Living Sustainably

Place | Waste | Race to Zero Waste | Plastics | New2U | Food WasteTextile Recycling | Staying Hydrated | Saving Energy & WaterProducts | Sustainable UMass

While you are at UMass Amherst you are part of a community committed 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 collective effort at UMass that crosses units and disciplines and is woven throughout our academic, operational, and social spheres. Sustainability is a complex concept which seeks balance between environmental health, social equity & justice, and economic vitality. It is often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to do so. So how do we do that, in practice, living here at UMass Amherst. 

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! 



It is critical to recognize the places in which we live, learn, & work at UMass Amherst and those who traditionally belonged to this land. Indigenous cultures have been practicing what we now call sustainability for hundreds of years through their connection with, and responsibility toward the land and the countless other plant and animal communities that give back to, and depend upon it. When we talk about sustainability, therefore, we must acknowledge these indigenous ways of knowing that came before, those that have (and continue to) carry this indigenous wisdom and connection to place, and the land below our feet that nurtures this connection.

To find more information about the lands on which we live, learn, & work at UMass Amherst and the indigenous cultures who have traditionally belonged (and continue to belong) to them, please visit:



Waste streams and collection guidelines on campus changed in 2019.

  1. The food waste stream accepts FOOD WASTE ONLY.
    No containers or packaging of any kind. Napkins and coffee filters are okay.
  2. Bring yourself up to speed on what waste goes where and why it matters in the UMass Waste Guidelines E-Book.
  3. 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*.

* In North Apartments, each kitchen has a small countertop bin (Pro tip: store it in the fridge to avoid odors!). Additional food waste locations include, Greenough Sub Shop, Sweets n More, WEB DuBois Library. Food waste collection is of course also available at all dining commons and retail dining locations (Blue Wall, Roots, etc.). Food waste collections have been piloted in both Orchard Hill and CHC with limited success so are on pause.

Waste Reduction
Some strategies to reduce your everyday waste include:

  • Dining In! The best way to deal with waste is to avoid creating it in the first place. Whenever possible, dine in! Use dishes and flatware that can be washed and reused over anything that is single use.
  • Paper- based UMass take-out containers and cups are trash. Clear plastic cups are recyclable (remove lid and straw, empty remaining liquid/ice). 
  • Invest 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 forks 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.).

Recycling is an important waste minimization strategy that keeps recoverable materials out of landfills. If you cannot avoid creating the waste, make sure it gets into the right bin! Recycling is an expectation of everyone at UMass Amherst. It’s like brushing your teeth...everyone does it…its weird if you don’t.

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

Don’t “wish-cycle.” If you are not sure, look at the signs, visit the FAQ page, or trash the item. Contaminants in the recycling stream mean that LESS materials are recycled, not more. Recycle smart!

Electronic waste recycling is available at every Residential Service Desk.


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.


Plastics Reduction

Plastics offer convenience at great cost to the environment and public health. The State of Massachusetts recognizes this and in October 2023 Governor Healy signed Executive Order 619, calling on all offices and agencies of the state’s executive branch to eliminate the purchase of single-use plastic bottles and encouraging quasi-public agencies and boards to adopt similar policies. UMass Amherst was one of the first ten institutions to sign on to the National Wildlife Federation’s Plastic Reduction Partner Pledge & Certification. UMass signed the pledge November 2023 and is working on certification. How can you help? Say NO to single-use plastics, opt to dine-in, vote with your dollars (opt to purchase only beverages in glass or aluminum bottles and cans), and use a reusable bottle and/or mug EVERY DAY!


New2U Move-Out 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 furniture, storage, décor, appliances & electronics during Move-Out, and resell these items during a Move-In tag sale. New2U is able to sell thousands of new or gently used items to incoming students at affordable prices (approx. 70% off retail!)! Since the program's inception in 2014, New2U has been able to divert over 90,000 pounds of items from being sent to a landfill, engage over 500 volunteers in over 2,400 hours of service, and donate hundreds of pounds of food to the local survival center.  The 2023 Fall New2U move-in tag sale served over 2,500 students!

Has New2U impacted your student experience? We want to hear from you! Whether you’ve donated an item during move-out, volunteered with the New2U team, or shopped the move-in tag sale, New2U has touched many in our UMass Amherst community. Help advocate for the program by completing the "what New2U means to you" survey!!


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).

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.


Bay State Textiles: Textile Recycling!

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.


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.



To save resources and reduce unnecessary waste, consider purchasing second-hand or finding though local reuse groups like Buy Nothing Amherst. We have many great thrift stores in the area including The Hospice Shop, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army. And definitely shop the UMass Amherst New2U tag sale during move in for all your dorm necessities!

When you do purchase new, 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 while lacking more meaningful action. Consider purchasing Energy Star electronics and appliances, a smart power strip, a drying rack, and LED bulbs to save energy in your room.

Check out the skin-deep database to determine which health and body care products are safe and which you should avoid. Also explore Protect Our Breasts (founded by UMass faculty in Isenberg), whose mission is to “share the conversation about chemicals in everyday products found on the grocery shelves that contribute to breast cancer; empowering women to make safer choices to protect their breasts during the most vulnerable periods of their lives.”


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! Pay us a visit and get involved today! Want to get plugged into the action? Join the Sustainable UMass email list!

 Question? Contact us.