How St. Kate’s can adopt Macalester’s zero waste program

Macalester College pledged to go Zero Waste by 2020 back in 2008 and looking at their progress so far it looks like they will make it. At Macalester, the college is trying to make sure that all their waste is handled correctly. Whether it is trash, compost, recycling or leftover food, all materials are handled without being wasted. But Macalester doesn’t stop there. The college makes sure to team up with clean waste haulers to make sure their trash is being sent to the right places. Macalester has many programs in place that are helping them get to Zero Waste, and St. Kate’s could be there too.

When the program first started, the most Macalester had was compost bins spread randomly across the campus. According to Dr. Suzanne Hansen who manages the Sustainability program at Macalester, “We only had four compost bins on the campus. If you only have a compost bin, you are going to get all the trash in that bin.” Thankfully, the program has grown tremendously over the years. Macalester followed the goal of the city of St. Paul which was zero waste by 2020. According to Hansen, “We are using the international standard because it is hard to get to absolute zero. But 90% reduction from the baseline is pretty good.”

Macalester’s bins for recycling, compost and trash. Signs help faculty and students figure out where to put their trash.

Macalester’s bins for recycling, compost and trash. Signs help faculty and students figure out where to put their trash.


Another effort implemented by Macalester is their Zero Waste Move Out Program. When students move out of the dorms they have to sort the things they are throwing away by trash, recyclables, and compost. This program partners with Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill so that viable possessions get donated instead of thrown away. According to their Sustainability website, “In earlier efforts to reduce move-out waste, the diversion rate went from 17% in 2008 to an impressive 46% in 2009.”

Macalester has also implemented a Food Recovery program. This program is comprised of students who pack up leftovers from Cafe Mac and donate them to a local charity. According to their website, Macalester sends out approximately 150 lbs. of food per week. Macalester has also created Clean Plate Days every Tuesday. Students are encouraged to ‘clean their plate’ on these days. According to their data, Tuesdays generate the least amount of waste compared to the other days of the week.

When asked how St. Kate’s could start their own Zero Waste program, Hansen recommended outside help from Eco-friendly waste haulers and recycling centers. “We received a grant in order to get our bins and other supplies.” She also talked about how important education is for the staff and student body on what is compostable, recyclable and trash. The best way for St. Kate’s to start their own program is to start small the way Macalester did. And we are already there, with our own bins for trash, recycling and compost. If Macalester can go Zero Waste then so can St. Kate’s. When asked about the progress of their program thus far, Hansen responded with an optimistic, “I think we will make that 90%.”

Comments are closed.