The University shall strive to be a model in the application of sustainability principles to guide campus operations by: meeting and aspiring to exceed all applicable regulatory requirements; prevents pollution at its source; reducing emission to the environment; encouraging the use of a life-cycle cost framework.


Anaerobic Digestion

The University, through the department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, utilizes organic waste and material through the area of anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is the process which produces biogas (methane and carbon dioxide) in an oxygen-free environment from the decomposition of organic material (manure, plant/animal matter, food waste, etc.). This process is one way to facilitate nutrient waste issues and to produce energy in the form of methane gas as a fuel source. It can be burned in every way natural gas can be burned and has the ability to fire a boiler or run a vehicle.

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Beautiful U Day

Beautiful U Day is an annual initiative celebrating the University of Minnesota’s natural resources, buildings, and grounds. A tradition since 1997, Beautiful U Day combines hands-on beautification efforts with academic forums to celebrate the Twin Cities campus and acknowledge our responsibility to maintain our physical and natural resources. Beautiful U Day has supported many projects and events over the past 10 years in the interest of sustainability. These include:

Used Bike Sale (2011)
• The University Reuse Center partnered with local bikes shops to sell more than 200 used bikes for as low as $35 each. In addition, free tune ups were available at Northrop Plaza, the West Bank, and St. Paul for all bicyclists.

Recycling Collection (2010) 
• The University collected 6,190 pounds of used books, 4,648 pounds of electronics, and 206 cell phones. The items were then sent for recycling or donation through Worldwide Book Drive, Cell Phones for Soldiers, and the Asset Recovery Corporation. The Recycling Drive helped kick off the new It All Adds Up recycling goal to increase diversion rates 5% by the end of 2012.

It All Adds Up (2009)
• The University launched its ambitious It All Adds Up energy conservation program on Beautiful U Day 2009, with the goal of a 5% energy reduction to save the university $2.25 million and reduce carbon emissions by 25,000 tons of CO2. The goal was reached three months early through vigorous building recommissioning and energy reduction efforts by students, staff, and faculty. 

Planting a New Kind of Bulb (2008)
• To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Beautiful U Day, volunteers distributed 10,000 compact florescent light bulbs across campus. When put to use, the bulbs will save 738,900 kilowatt hours of electricity each year.

The Road to Renewable Energy: Careers for Everyone (2007)
• This forum, hosted by the Initiative for Renewable Energy, was designed to help students learn more about renewable energy careers. Forum topics included the types of renewable energy careers that exist today, what kind of skills and knowledge they require, and how students can go about preparing for these careers.

Campus Sustainability Workshop (2003)
• Panelists included administrators and faculty who have been instrumental in campus sustainability efforts. In addition to a policy discussion, the workshop explored various sustainability initiatives across the University. A final report was developed by the Campus Sustainability Network and presented to the president’s office. A smaller Sustainability Forum was offered in 2004.

Building Clean Out Program (1997-present)
• Campus building occupants are given the opportunity to remove items from attics, basements and storerooms, and Facilities Management will dispose of them appropriately. The program, which collected more than 790 tons of unwanted material from campus buildings in each year 1997-1999, was a great success. In an effort to continue the successful program and to accommodate the high volume, the program is now scheduled for specific buildings and areas of campus at different times during the year.

Storm Drain Stenciling (2004)
• More than 40 volunteers spread out across the St. Paul campus to stencil warnings near all storm drains that materials dumped into these drains empty into the Sarita Wetlands. Stencil artist Scott Stulen’s design evokes the natural rhythms of the Sarita wetland, and features ducks and grasses.

Paint-the-Bridge (2004)
• A donation from The Sherwin-Williams Paint Company allowed nearly 300 volunteers to paint the Washington Avenue Bridge with recycled paint.

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Chemical Redistribution/Reuse Program

To assist in waste reduction, the University Department of Environmental Health and Safety operates a Chemical Redistribution Program which accepts both opened and unopened bottles of unwanted but still usable chemicals and labware, and redistributes them to other University laboratories. The redistribution of chemicals and labware is free to any interested University department or research laboratory. The program distributes approximately 1,000 kilograms of chemicals per year that would otherwise be disposed of as hazardous waste.

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Chemical Safety Day

Since 1981, the Chemical Safety Day Program (CSDP) has offered assistance to educational institutions and nonprofit organizations in disposing of hazardous material and waste at a reasonable cost and in an environmentally responsible way. This program is a joint effort of the MN Department of Children, Families and Learning, and the University of Minnesota. Based on the number of schools/organizations involved and the quantities of material/waste concerned, the CSDP directly collects waste from each site between the months of April and November which is then sent to the Thompson Center for Environmental Management (TCEM) on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus to be processed. Ninety percent of the waste processed at the TCEM comes from the University system while the remaining ten percent comes from schools, institutions, and agencies through the Chemical Safety Day Program.

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Electronics Waste Management

Electronics recycling is a cooperative effort between University Computing Services (UCS), Waste Abatement Services (WAS), and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Both UCS and WAS collect electronic equipment from departments throughout campus. UCS additionally evaluates computers for potential refurbishing or usable parts for internal and external sales. Each hard drive is cleared prior to disposal to remove sensitive information while cathode ray
tubes are discarded from monitors and hazardous waste due to leachable metals such as lead. The University will collect the circuit boards and monitors as part of the Chemical Waste Program through the Department of Environmental Health and Safety and send the material to a licensed recycler for metal recovery. Reducing hazardous chemicals and waste improves conditions in the environment by lowering the risk of spills, risk of employee, patient and visitor exposure, and reducing pollution in the community. WAS collects electronics and consolidates them at the Como Recycling Facility for collection by certified vendors through a contract managed through EHS and the Minnesota Department of Administration. Used computers and equipment are sold to the University community and the public.

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Organic Waste Collection

After attempts to recover organic materials from the trash, such as small animal bedding in 1990 and food wastes for feeding pigs in 1995, the Recycling Program successfully began the collection of food waste for composting from residential hall kitchens and on-campus dinning locations as well as animal bedding from Research Animal Resources in August of 2007. As part of phase I, cooperation with University Dining Services, Ag Services, and Hennepin County, has led to the collection 4,000 lbs/ day of food waste. In addition, the collection of small animal bedding and organic waste is sent to the St. Paul campus where anaerobic and tissue digesters convert the waste into useful byproducts such as methane gas as a fuel source. Phase II includes the collection of retail food service waste such as disposable dinning ware, compostable single use plates, cups and utensils from campus food service operations, and eventually the concessions within the new football stadium. The final process includes organic waste collection throughout the surrounding University community. Disposable material throughout Hennepin County will become more compostable and aid to a cleaner environment in and around campus.

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Reuse Program

Since its commencement in 1991, the Reuse Program at the University has been relieving buildings of unwanted materials, fixtures, and supplies. Reusable furniture, equipment, electronics, and office goods are redistributed to U of M departments throughout campus to decrease the University’s solid waste and to save money otherwise spent on transportation to a landfill. Items not claimed by university departments are made available to public schools, nonprofit organizations, charities, and the public. More than 240 tons of materials find new homes through the program annually and approximately $100,000 revenue from external sales is generated. The Reuse Program is currently working to further minimize transportation expenses between campus and the ReUse Warehouse by implementing an internal exchange of supplies using an online record of what materials are available and where they can be found on campus as opposed to the warehouse.