May 14, 2009

Final Report

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The goal of our project was to conduct research about UMD’s waste management and encourage UMD students, staff, and faculty to use proper waste management procedures. By researching both the structural, or administrative, aspects of waste management and the campus community participation, we were able to grasp an idea of how effective our waste management is at UMD. By conducting interviews with Mindy Granley, UMD Sustainability Coordinator; Doug Greenwood, Principle Ground and Buildings Supervisor; and A.J. Matthews, Environmental Program Coordinator, we were able to gain a better understanding of the functional aspects of waste management. We also talked to a variety of students and staff to gauge an idea of how waste management on campus suits its population. We then took both the background research and applied anthropology that we did and created a documentary film that can serve as an educational tool.


As anthropology students at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, there are certain issues we come across on a regular basis: social justice and equality, global economic stability, and environmental protection. These three issues that have weaved their way through so much of our college education constitute the three pillars of the larger issue of sustainability. When we began this project, we would have never guessed that such an encompassing topic would lead us to study trash. The more we looked into waste management at UMD, however, the more we realized its significance within the larger framework of sustainability.
The goal of our project was to research waste management at UMD in order to educate and encourage UMD students, staff, and faculty about proper waste management and how to utilize the available framework in the most sustainable manner. As we began conducting our research, we realized that more than anything, our project would become a small piece of the paradigm-shift-puzzle. We realized that although it is true that UMD should better their waste management system, the bulk of the problem lies within the campus community’s existing paradigm of disposable lifestyles. It is our belief that if the campus community is shown this video, the result would be an overall greater appreciation of waste management and possibly a reduction in the trash generated at UMD and its resulting internment in the Superior Landfill.

Research Design:

The University of Minnesota Duluth’s waste management program is not perfect in its sustainability. The problems associated with our current waste management system include a lack of student, staff and faculty knowledge about basic ideas of sustainability, how the university waste management system functions, where UMD’s refuse goes once it leaves campus, how the solid waste gets to its final destination, and how each individual’s solid waste affects the environment for future generations; inadequate signage on recycling bins, including notifying students, staff, and faculty about what can be recycled in which bins, and the locations of bins relative to classrooms and offices.
We began our research wanting to create a film to showcase how the waste management system works at UMD: what was being thrown away by students, staff, and faculty; where the solid waste generated at campus goes once it leaves campus; how the post-UMD disposal system works; student and staff knowledge and opinion on sustainability, recycling, and waste disposal; and our recommendations for making UMD’s waste management system more sustainable. We interviewed university staff involved in solid waste management at UMD, including Doug Greenwood, Facilities Management Building Supervisor and Mindy Granley, UMD’s Sustainability Coordinator to determine how UMD’s waste management system functions, the amount of solid waste disposed at UMD in previous years, both trash and recycling, and gain information about current efforts to make the waste management system at UMD more sustainable.
The group visited the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District Solid Waste Transfer Station, where we met with A.J. Matthews, who gave us a tour of the facility and answered questions concerning Duluth’s solid waste disposal system. We also toured the Superior Landfill in Superior, Wisconsin, where all of Duluth’s trash is interred; Superior Landfill Foreman Mike Nepper explained how the landfill operates. On camera interviews were conducted with a small random sample of students and staff at UMD. The students and staff were asked about their knowledge of sustainability, if they recycled, what they would do with a plastic bottle if no plastic recycling bin was nearby, if they used reusable beverage containers, and their opinion on what UMD’s waste management practices would look like in a perfect world.
With all of this data, we created a documentary video that highlights and expands upon the big issues with waste management and the conclusions about what we need to do as a campus community to improve the sustainability of UMD’s waste management. Please see the video for more a more in-depth analysis of out research.


Beginning research on this project, Ska Cubano had a goal of gathering information about what needs to change with waste management at UMD. This, initially, sparked thoughts of administrative and structural changes to what we thought must be an inadequate waste management system. Upon completing our first two interviews, however, we realized that UMD has not ignored or lacked completely the idea of making the waste management system more sustainable, but has rather worked to provide a sustainable waste management framework to its campus community. The larger problem, as we soon realized, is that the campus community needs to take responsibility for their own actions within the framework set by UMD. There is no means for UMD to create a perfect system, whereby people can act in any which way and still have no negative impact on the campus’s overall waste sustainability. It takes effort from each and every individual on campus to achieve a high level of sustainable waste management.
We discovered that the only way for UMD to reach its sustainability goals concerning waste is for everyone to fall back on the seemingly elementary, but often ignored concept of the “three Rs:” reduce, reuse, and recycle. While there seemed to be a large population on campus that was aware and actively participated in recycling, many ignored or forgot about the former two Rs. We must, as a whole community and as individuals, remember that reducing is the most important, reusing is the next best option, and recycling (which is still a form of waste) is a last resort. By shifting individual paradigms, we will eventually transform the larger paradigm of living disposable lifestyles to a more sustainable, while still highly enjoyable, style of living.

Main References:

Interviews with the following people were conducted and used as primary data:

Granley, Mindy

Greenwood, Doug

Matthews, A.J.

Nepper, Mike

Zielinski, Erica

Secondary Sources:

Birkeland, Janis
2002 Design for Sustainability: A Sourcebook of Integrated Eco-Logical Solutions. London:Earthscan Publications.

Carlson, Scott
2008 Colleges Get Greener in Operations, but Teaching Sustainability Declines. The Chronicle of Higher Education 55(2).

Clugston, Richard M. and Wynn Calder
1999 Critical Dimensions of Sustainability in Higher Education. Online document,, accessed February 24, 2009.

Concern, Inc.
2008 Sustainable Communities Network. Electronic document,, accessed February 5, 2008.

Creighton, Sarah Hammond
1998 Greening the Ivory Tower. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Edwards, Andres R.
2005 The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift. British Columbia:New Society Publishers.

Kemp, René and Pim Martens
2007 Sustainable Development: How to Manage Something That is Subjective and Never Can Be Achieved?. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 3(2): 5-14.

Taddei-Bringas, Jorge L., with Javier Esquer-Peralta and Alberto Platt-Carrillo
2008 ISO 14001 and Sustainability at Universities: A Mexico Case Study. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal 19(5): 613-626

United States. Cong. Senate. Community College Sustainability Act of 2008. 110th Cong., 2d sess. S 3124. Washington: GPO, 2008.

Trash Audit Results

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Continue reading "Trash Audit Results" »

Doug Greenwood Interview Transcription

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B: I guess we'll start. Maybe just say your name and your position here at UMD.

D: My name's Doug Greenwood. I'm a Principle Building and Grounds Supervisor with Facilities Management here at UMD.

B: Alright Doug. What policies are in place concerning waste management as of now?

D: There is a university wide policy you can find in what's called the UWide Library online. Under operations and health and safety, there is a waste management and disposal policy for the management of waste.

B: And that's across all campuses?

D: That's university wide, correct.

B: What about within UMD? Is there any department-to-department enforcement of how they handle their recycling and their trash?

D: We give them guidelines of how to handle their trash and recycling. It's a voluntary issue for them. If we see there is a lot of recycling in the trash stream, my job is to go and discuss that with the departments and see if we can't get better participation with recycling.

9:40B: As far as the guidelines you give them, is there any encouraging towards recycling with the paper and such, because you are the one that gives out the recycling bins, correct?

D: Correct.

B: And it's all kind of standard out of that?

D: Right, and um, we encourage individual participation and the departments participation in the recycling, and using correction waste stream procedures. For example, electronic waste needs to be collected and diverted separately, as well as cardboard. We also have a means of recycling and destroying confidential documents.

B: As far as the hazardous waste from the sciences, do they handle that on their own or is that part of Facilities Management?

D: Facilities Management does not handle the hazardous waste. That's done through the environmental health and safety office on campus. There's very many rigid rules and procedures for the laboratory waste that's on campus.

B: Um, Concerning waste management, has there been any changes over the past years in policy?

D: In the past year, because we have changed vendors who take our recycling, we've gone from sorting out things like magazines, um, colored paper, white paper, to a single, what do we call it, to a co-mingle recycle products. Basically, all recycled products are going into a singe sort system. We still separate out beverage containers from the papers so we can reduce the contamination of the paper.

B: Who or what group of people are in charge of making the policy changes concerning things like the contracts with recycling companies and who we bring our garbage to, is that administrative, or...

D: I oversee the contracts as far as solid waste and recycling. I work with our purchasing department because there's, you know, legal terms, as well as a code of conduct as far as purchasing is concerned when it comes to contracts that we need to observe. So between purchasing and myself, and now our sustainability coordinator, we work together on making sure that we have good contracts and get the service and the information that we need as well.

B: What brought about the contract change that recently took place?

D: The contracts expire and then they go out for bid again. So that's why sometimes we would change vendors.

B: Um, Now about our recycling contract. Do we have the same company for our recycling and our waste?

D: Our solid waste and our recycling contracts both were awarded to the same vendor. That was through a bidding process. The same vendor was a successful bidder in both contracts, because they are separate contracts.

B: Um, How big is the compactor that we saw?

D: It's, um, 18 cubic yards of compacted waste that we put into there.

B: It looks a lot smaller than I was guessing it to be.

D: Yeah.

B: Does it get emptied out a lot?

D: Twice a week we have the compactor emptied.

B: Does it go to the landfill twice a week or..

D: It goes to WLSSD. It gets emptied there. At WLSSD they then broker the trash to wherever the landfills are or whatever entity may use it for energy purposes or whatever.

B: So it doesn't always go to the same place?

D: I'm not sure what WLSSD does with it. I think, last I understood was that it was going to a landfill in Wisconsin.

A: So if we had more questions about where it went we would contact them?

D: They would be able to help you with that, yeah. Cause that's where all of Duluth's solid waste would go.

B: Oh, so it's the same for the entire city.

D: The city, yep.

A: Do you know how responsive they would be to students doing a project?

D: I think you'd find them very cooperative, because you know they like to get the word out about how waste is managed because the more knowledge is out there for everybody to understand the more we can handle our waste and handle it in more appropriate ways.

16:00B: So you were talking before a little bit about working with Mindy Greenley, Granley, oops, combined your names. What projects or just talks about projects have you got going on, or that are being done right now to increase the sustainability of our campus and the waste that we put out.

D: Well I do believe Mindy has recently been working with a group to establish and make labels for our recycling receptacles around campus so its clearer to people what can go into what container because we have older labeled container that say "cans only" or "aluminum only" and with our new contract as of last July we can take plastic, aluminum, and glass in the same container now. So we are working on the labeling and I think that will make it easier for people to recycle. And also going to a one sort system for recycling paper people don't have to from their desk go sort white paper, colored paper, and glossy paper into different bins so I think that we'll have better compliance from simplifying things as well.

A: And then, does it, it gets sorted at the location it gets brought to? So it's just easier for the people who do recycle here and then it gets separated there.

D: Yep. It gets, um, the recycling gets compacted here in a truck when it gets picked up. And then it gets taken to a facility in Minneapolis where it gets sorted in a facility in Minneapolis again.

A: How often does it get picked up?

18:15D: It gets picked up Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. So four out of the five workdays it gets picked up. We are in the process of looking at getting a recycling compactor. So like our solid waste, we could compact our recycling and then send it out to the Twin Cities site less frequently so we could reduce transportation costs of our product, hopefully gain some finacial value in it by reducing the cost to us financially and also reduce our carbon footprint by not having trucks come up here 4 days a week but maybe having trucks up here twice a week or maybe once a month, which we would be something that we really be interested in doing.

DM: So with the compactor would you need to sort?

D: No, as long as we have the same vendor we're using the co-mingle. I know other vendors, they do want to have a sort of beverage containers and paper to be distinct.

B: Do you know the name of the recycling center we use in the cities?

D: I don't have that, I can get that to you. They're affiliated with Waste Management. So if you talk to Waste Management...

B: Probably the same company that they send the Duluth recycling to, on whatever days that is...

D: Yeah, our product is the same product that is handled in the same way that the Duluth product is, yeah, so...

B: Do know any ideas about the funding that the university is putting out for getting better waste management or sustainable recycling...

D: Mindy knows of grants and places, sources of money, and I'm not really familiar with all that. Depending on the value of the recycle comodity we have received in the past money for our product: aluminum cans, and our courgated cardboard to be specific, are the most valueable. But the market isn't very good right now so we aren't getting very much compensation for our product.

21:00B: So you actually get money for the recycling you give?

D: Not currently but we have in the past. Yeah.

B: Um... How much does it cost the university to do our trash, and then you said we get money for some of our recycling in the past but now we pay for the pick-up and whatnot. What is our budget for that? How much does it cost us?

D: Um... an estimate would be approximately $30,000 a year for trash and recycling. They come out pretty similar in how much it costs for each. The reason we started recycling in 1989 was because it was cheaper for to have our product to get picked up to take it to a recycler than to take it to a landfill. So the original reason was financial, as well as, you know, it's the right thing to do but at one point it was the most reasonable way of handling our waste.

23:40 veritos
B: Pretty much covered everything except we want to know some of what you think about waste management.

24:30D: I think that just about the most important thing you can do is just reduce the amount of waste that you create. Like, at the coffee shop here, bring your own cup. At the university stores, bring your own bag. Those little things add up to be a lot. So reducing your trash. If you look at the recycling logos, it goes Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. There's a reason for Reducing being number one, Reusing being number two, and Recycling as really being a last resort for your waste. We used to say think global and act local. So its the little things, changes you make in your own personal life here that really make the big difference in the long run. You can influence people by doing so and help the effort for reducing our waste in the long run. And of course reusing things is the next in line, so at UMD here we'll often have emails of where people will say we have this office furniture here, so if you want it come and get it, and so the universities office furniture, in stead of being disposed of it gets reused. So that's my advice for everyone is to reduce your waste. Bring your own bag, bring your own cup. If you don't need a bag say it to your vendor "I don't need a bag" and carry our item out, and things like that. And for your beverage containers or papers, make sure they do get into their correct recycle bins.

B: Our closing question for you is, In a perfect world, what would the waste management system look like on the UMD campus.

D: In a perfect world, we would have a waste management facility, say a building, where we would be able to sort our own commodity and try to broker our own product. So say our aluminum, we would be able to collect that and try to get the best price for that. So get rid of the transportation part of it, get rid of the middle-man part of it, and have our own product that we sell ourselves. I think the idea of having the recycling compactor is of great interest to me cause I would really be interested in reducing the amount of trucks that do come up here on a daily basis to pick up our recycling and our cardboard and such. So that to me would be one of the ideals here.. and then of course to have the cooperation from everybody making sure their products are getting to the right receptacles. Right now we are diverting approximately 40% of our waste stream to recycling, which is really good, but we would really like to be able to divert 60, 70% if we could.

Garbage: The Lyrics

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Bryanna wrote a song about garbage and we have a music video at the end of our documentary. These are the lyrics.

Walking through the hallways I see problems everywhere,
People listen up cuz the truth will cause a scare,
We need to make a change on campus ‘fore it gets too late,
We makin’ too much mess, ruinin’ our future’s fate,

We got cylin’ bins in every corner- paper, cans, and all,
Confused ‘bout the labelin’ makin’ all the efforts fail,
Throw it in any one, mix it all together,
‘long as it gets in a bin, we workin’ to make life better,

You smelly, life-consuming mess,
We need to make the problems that you causin’ a lot less,
OHH garbage,
I know what I’m gon’ do,
First of all, I think I’m gonna stop buyin’ new,
And garbage,
Oh, yeah there’s a second plan,
I’m gonna make less of you and be a better man, (Or woman) garbage,
You know that there’s number three,
Recycling all the other stuff is fast, fun, and free!

People comin’ everyday and usin’ cups and bottles,
Coffee, tea, pop and water-- better in reusable models,
Bring your own to campus daily, put one in your backpack,
Simple steps. that’s what’s gonna put us on the right track,

And if you forget about the Earth-friendly choices,
Don’t throw your bottle in the trash, yo, think about our voices,
Friend take your bottlewhere possibilities collide,
‘round the bend ‘n in the bin, turn bottles into pride,

Why you everywhere I venture?
If I could make you fade away, we’d all be feelin’ better,
OHH garbage,
I know what I’m gon’ do,
First of all, I think I’m gonna stop buyin’ new,
And garbage,
Oh, yeah there’s a second plan,
I’m gonna make less of you and be a better man,(Or woman) garbage,
You know there’s number three,
Recycling all the other stuff is fast, fun, and free!

So to all the students, staff, faculty, and daily guests,
We not tryin’ to be buggin’ ya like politicians or like pests,
All we askin’ from ya is a little positive involvement,
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle- yo, see the problem? well let’s solve it!

Garbage… oh please go away,
Garbage… I hate you more than I can say,
Garbage… you frickin’ cause a lotta strife,
Garbage… you killin’ all sorts of life
Garbage… we gettin’ divorced like celebs,
Garbage… get out our life, we’re done, you’re dead…

May 13, 2009

Interview Questions for students

Questions for students:
• What do you know about sustainability?
• What do you think is the most important way to make waste management more sustainable?
• Do you recycle?
o At home, work, school, etc?
• Do you compost?
• Do you bring your own mugs or water bottles?
• How satisfied with waste management at UMD are you?
o Are there enough recycling bins?
o Do you think sustainability is important to UMD?
o Etc.
• What do you do with your plastic bottles when you see the “cans only” signs?
• How much of an impact do you think your trash can have on the world?
• How important do you think “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is?

• What is a trash audit? (we want both answers and them asking)
o One of them getting it right
• Do you ever think about trash?
• What happens to trash after it leaves UMD?
• Get students to ask Qs that we asked Doug and Mindy
• Students asking “What’s signage?”
• Students asking “What’s a paradigm”
• Ya know the image with the arrows in a circle… what’s that mean?
o Recycle sign?
• What do you do to reduce, reuse, or recycle?
• What can people do to reduce, reuse, or recycle?
• Get them to sing “reduce, reuse recycle”
• Get them to dance for rap
• In a perfect world, what would waste management at UMD look like?

Ashley Minnerath Field Notes

The interview with Ashley Minnerath was conducted in library study room 239 on Tuesday April 28th. Bryanna asked questions, Autumn ran the camera, and I [Drew Martin] took notes. Bryanna asked about Ashley’s recycling project and Ashley responded that she had started with Mary Hennessy in Facilities management through a group called TLP, Transforming Leadership Program, which concerns itself with the communication of sustainability and during one of their meetings recycling came up, and that MPRIG students had brought the problem of recycling bin signage, appearance, and location to the TLP’s attention. TLP is now trying to unify the appearance of recycling bins and to improve the signage so the bins are more noticeable to students, faculty, and staff. Ashley and a worker from facilities management named Jordan conducted a recycling bin audit, where the location, types of bins, and signs were recorded. In response the two came up with a plan fix the labels on the bins using stickers that would clearly mark the bin for a particular type of recyclable material. The two ran the idea past Mindy Granley and Doug Greenwood and got price quotes. They also want to incorporate a recycling program into the Bulldog Bash week. Ashley and Jordan are also working on signs for garbage cans that call attention to what people are throwing away. Ashley also said that although she is graduating this years she would like to continue on with the project through its completion during the fall of 2009. In addition she is working with Mindy to improve the UMD Sustainability website to make it a “one stop shop” for anyone curious about UMD’s sustainability initiatives. When asked about staff and student reactions to her project Ashley stated that the pair haven’t done any outreach work with students and that some departments have taken it on themselves to put up signs on their recycling bins, and that she hopes that UMD’s waste is minimized as much as possible, that food waste is composted throughout campus. The interview with Ashley lasted 15 minutes.