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Reduce and Reuse

Waste reduction and reuse are the first two steps in the waste management hierarchy. Waste reduction simply means changing the way products are designed, manufactured, purchased or used in order to reduce the amount of waste generated. Reducing the amount of waste generated can help a college or university conserve natural resources and energy as well as cut back on disposal costs.


Listed below are some examples of ways to reduce waste on campus. Colleges and universities should encourage faculty and staff as well as students to partake in these practices whenever possible.


  • Print only when necessary. Use electronic media whenever possible.
  • Set all printers and copiers to double-sided printing.
  • Post a diagram or instructions for how to load paper and print correctly, to reduce misprints.
  • Use misprints as scratch pads.
  • Reduce unwanted mail - visit the Direct Marketing Association at
  • Set up hand dryers in all bathrooms to reduce paper towel use. If it isn't possible to replace paper towels, put up signage to encourage people to reduce the amount they use.
  • Use reusable inter- and intra-office envelopes. Your outgoing envelope gets reused for its return trip.


  • Use re-fillable water bottles and mugs.
  • Incorporate water bottle refill stations or water fountains into campus buildings.
  • Use reusable shopping bags.
  • Never use Styrofoam cups or plates.
  • Purchase cleaning products in concentrated form.
  • Use refillable dispensers.


  • Instead of providing single-use condiments, use refillable containers (e.g., ketchup bottles).
  • Use reusable cups, dinnerware, glasses and napkins. If reusable is not an option, use compostable.
  • Keep an up-to-date inventory. Don't buy excess food or supplies. Remember expiration dates when purchasing perishable items. Rotate perishable stock.
  • Ensure that leftovers are properly stored and labeled.
  • Rehydrate wilted vegetables by trimming off the bottom and immersing in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Trim only what is not needed when prepping food.
  • Avoid buffet style dining or incorporate tray-less dining.
  • Compost food scraps.


  • Compost landscaping debris along with food scraps and use on campus grounds.
  • Grasscycle instead of bagging yard trimmings.


  • Use equipment that is easily fixed or upgraded.
  • Consider leasing equipment rather than purchasing.
  • Sell or donate unwanted equipment/appliances.


  • Use rechargeable batteries rather than single-use.
  • Use refillable toner and ink cartridges.
  • Use a paint calculator to avoid purchasing too much.
  • Utilize durable flooring, or carpet tiles that can easily be replaced when damaged.


Many items can be reused on campus by a different person, department or location. Below are some examples of ways to reuse materials around campus.

  • Paint: Ask around campus to see if a different department can use unwanted paint. Also check with local schools, churches, law enforcement, theater groups or organizations.
  • Construction demolition material: Salvage scrap materials for reuse.
  • Food scraps: Donate un-served food to a local food bank or shelter.
  • Use the S.C. Materials Exchange, a free, on-line service to offer others unwanted items (e.g., furniture, appliances, utensils) or find items to reuse at your facility at a reduced cost. Visit
  • Offer a move-out yard sale for students at the end of the year. Encourage students to donate unwanted goods rather than throwing them away. See our fact sheet for more move-out tips.
  • Set up a campus thrift store where students and faculty can donate any gently used items that they no longer want.