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  • AASHE-STARS

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 74.63
Liaison Moira Hafer
Submission Date July 30, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Stanford University
OP-22: Waste Minimization

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.44 / 5.00 Moira Hafer
Sustainability Specialist
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Waste generated::
Performance Year Baseline Year
Materials recycled 3,379.73 Tons 4,315.50 Tons
Materials composted 7,736.66 Tons 3,896.70 Tons
Materials reused, donated or re-sold 8.04 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed in a solid waste landfill or incinerator 7,517.48 Tons 11,052.38 Tons

Figures needed to determine "Weighted Campus Users”::
Performance Year Baseline Year
Number of residential students 11,147 9,363
Number of residential employees 0 0
Number of in-patient hospital beds 0 0
Full-time equivalent enrollment 15,606 12,151
Full-time equivalent of employees 12,297 8,012
Full-time equivalent of distance education students 0 0

Start and end dates of the performance year and baseline year (or three-year periods):
Start Date End Date
Performance Year Jan. 1, 2012 Dec. 31, 2012
Baseline Year Jan. 1, 2000 Dec. 31, 2000

A brief description of when and why the waste generation baseline was adopted:

Stanford's waste diversion programs started in the 1970s, and significant progress with respect to diversion has occurred since 2000, thus that is the baseline year used for this credit.


A brief description of any (non-food) waste audits employed by the institution:

Stanford has completed 26 waste audits over the last 5 years. The landfilled dumpsters from different buildings are selected and a team of volunteers sorts the material into 12 categories. Key findings include over 25% of the waste sent to landfill is recyclable and 30% of the waste sent to landfill is compostable. The waste audits help the university determine next steps in its Zero Waste Program.


A brief description of any institutional procurement policies designed to prevent waste:

Wherever possible, Stanford strives to minimize waste through its purchases. Minimization of packaging is a central aspect of the sustainable purchasing guidelines used on campus. For more details, please visit:
http://www.stanford.edu/group/fms/fingate/staff/buypaying/policy_notes/sustainable_purchase.html


A brief description of any surplus department or formal office supplies exchange program that facilitates reuse of materials:

Stanford has a Surplus Property Sales department which houses surplus university assets and resells them to university affiliates or any members of the surrounding community. Items sold through surplus property include machinery, electronics, furniture, and office supplies. Stanford also has a furniture reutilization program that ensures excess furniture does not end up in the landfill. A REUSE website maintained by Surplus Property Sales enables Stanford departments to transfer materials between each other.


A brief description of the institution's efforts to make materials available online by default rather than printing them:

Stanford recently switched its course bulletin to an online-only format in order to save paper and other resources. Students can view transcripts, course schedules, course directories, grades, and many other academic resources online through Axess, Stanford’s web-based record management system. None of these materials are printed except by individual request.


A brief description of any limits on paper and ink consumption employed by the institution:

All students must pay a printing fee of $0.10 per page to release a job on any Stanford-owned printer.


A brief description of any programs employed by the institution to reduce residence hall move-in/move-out waste:

Stanford students recently opened a new campus thrift store called “Union Underground.” Students (and all members of the Stanford community) can drop off unwanted items and take any desired items for free or at a very low price. During student move-out, the store hosts multiple campus “free stores,” where students can drop off any unwanted goods and take anything they would like for free. Stanford established and launched a formal “Give & Go” campaign to reduce waste in residence halls during the annual move-out period (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/rde/cgi-bin/drupal/housing/give-go). In addition, Student Housing maintains a comprehensive website resource for move-out, with details about all the materials collected and the corresponding collection points on campus.


A brief description of any other (non-food) waste minimization strategies employed by the institution:

Stanford's Deskside Recycling and Mini Trash Bin Program is the newest waste collection system based on the concept of minimizing waste and maximizing recycling. It consists of two bins, one 14 quart blue recycling bin and one 1.15 gallon mini black trash bin that hangs on the side of the recycling bin. Custodians are responsible for emptying both the recycling and trash bins on a weekly schedule. This has currently been implemented in 20 buildings and is being introduced to all buildings on campus over the next four years.


A brief description of any food waste audits employed by the institution:

As part of R&DE Stanford Dining’s “Love Food Hate Waste” program, the university purchased at least one Lean Path system for every dining hall in order to weigh and track food waste. Stanford piloted the program in three dining halls and fully implemented the program in all dining halls in Fall 2013. The system tracks and weighs all kitchen food waste and then assigns the food waste to categories and each culinary staff member. Staff monitor and assess progress and utilize the analytics of the waste data to help control and reduce food waste. The Sustainable Food Program Manager also runs spot checks on the compost bins, takes photos of food waste, and uses these images in culinary staff trainings. The food waste reduction system and use of the system is incorporated into new staff onboarding for all levels of dining hall staff.

As part of Stanford's participation in Recyclemania, Stanford Dining holds educational campaigns, such as “Caught Green-Handed” in the dining halls and cafes to educate students, staff, and faculty about composting and Recyclemania.


A brief description of any programs and/or practices to track and reduce pre-consumer food waste in the form of kitchen food waste, prep waste and spoilage:

As described previously, R&DE Stanford Dining has installed one to two Lean Path weighing systems in every dining hall. Staff must weigh all excess pre-consumer food waste before they compost it. The data is used to help reduce food waste and to make staff more aware of this pressing issue. The Sustainable Food Program Manager has trained staff on the Lean Path system and given trainings to dining hall staff about the problems of food waste in the United States to create a larger contextual reference for focusing on the issue.

Stanford works with its suppliers and partners to develop sourcing practices that reduce waste prior to coming to Stanford. This would include procuring meats, seafood, and produce in the most ready-to-use state for our food service operations. Staff work strategically with vendors/partners in the dining halls and utilize their expertise and training to ensure Stanford maximizes the utilization of product once it enters the dining facilities.

Stanford's inventory management practices use industry best standards and practices for just in time ordering, quality control steps reviewing temperature and quality of products received, and FIFO (first in, first out) inventory process. The vendor management team works closely with vendors on quality control concerns to have products coming into the kitchens that are of the highest quality to reduce food spoilage issues. There are semi-annual business reviews to review procurement standards, outcomes, and process to ensure Stanford Dining is meeting the goals of the organization and to discuss measures to improve effectiveness of its procurement process.

Stanford tracks customers’ swipes to understand trends in dining hall attendance over time, and thus, is able to alter production to minimize overproduction. The university also closes dining halls when counts are expected to be extremely low, such as a home football game, in order to minimize food waste.


A brief description of programs and/or practices to track and reduce post-consumer food waste:

Stanford Dining has implemented trayless dining in each of its dining halls. This voluntary initiative is primarily designed to decrease food waste and to reduce the incentive to over-consume food. Eliminating trays has also reduced the amount of water and energy that is otherwise required to wash them.


A brief description of the institution's provision of reusable and/or third party certified compostable to-go containers for to-go food and beverage items (in conjunction with a composting program):

R&DE Stanford Dining eliminated disposable food and beverage containers from our dining halls and replaced them with reusable serviceware in 2013. Stanford Dining also gives all new students on the meal plan and dining hall staff a reusable cup with lid and straw at the beginning of the year. When needed, such as special events and our Late Night dining, Stanford Dining uses only BPI-certified compostable wares. We have recently created updated signage to make it even easier for customers to sort their waste.

R&DE Stanford Hospitality & Auxiliaries uses BPI-certified compostable products (cups, plates, bowls, and straws) in all cafes, catering, and sports venues that we run on campus. All dining halls and cafes have full recycling and composting programs for customers. We have recently created updated signage to make it even easier for customers to sort their waste.

In addition, a list of compostable break room supplies is available in Smart Mart (the university's online procurement system) such that individual office buildings can be sure to stock their cabinets with compostable to-go products.


A brief description of the institution's provision of reusable service ware for “dine in” meals and reusable and/or third party certified compostable service ware for to-go meals (in conjunction with a composting program):

All of our dining halls use all reusable service ware. We also participate in a trayless program and have reduced the size of plates and glasses in the dining halls to encourage taking only the food that students will eat. The dining halls are all-you-care-to-eat and we do not allow food to be taken home, so we do not provide compostable service ware.


A brief description of any discounts offered to customers who use reusable containers (e.g. mugs) instead of disposable or compostable containers in to-go food service operations:

Stanford Dining provides reusable water bottles to all incoming freshmen and transfer students to help reduce disposable bottled beverage consumption on campus. Students can use these containers to receive discounts at select campus cafes (discount value varies by location). In addition, most campus cafes offer a discount if a patron brings a reusable mug. A student sustainability group recently inventoried and made a list of these venues available to the student body.


A brief description of other dining services waste minimization programs and initiatives:

Because our dining halls are all-you-care-to-eat, we have employed a few methods to encourage students to take less food on their first trip through the dining hall and to take seconds if they want them. We have purchased smaller plates, bowls, and cups to minimize portion size and have gone trayless in all dining halls. For some meat entrees, our staff serves students pre-determined portions to prevent them from piling their plates high with food they might not eat.

We have ten Sustainable Food Program interns who work to help reduce waste and increase composting through audits and educational events. Students are stationed at compost bins during events to educate their peers about Stanford's composting programs. We host multiple zero-waste events, such as New Student Orientation (1,600 new students), which sets the sustainability tone for incoming freshmen, Spring Faire (all dining halls), and Commencement.

We have partnered with two student groups to divert excess food--SPOON (Stanford Project on Hunger) and the Heart and Home Women’s Shelter. Both groups pick up food from us multiple times a week to feed the hungry. We also donated a full set of serviceware and other kitchen supplies to the Heart and Home Women’s Shelter that recently opened in Palo Alto.

We implemented waste minimization as part of the planning for our internal Residential & Dining Enterprises events. This past year, we held a green events training (which included waste minimization) for about 30 department staff who plan and run events. We piloted a few of our ideas, including printing less, using herbs as centerpieces, eliminating the dates on posters so they can be reused, and food donation at our 2013 R&DE holiday party. It was a huge success and our staff is working to minimize waste at all of our events.

The dining halls have post-consumer disposal stations where students scrape their own plates into compost containers before placing the dishware in the dishroom. The compost bins are open so students are able to see individually and collectively the amount of food that is being wasted. This practice has reduced post-consumer waste by 35%.

We utilize newsletters, Facebook, and other social media to discuss and highlight food waste issues. The Sustainable Food Program Manager and the student interns write all of the material for these outlets on a bi-weekly basis discussing sustainable initiatives including food waste.

Lastly, a campus-wide standard for sustainable events was developed by R&DE Stanford Dining and is used for all campus-wide events including those we do not cater. This procedure includes the process for collecting food waste.


The website URL where information about the institution’s waste minimization initiatives is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.