The things we throw away can stay on our planet for thousands of years. Luckily, there are steps we all can take to make sure that less trash ends up in our landfills! We’ve all heard the saying ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’ in elementary school, but it still remains the best way to live a zero waste lifestyle. Add one more action to the list- Compost- and you have a great recipe for stopping waste that’s harmful to the environment. 

What You Can Do:


  • Single-use plastics, such as straws, plastic bags, styrofoam food containers, and coffee cups, are only used for a few minutes, yet they can take 1,000 years to decompose. They fill our landfills, our oceans, and our Earth. Most single-use plastics have a reusable alternative: invest in reusable shopping bags, straws, travel mugs, and tupperware to cut down on the between one and five trillion single-use plastics thrown in the landfill each year.
  • If you don’t need the plastic, don’t use it! If a straw is not necessary for you to drink from a cup, politely tell your server that you don’t need one. If you’ve only purchased enough items that you can easily carry, refuse a plastic bag. At the grocery store, larger produce items like a single tomato or a bunch of bananas don’t need plastic bags. 

  • Rather than buying a plastic water bottle every time you’re thirsty, purchase a reusable water bottle and fill it up from the tap. Not only will it eliminate plastic waste, but you’ll save money, too! 

  • Be frugal about what you purchase- shop secondhand and only buy things that you love and know you’ll wear or use for a long time.

  • Buy in bulk! Purchasing items like shampoo, cereal, and detergent in large quantities rather than continuing to buy small packages reduces the amount of plastic waste you accumulate. 


  • Use reusable items such as bags, water bottles, and mugs for as long as possible. 

  • If something in your home breaks, consider repairing it rather than purchasing a new one and throwing it away.

  • Purchase rechargeable batteries rather than one-time use ones. 

  • If you have a baby or toddler at home, opt for washable cloth diapers rather than disposable ones. Disposable diapers are responsible for a significant chunk of the waste in our landfills.

  • Save cardboard from Amazon boxes and reuse them for gifts or storage. Consider wrapping gifts in newspaper or already used paper instead of purchasing new wrapping paper. 

  • Reuse old clothes, towels, or sheets as cloth napkins or cleaning rags as a sustainable alternative to paper towels. 

  • It may be tempting to purchas the newest smartphone or laptop every time they are released, but continuing to use your older device until it stops working is the much more sustainable choice! If you do purchase the newest gadget, consider handing your older model down to someone else or donating it to companies like Gazelle.


  • Recycling reduces the need to produce new materials, conserving resources such as timber and water and preventing pollution.

  • Recycle whenever possible! CU Boulder Zero Waste provides a list of all recyclable materials at most trash cans on campus, as well as online. Make sure you know what can and can't be tossed in the recycling- throwing landfill or compost in the bin may contaminate the recycling and result in all of it being thrown into the landfill. 

  • Each residence hall on campus contains recycling, as does each on campus building. Recycling stations where you can drop off your items are located outside each building.

  • Recycling in the dorms is single stream, meaning that all recyclable items can be put in the same container. On-campus recycling outside of the residence halls is dual stream, which means that you have to separate papers from containers. 

  • It is illegal to throw electronics in the landfill in Colorado. Instead, drop your cell phones and laptops, as well as other hard to recycle materials such as batteries, at kiosks located in the UMC or Norlin Library. 

  • If you live off campus, the Boulder County Recycling Center accepts single stream recycling. You can also drop off your recycling at one of the centers in the area

  • Visit CHaRM (the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials) to recyle anything from yoga mats to porcelain sinks to bubble wrap in Boulder County. CHaRM also accepts compostable materials!


What CU is Doing:

University of Colorado was the first university in the nation to establish an on-campus recycling program!

CU Boulder’s Grounds Recycling and Operations Center, or ROC, diverted 51.32% of trash from the landfill during the 2017-2018 school year. 

In 2008, the university founded NCAA’s first Division 1 sustainable athletics program, Ralphie’s Green Stampede. Since then, the program has established a zero waste program in all athletic venues, as well as zero net carbon emissions in all athletic facilities.