Living Sustainably

Waste | Race to Zero Waste | New2U | Food WasteRecycling | Energy & Water

While you are at UMass Amherst you are part of a community motivated to live more sustainably. What does that mean? It means we collectively and individually work to understand the impacts of our actions. We take responsibility for those actions, and we work to reduce our impacts by making informed decisions in our daily lives. 

Sustainability is a community effort at UMass that crosses units and disciplines and is woven throughout our academic and social spheres. Sustainability is a complex concept which seeks balance between environmental health, social equity, and economic vitality. It is often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to do so.  

Take advantage of the resources below to learn about and incorporate sustainable practices into your daily rhythms on campus. Our actions as individuals and as a community have impacts beyond us. It is our responsibility to minimize these impacts through our actions by living sustainably every day. Learn more about SustainableUMass  and be a part of this community effort! 

Check out our Living Sustainably at UMass Open Moodle training, open to all UMass community members! Note: If you haven’t used Open Moodle before, you will need to create an account with your Net ID and password.


Waste streams and collection guidelines on campus changed in 2019.  

  1. Empty UMass dining to-go containers are RECYCLABLE. 
    It doesn’t have to be clean, just empty.  If it isn’t empty, it’s trash.  
  2. The food waste stream accepts FOOD WASTE ONLY.  
    No containers or packaging of any kind.
  3. Bring yourself fully up to speed by completing the UMass Waste Quiz  
  4. Still have questions? Get the scoop at UMass Waste FAQs

Why Bother?
UMass trash from one academic year would fill nearly half of a southwest tower! Each year, UMass sends roughly 3,000 tons of waste to the landfill. Landfills are responsible for one third of all U.S. methane emissions. That’s the same as burning 824 railcars of coal!! What’s more, vulnerable populations – underrepresented communities and communities of color - are disproportionately impacted by pollution related to landfills and waste incinerators; a stark example of environmental racism. We want to ensure, as a community, that UMass is doing its best to keep unnecessary wastes out of the landfill. You can do your part by #1 avoiding the waste: DINING IN, reusing, repurposing, and/or donating items, recycling appropriate materials, and getting food scraps to the food waste bin*. 

*Food waste bins are located in the lobbies of all residence halls in CHC and Orchard Hill.  In North Apartments, each kitchen has a small countertop bin (Pro tip: store it in the fridge to avoid odors!).  Additional locations include, Greenough Sub Shop, Sweets n More, WEB DuBois Library, & 400 Venture Way. Food waste collection is of course also available at all dining commons and retail dining locations (Blue Wall, Roots, Procrastination Station, etc.). 

Waste Reduction
Some strategies to reduce your everyday waste include:

  • Dining In!  The best way to deal with waste is to avoid creating it.  Whenever possible, dine in! Use dishes and flatware that can be washed and reused over anything that is single use. 
  • UMass take-out containers on campus are recyclable. You can reduce waste by making sure your empty to-go containers make it to the recycling bin and food scraps are emptied into the food waste bin (wherever available) or trash (only if food waste is not available). 
  • Investing in Reusables!  Use the hydration stations to refill your reusable water bottle rather than buying bottled water. Also consider keeping reusable cutlery and a cloth napkin in your backpack for when you are on the go. Think about how many plastic spoons you can keep out of the landfill!
  • Repairing & Repurposing!  Repair damaged items rather than replacing and find creative new uses for no-longer used/needed items (an old t-shirt can become a reusable tote bag, etc.).  Seek inspiration from the internet!

Campus Race to Zero Waste

UMass participates in the annual Campus Race to Zero Waste: a national campus waste-reduction competition that takes place for 8 weeks every Spring. Each week UMass competes against other colleges and universities throughout the nation to keep more waste out of landfills.  So.. Get in the game: Reduce your waste! Reuse items when possible! Recycle properly, wipe it out & get in the right bin (Recycle / Food Waste / Trash)! Learn more at

New2U Collection & Fall Tag Sale

The New2U Move-Out Collection and Move-In Tag Sale is a waste reduction program run by students and staff and supported by Facilities & Campus Services and many other partners across the campus. Volunteers and campus staff collect unwanted items like clothing, futons, lamps, and TVs  during Move-Out, and resell these items during a Move-In tag sale. Now in it's seventh year, New2U is able to sell thousands of new or gently used items back to students, faculty, and staff at affordable prices! Since the program's inception, New2U has been able to divert over 80,000 pounds of items from being sent to a landfill. 

During Spring Move-Out, New2U places collection tents in all residential areas of campus for students to donate items they no longer need. During Move-In, students can buy these heavily discounted items at the New2U Tag Sale. Find out more about the Fall Tag Sale!

Food Waste

Those living in North Apartments, Commonwealth Honors College, and Orchard Hill will notice bins, signs, and messaging about food waste. All food scraps (even meat, bones & dairy), coffee grounds & filters, tea bags (staple removed), house plants, soiled napkins and paper towels can be placed in food waste bins. Remember to pour off any liquids and never include any containers, food packaging, or plastic bags. In CHC & Orchard Hill, food waste bins are available in the lobby.  In North Apartments, food waste bins are in the waste room of each building and each kitchen is provided a small countertop bin for collecting food scraps (PRO TIP: Keep your food waste bin in the fridge! Keeps away the smells and the bugs).  

Any questions or concerns about food waste collection can be emailed to

During Spring 2020, Residential Life launched a pilot program in Orchard Hill for residential composting! Learn more about the Orchard Hill composting pilot at the OHill Composting page. 


Recycling is an important waste minimization strategy that keeps recoverable materials out of landfills. Recycling is an expectation of everyone at UMass Amherst. Recycling is like brushing your teeth...everyone does it…its weird if you don’t.  

Students are asked to familiarize themselves with the UMass Recycling FAQs.

Be sure that you are NOT recycling:

  • Plastic bags (don’t bag recycling - dump recyclables into recycling bin and reuse your plastic liner bag or dispose in the trash)
  • Colored Plastic Cups (like Solo, etc.)
  • Black plastic
  • Styrofoam
  • Soda/beverage cases or frozen food packaging
  • Liquids (including ice)
  • Food scraps (empty containers only please!) 
  • Aerosol cans
  • Milk/juice cartons

Contaminants in the recycling stream mean that LESS materials are recycled, not more. Recycle smart!

Electronic waste and packaging (including plastic film) recycling is also available at every Residential Service Desk.

Bay State Textiles: Textile Recycling!

Popped a stitch on your reusable mask? Cleaning out your closet?  Old sheets or tattered tapestries to offload? UMass Amherst now offers textile recycling through Bay State Textiles.  From pristine to shredded, Bay State accepts and recycles clothing, linens, bedding, and footwear in any condition. Collection boxes are in the Southwest Horseshoe behind Hampden and in Central Residential Area next to Brooks Hall. Join your community in keeping recoverable textiles out of landfills! Learn more about Bay State Textiles and the items they accept at

Staying Hydrated

Hydration stations located in the residence halls have saved over 3 MILLION plastic bottles! Help us to keep this streak going and always use your reusable bottle when possible.

Don’t buy bulky packs of bottled water! Save time, money, resources, and space by using the hydration stations in your hall and in nearly every building across campus!

Saving Energy & Water

UMass has the potential to compound the positive actions of our students and produce lasting change that will help curb climate change. As a member of our UMass community, you are responsible for your own actions which will either aid in our commitment to sustainability, or slow our progress. 

The future of the planet and the health and happiness of the people around us depend on students like you to realize the importance of conservation in whatever ways you can. Turn off your lights, unplug your electronics, and shorten your showers whenever possible. Wash only full loads of laundry and use cold water (your clothes will last longer too).

 If you experience temperature control issues in your space, please file an Service request  rather than opening your window. We always want you to be comfortable and this way we can fix the root of the problem! Also consider purchasing Energy Star-rated electronics and appliances, a smart power strip, a drying rack, and LED bulbs to save energy in your room. 


Keep yourself and the planet healthy by purchasing organic, fair trade, local and humane whenever possible. Be aware of “greenwashing”, a marketing tactic used by companies to appear greener. Check out the skin-deep database to determine which health and body care products are safe and which you should avoid. Consider purchasing Energy Star electronics and appliances, a smart power strip, a drying rack, and LED bulbs to save energy in your room. 

Eco-Rep Program

Eco-Rep is a great first step to get involved with sustainability at UMass. Eco-Rep is a 2-credit, student-led, and dialogue-based course engaging with issues of sustainability and ways to make a difference. Classes meet once per week in residence halls across campus.

Students will learn about additional opportunities to get involved in sustainability efforts on campus and beyond. Students who take the course a second time are considered for facilitator positions so they can teach an Eco-Rep class of their own!

Sustainable UMass

From sustainability course listings to campus sustainability events, programs, and student organizations, Sustainable UMass is your one-stop shop for all things sustainable at UMass Amherst! Get involved today!

 Question? Contact Residential Life.