UMD inspiring other campuses with sustainability efforts

UMD inspiring other campuses with sustainability efforts

In collaboration with Cassidy Johnson.

UMD is beginning to inspire other campuses in their sustainability efforts. For several years, UMD has been working with the Sustainability Office and Dining Services to improve our environmental impact.

Starting in 2011, UMD student Chris Gustavson approached the director of the Office of Sustainability, Mindy Granley, suggesting that UMD should collect compost. Granley said that Gustavson himself did the research needed.

“He found the most prominent spots on campus that could benefit most from compost bins,” Granley said. “Those happened to be all of the areas on campus near the food services.”

Granley explained that as soon as they put compost bins outside of the coffee shop, there were requests for more all over campus.

“This combined with a survey done by outdoor environmental education professor Tom Beery,” Granley said. “This is what pushed the campus to go all in on composting.The survey asked if students support compost integration into our waste stream and 87 percent responded saying yes.”

Director of Dining Services, Claudia Engelmeier, said that the department is trying to go 100 percent biodegradable.

“One of the big things we are working on right now is the Coke cups and the plastic lids,” Engelmeier said. “Coke is soon coming out with compostable cups.”


Dining Services buys produce from the UMD Farm, which the farm puts back into the seeds. If somebody orders catering for an event, the whole event can be compostable by request.

“We have food pulpers where any food waste goes into compost,” Engelmeier said. “We recycle all of our cardboards every week.”

A few years back, the UMD Dining Center used to have trays for customer use. Engelmeier said that the office eliminated the use of trays because of food waste and water usage.

“We were wasting a lot of food that way because students got more food than they needed,” Engelmeier said. “After going off trays we had a 10 percent reduction in water use for washing trays.”

Engelmeier said that plastic straws are a challenge Dining Services wants to overcome.“We are always working for the new products and we’re still looking for something to replace straws,” Engelmeier said.

Director of Environmental Science Program Christina Gallup said that creating an Office of Sustainability has been a huge step for UMD.

“UMD has taken a big step in putting financial resources into a whole office that is geared to making UMD more carbon neutral and working on the effects of the student population on the environment,” Gallup said.

Gallup said that not all students know about the different ways UMD is trying to create a more sustainable campus.

“We could have a better integration and understanding of the average student for what we do,” Gallup said. “I think we’re doing really well, but I don’t think that the self-awareness is there as much as it should be in terms of how much this campus cares about sustainability,”

To see how they were doing on food waste, Granley said that the dining center dumped out all of the trash and sorted through it. By doing this, they realized that they could still reduce food waste by 50 percent if people knew how to sort correctly.

We have declared that sustainability is our value and it’s part of everybody's job,” Granley said.

According to Granley, many campuses are contacting UMD to get advice on how they too can become a campus that is compost-friendly. The University of Minnesota Twin Cities was one of the campuses that contacted UMD, and will start having composting bins on their campus in the fall of 2018.

“Our campus is inspiring other campuses all over,” Granley said. “It’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of that this campus did.”

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