prices and donate the leftover items.
The group also collects excess office equipment. Staff members are invited contact them or the Sustainability Coordinator to schedule a pickup of extra binders, trays and other office items no longer needed.
Excess Food Recovery Team (EFRT)
The curiosity of Mel Devoney ‘17 about where leftover food on Oxy’s campus ended up led to a food donation initiative. In 2018, it matured into an institutionalized program adopted by Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement (SLICE). With the collaboration of paid student coordinators and Campus Dining staff, EFRT donated a total of 3,580 pounds of food to local community partners in the 2017-18 school year. To date, EFRT has redistributed over 10 tonnes of food to the local community.
The dos and don’ts of recycling differ depending on location. Because the Oxy community comes from all across the U.S. and the world, education on campus and L.A. recycling guidelines is fundamental.
All blue bins across campus are single-stream and can accept the following items:
Paper: white or colored paper, magazines, newspaper, construction paper, card stock
Cartons: milk, juice, and soy milk cartons; anything labeled Tetrapak
Cardboard: Oxy recycles this item separately. Flatten the cardboard and leave it next to a blue bin for pick up.
Glass: bottles and jars (please leave caps on)
Metals: aluminum, steel and tin (cans, foil, paperclips, small metal pieces)
Be aware of the don’ts for recycling:
Don’t throw any food into the blue bin. Food contamination can result in entire loads of recycling being sent to landfill. If you have a plastic take-out container, dump the food in the trash first, then rinse and recycle the container.
Don’t throw Green Bean cups into the blue bin. Compostable items break down to provide nutrients to the soil, so these items can’t be recycled into another product.
Don’t throw chip bags into the blue bin. These bags, along with those for candy wrappers and trail mix bars, are made out of two materials melded together (usually aluminum and plastic), and cannot be separated and sent on their respective recycling paths.
This recycling poster summarizes a majority of these do’s and don’ts:
The cash register of the Bookstore is the place to recycle your batteries. Remember, batteries contain toxic elements, so they need to be recycled separately.
The cash register of the Bookstore is also the place to recycle your empty printer cartridges.
Electronic waste (E-waste)
Battered and/or broken-down mice, screens, printers and other small electronic equipment can be dropped off at the IT Help Desk on the main floor of the Academic Commons. Informational Technology Services (ITS) partners with Environmental Health and Safety to collect e-waste as they continuously upgrade the college’s technologies.
Also, campus-wide e-waste collections take place at the end of each semester. This is a great opportunity to get rid of any old or broken printers, scanners, keyboards, VHS tapes, connectors/cables and other miscellaneous e-waste that has been sitting around.
Cooking & Food
Campus Dining contracts with FiltaFry to reduce the amount of frying oil used via filtration. Once the oil becomes unusable, FiltaFry recycles the fryer waste oil into biodiesel. At the Marketplace, excess produce and cooked proteins are repurposed as ingredients in the daily Soup and Pasta of the Day selections.
Thanks to a progressive green spirit, Campus Dining adopted composting into its operations in 2011 when our waste hauler first made it possible. The Marketplace composts the peelings and trimmings from food prep. The food waste and compostable items placed on the food tray collector are also sorted by staff behind-the-scenes into compost bins. These impactful actions divert up to 1,000 pounds per day during the school year. In the nationwide RecycleMania 2017 competition, Oxy’s organics diversion ranked 12th among 134 colleges.
Oxy practices industrial composting, meaning a wide range of organics and plant items can be composted on campus. Campus Dining has transitioned to exclusively offering disposable utensils, straws and cups. The following is a mini-compost guide:
Food: veggies, fruits, meat, dairy, bread, baked goods
Soiled paper: napkins, pizza boxes, paper plates
Cups: Green Bean cups are compostable.
This poster summarizes these composting basics:
Composting began to expand beyond the Marketplace in 2016 through the efforts of the Green Bean, the Public Health club and the Office of Sustainability. As green bins (the color code for compost) started appearing in other campus locales, students became inspired and energized to bring composting to more areas.
Liz Richman ‘19 headed up the Cooler Compost project, and Stella Ramos ‘21 began BraunPost and empowered other students to replicate her success in other halls through a ResEd Compost Working Group. FEAST is ramping up its closed-loop composting efforts by collecting the Marketplace’s pre-consumer food scraps and the Tiger Cooler's coffee grounds.
Compost champions are making the practice available across campus. Even the Financial Aid Office has a compost bin initiated and maintained by its assistant director, Emily Valk.
Check out this map to see where you can compost at Oxy:
Large compost bins to be available for big events hosted on lower campus.
Smaller events hosted by clubs will also be able to set up composting. RESF helps to finance the higher price of compostable serviceware. Smaller event composting will not be limited to lower campus.