Sorting through waste is not an appealing task, but more and more universities across the country are conducting campus waste audits to advance their zero waste goals.
Waste audits help universities determine how much waste could have been recycled, composted, or reused and also create a baseline for comparison from one waste audit to the next.
Waste audits are so helpful for sustainability that universities who participate in the AASHE STARS (American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education – Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) are required to report the results of their waste audits and the programs they have in place to reduce waste.
Some universities are veterans conducting regular waste audits, while others are still fairly new to the process.
Harvard University, for example, encourages each school, unit and department to conduct waste auditsand has clear procedures in place, including an online booking calendar. Waste audits are conducted every Thursdays and Fridays between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Oregon State University (OSU) sits somewhere in the middle. According to its most recent AASHE STARS audit report, it does not conduct regular waste audits but has dumpster audits, usually from residence halls, “at least a few times per year.”
In addition, OSU, like many other universities, has several student-led sustainability initiatives that tackle climate change. The Campus Recycling group, for example, works with the university’s Sports and Recreation to audit waste from the recreation center.