UBC aims to apply a circular economy lens to achieve a 50% reduction in waste by 2030, progressing toward a zero-waste community.  In contrast to a conventional linear economy (“take, make and dispose”), a circular economy lens increases the focus on reuse and recycling of goods and materials back into the economy to avoid and eliminate waste and generate economic value. Sustainable purchasing and procurement, along with reducing overall consumption, also plays a critical role.

There's many things you can do to help UBC build a zero-waste community and reduce the number of items that go to landfill. Here's three ways you can get started:

  1. Pause Before You Buy: Reduce your consumption, and explore options for reuse and repair -- then recycle!
  2. Choose to Reuse: Use reusable mugs, water bottles and to-go containers.
  3. Sort It Out: Did you know over half of UBC's waste can be composted? By separating your food scraps into the green Food Scraps bins and sorting your recycling into the correct bins, you can do your part in ensuring that these reusable materials are not sent to the landfill.

Top TIPS TO Reduce waste and purchase sustainably

Check out our full collection of tips for how you can live a more waste-free life at UBC and beyond, and the great programs and resources that are in place to support you:

Reduce, Reuse and Consume Responsibly

Every purchase is a choice, and every choice has an impact. Keeping sustainability top of mind when considering making purchases contributes to UBC's vision of a campus that operates sustainably at every level.

Purchase things used instead of new—and buy items that last. Did you know UBC has its own thrift store located in the UBC Life Building? Check out the Thingery.

Use Reuse-It! UBC: Check out and encourage participation in re-use it! UBC, which facilitates the reuse of goods between departments on campus to reduce the number of reusable items that enter the waste stream. Sign up for free to post or find free/cheap departmental items, such as office supplies or furniture.

Refer to the UBC Sustainable Purchasing Guide: The Sustainable Purchasing Guide is designed to help you—as a staff, student or faculty member at UBC—purchase more sustainable products and services. The Guide contains sustainable purchasing resources spanning 14 content areas, an eco-label glossary, and information on how UBC is continuing to advance sustainable purchasing on campus and beyond. Ensure your departmental administrator, colleagues, and purchasing manager are aware of the guide and refer to it when making purchases.

Promote reusable containers: Bring your own reusable coffee mug, water bottle and food container from home and use them any time you grab a drink, eat out or attend a meeting on campus. Persuade at least two of your friends or colleagues to do the same!

Spread the word: Let your friends and colleagues know they can get 15 to 25 cents off any beverage or food purchase at all UBC Food Services, Starbucks and AMS outlets if they bring their own mug or container. Ask for discounts at campus food service outlets.

Support Fair Trade: Did you know UBC was designated the first Fair Trade Campus in Canada? Buy fair trade certified products, which guarantee higher social, environmental and pay standards for farmers and workers. Check out other food certifications to look for on our Climate Friendly Food Tips page.

Take care of your belongings. Maintain, repair and mend them when possible. Consider starting a Repair Cafe with your local UBC community to crowdsource maintenance and repair expertise!

Ditch Single Use Items

City of Vancouver estimates 2 million plastic bags and 2.6 million coffee cups are thrown in the trash every week. Every small choice adds up when magnified across the region. Choose reusable options to reduce landfill waste. 

Love your mug! Bring your own reusable mug and reusable food containers for discounts at campus food service outlets. 

Say no to bottled water: Millions of plastic water bottles end up in the region’s landfills each year, where they take 1,000 years to decompose. Save money and the environment by choosing tap water instead. Learn more and view water filling stations across campus.  

Avoid plastic cutlery and straws: Bring your own cutlery or request compostable or reusable cutlery at campus food outlets. UBC Food Services has demonstrated leadership by eliminating single-use plastic straws and cutlery to reduce waste. 

Green-To Go: Save 20¢ when you bring your own container or use a Green2Go container at UBC Food Services outlets.

Buy In Bulk, And Use Reusable Containers. Some pioneering package-free Metro Vancouver stores include Nada and the Soap Dispensary, but you can bring your own washable fabric produce bags, reusable grocery bags and bulk food jars or containers almost anywhere!

Sort Your Waste

Learn what goes where: Check out the Sort it Out guide and share it with your friends and coworkers. Not sure where an item goes? Check the A-Z Recyclepedia.

Special Recycling Programs: Did you know UBC offers specialized recycling programs for items such as e-waste, batteries, lab plastics, soft plastics, Styrofoam and more at select locations across campus? Check out the A-Z Recyclepedia to find off drop off locations near you.

Return your beverage containers for your deposit refund! Recycling beverage containers has gotten easier for the UBC community. Express & GO is the new convenient Return-It drop-off station at UBC's Vancouver campus. This could be a great fundraising opportunity for clubs and groups!

Play the Sorting Game: Test your sorting knowledge by playing the online sorting game.

Post signs: Unmarked bins lead to confusion, so make sure all waste bins are clearly labeled. Download our recycling signs.

Educate others: Now that you are a waste pro, let others know. Post signs, share the sorting game and put yourself out there as a resource for your friends, colleagues and family to ask when they have questions. 

Green Your Events

An event is a key opportunity to integrate and encourage zero waste practices. Whether an international conference, an internal workshop, a recurring meeting, or a social, use UBC's comprehensive Zero Waste Events Guide to incorporate best practices for waste reduction.

Be Paper Smart

Rethink printing: Before printing, consider if you really need to print! Consider alternatives to printing, such as distributing materials electronically, moving to paperless systems, etc. And only print the pages you need.

Reduce Paper consumption: 

Double-Side it: When you do need to print, ensure your computer and printer’s default settings are set to print double-sided.

Reduce Margin Defaults: Changing document margin defaults from 1.25 inches to one inch reduces the amount of paper you need by eight per cent! Learn how.

Electronically file emails and documents rather than printing.

Print on scrap paper: Print or photocopy on paper previously used on one side.

Hold paperless green meetings. Send materials in advance electronically and bring your computer to share information by projecting it.

Purchase recycled paper: All departments at UBC are required to purchase copy paper with a minimum of 30 per cent post-consumer recycled content.

Ensure UBC's Recycling Infrastructure Works for You

Convenience is key: Multi-bin Sort it Out stations should be located in areas that are accessible and convenient, such as near eating areas or crowded spaces. If you notice gaps in waste infrastructure in your building, contact your facilities manager for help.

Recycle deskside: If your workspace doesn't have a deskside recycling bin (larger blue recycling bin with smaller black garbage attachment), contact your facilities manager.

Check out our  Zero Waste At UBC  overview video

Click the "full screen" option below to watch our 15-minute overview of zero waste at UBC, and learn more about how you can help us reach our goal of becoming a zero waste campus:



Waste Reduction

Sustainable Purchasing