The National Wildlife Federation

Donate Donate

2.9 Million College Students, Faculty and Staff Engage in Campus Race to Zero Waste Competition

RESTON, Va. – Across more than 200 college campuses in 43 states, millions of students participated in the 2021 Campus Race to Zero Waste competition, where they helped to reduce their waste footprint through waste minimization efforts, and the donation, composting, and recycling of more than 25.8 million pounds of waste.

"Over the last two decades, more than 1,000 higher education campuses have joined our Campus Race to Zero Waste program. By reducing their waste, these campuses have decreased the amount of trash entering our waterways and the negative impacts this has on wildlife and ecosystems”, said Kim Martinez, vice president of education and engagement programs at the National Wildlife Federation. “Our organization is pleased to work alongside RecycleMania Inc. to engage and educate millions of students, staff, and faculty in the United States each year, and preserve this amazing program’s decades-long impacts on our environment.”

“Faculty, staff and students at participating Campus Race to Zero Waste colleges and universities, once again, have shown new innovations in combating the huge amounts of packaging, food and material products that are traditionally sent to nearby landfills or incinerators. These campuses have found new ways to prevent food or packaging waste and successful ways to extend the usability of packaging or leftover food by giving these products second chances such as feeding the hungry and proving material for making biofuel or new consumer products”, says Stacy Wheeler, president and co-founder of the competition. “We are proud that the Campus Race to Zero Waste competition gives college participants an outlet to showcase better solutions to reducing campus waste and promoting recycling each year.”

Campus Race to Zero Waste 2021
Due to COVID-19 pandemic closings and increased online learning, many Campus Race to Zero Waste campuses were unable to reach the success levels accomplished in past years. However, campuses unable to track and report their waste were encouraged to host online education and engagement campaigns. These online campaigns helped schools stay connected with their faculty, staff and students and encourage the continued practices of good, safe waste reduction practices. Despite these difficult circumstances, this year’s tournament engaged 2.4 million students and more than 500,000 faculty and staff for a total of 2.9 million participants.

Participating colleges and universities donated, composted and recycled 25.8 million pounds of waste, and kept more than 230 million plastic containers out of the landfill. In eight weeks, participants prevented the release of 30,669 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, which is equal to avoiding the annual emissions from 6,463 cars.

Post-COVID pandemic, the Campus Race to Zero Waste program will be a vital tool to help campuses re-energize and re-educate their communities on good sustainable, waste reduction practices.

2021 Winners
Starting 2021, Campus Race to Zero Waste is recognizing three campuses per main category (Zero Waste, Food Organics, Diversion, and Per Capita) based on the Carnegie Classification of size – small/very small, medium and large. This helps level the playing field for all campuses. This year, winners also received electronic badges in order to reduce the waste created by mailing a physical award.

Zero Waste category: 

  • Kent State University at Kent, Ohio (*only one campus was awarded in this category because all participating campuses were large campuses.)

Food Organics category:

  • Small campus – Macalester College, Minnesota
  • Medium campus – University of North Carolina Asheville, North Carolina
  • Large campus – University of California Irvine, California

Diversion category:

  • Small campus – Macalester College, Minnesota
  • Medium campus – Seattle University, Washington
  • Large campus – Towson University, Maryland

Per Capita category:

  • Small campus – Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island
  • Medium campus – Wilkes University, Pennsylvania
  • Large campus – Stanford University, California

Race to Zero Waste – One Building challenge:

  • Aquinas College, Michigan

Electronics challenge:

  • Per Capita category – Southwestern College, Kansas
  • Total Pounds Recycled category – Kent State University at Kent, Ohio

For more details about our categories and winners, please click here.

About Campus Race to Zero Waste
Campus Race to Zero Waste – formerly known as RecycleMania – is the nation’s premier waste reduction and recycling competition among colleges and universities, managed by National Wildlife Federation, and governed by RecycleMania, Inc.

Campus Race to Zero Waste has been helping campuses minimize waste and improve their recycling efforts, since its launch in 2001. Today it is the nation’s premier waste reduction and recycling competition among colleges and universities, in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation.

Get Involved

Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

Learn More
Regional Centers and Affiliates