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Sustainability Tips

There are many ways we can contribute to sustainability efforts in our everyday lives. Submit your favorite sustainability tips using our NDSU Sustainability Information Form. See how many of these tips you currently do and how many you can incorporate into your life.

    More ways to save.  efargo offers their top 10 ways to save.  Many of the tips on their site offer an actual savings vs. cost break down giving you an idea of what you can save annually. Some additional tips include washing laundry in cold water, cleaning the dryer lint trap, air drying dishes, low flow fixtures, switching to LED lights, using advanced power strips, programmable thermostats, and changing air filters.


How2Recycle.Info - Learn more about the labeling initiative that makes recycling more clear for the average person. This website lists a variety of companies and products that have committed to using these descriptive labels to promote better recycling practices.

Visit the website to learn how to read this label. Then look for it on every product in your home and work environment. - TerraCycle works with a variety of brands to recycle many items you may purchase everyday. Print free labels to ship your products back to the company who then recycles them. Check out their website for products you might already be using and not recycling yet. 

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Bring your own reusable bags. Not only are these bags reusable, which reduces waste, but some stores offer a small discount for bring your own reusable bags. If you must use plastic bags, please reuse or recycle them responsibly. NDSU now offers plastic bag and plastic film recycling containers in the Memorial Union.


Recycle batteries to keep harmful chemicals out of the landfill. Rechargeable batteries used in products like laptops, tablets, cameras, tools, cordless phones, and cell phones are recyclable. Don't forget to recycle button style batteries used in hearing aids, mini flashlights, interactive kids books, and other small electronics. Batteries are accepted for recycling at many big box stores like Lowes, Best Buy, Interstate Batteries.

Consider buying rechargeable batteries for your computer mice, kids toys, remote controls, etc. Rechargeable batteries are much longer lasting than the older versions and save a lot of money over the life of the batteries. Be sure to fully drain rechargeable batteries for the first three or four uses as this helps keep the maximum battery life. Also, once the recharge is complete, unplug the charger immediately to ensure you aren't sucking more energy just by having it plugged in (known as vampire energy drain).


Walk or Bike across Campus and to Campus.  When commuting across campus or to campus, consider walking, taking the bus, or riding a bike to save on fuel and emissions. View map of NDSU bike rack locations. View a map of Great Rides bike rental stations.

Buying Items

When considering buying an item, first consider if you really need the item. Then buy used as often as possible. Buying used is a way of repurposing items with usable life left and it saves them from the landfill. Plus, buying used will often save you money. When buying new is the only possibility, consider purchasing items that are from sustainable sources. For example, bamboo is a renewable resource that makes many products including flooring, home decor, and clothing. 


Coffee Grounds

Offer coffee grounds to local gardening clubs or small farms or use them in your own garden. Many local gardeners seek coffee grounds for adding nutrients to their soil. Offering coffee grounds and other compostable items removes them from the landfill and decreases waste disposal costs.


Start Composting. Food scraps, paper napkins/towels (if you must use them), leaves, and lawn clippings are just some of the items that can be composted. Unfortunately, these items do not break down well in a landfill environment so that isn't a good option. When you compost you save these items from going to the landfill and, as a bonus, compost is a great garden fertilizer. The City of Fargo approves of home composting and sells composting bins to residents.


Shut off or put your computers in standby mode at night and on weekends. Energy and monetary savings may vary but doing either of these will save money for you at home and at work. Angelo State University offers an interesting look at the energy savings of sleep mode and answers questions about saving energy with electronics. If every computer on their campus was shut off each night and on weekends they would save nearly 1.2 million kilowatt hours. If a kilowatt hour is estimated at 10 cents each then the campus would save approximately 120 thousand dollars per year. (Their campus enrollment is approximately 10,000 students, which means NDSU's savings would be even greater.) It's not mandatory to do this but it makes good financial sense.


Sharpen your crayons. When your crayons no longer have that factory-made sharp point, consider sharpening them. Many crayon boxes have sharpeners attached to them.

Donate unneeded crayons. If you no longer need your crayons, consider donating them to a daycare, preschool, public/private school, or after school program. Many programs will gladly accept crayons and other supplies.

Recycle broken crayons. When crayons are no longer useable or you cannot find a place to donate them, consider mailing them to the National Crayon Recycling Program or The Crayon Initiative. Both organizations save millions of crayons per year by melting crayons down and make new crayons out of them. The new crayons are often donated to good organizations.



Skip disposables. Keep non-disposable plates, eating utensils, mugs and water bottles in your desk or break room and use them whenever possible.

  • Bring your own mug to NDSU owned coffee shops for a discount on your order. If you must use disposable cups, remember the coffee cup sleeves are both recyclable and reusable. 
  • Offer a supply of cafeteria mugs or donated mugs for coffee shop patrons who will be having their coffee nearby. 
  • Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it at one of the water bottle filling stations on campus or from the sink in your break room.
Donate Items

Donate items that you no longer use. Furniture, clothes, appliances, shoes, decorations, tools, books, and many more items are all accepted at many local thrift shops. Use your imagination, there are many organizations that will accept your items for a variety of uses. For example, nursing homes and skilled care facilities often accept games, videos, and books for their residents. Churches and school PTA groups often hold fundraiser rummage sales and could use your donations. Or donate household items to a college student in need.




Electronics have valuable metals that make them highly recyclable. Many computers, cell phones, gaming systems, televisions, small motors, and other electronics can be recycled. Broken electronic equipment that is NDSU property should be sent to Surplus, which recycles the electronic components appropriately. For personal electronics you may recycle them through the City of Fargo's annual electronics recycling day during clean-up week in May. Other alternatives include metal recycling companies may pay you for the electronics you wish to recycle or you can bring your electronics to Best Buy who also recycle them free of charge.




Consider donating extra garden produce. Rather than letting your garden produce go to waste, donate it to a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or other food insecure individuals. Maybe your coworkers, neighbors, or friends would enjoy some of your produce.

Don't take/order more food than you will eat. By only taking food that you know you will eat, you save all the resources that go in to making that food; water, nutrients, energy, and fuel. 

Food planning for conferences and meetings. A lot of food is wasted at conferences and meetings. When planning a meeting, plan to order the amount of food that you know participants will eat. Do not plan to have excessive amounts of food as any food that isn't eaten gets thrown away. Better yet, discuss with your caterer what they do with extra food from the conference and suggest that the food be donated to a soup kitchen or to food insecure college students. 


Check NDSU Surplus for office furniture and equipment. Before purchasing brand new office furniture or equipment, check out the NDSU Surplus building for items that may suit your needs. Reusing office furniture/equipment reduces waste by keeping these items out of the landfill and saves natural resources. Consider how many electronics and furniture your office actually needs. One printer in a central location saves on the cost of the printer, ink, and the natural resources used to create them. Plus, getting up to go get your documents gives you a short walk that can add to your healthy lifestyle.




Grow your own healthy produce in your back yard. There are many fruits and vegetables that can be grown in a small garden plot in your back yard. All you have to do is cut out a patch of grass in a sunny location of your back yard or use raised garden beds to make weeding easier. Another option is container gardening in which you grow fruits and veggies in a variety of containers. A small investment of money and time can save you lots of money on your grocery bill. Check out the NDSU Extension webpages on gardens.  



Hand Drying

Skip paper towels whenever possible and use air hand dryers. This keeps paper towels out of the waste stream. If this is not possible then, view this TED video on how to dry your hands using only one paper towel. Place compost waste bins with good signage in visable areas for people to use. Paper hand towels are compostable. 

Household Items

Remember that many household items are recyclable. Shampoo/conditioner bottles, aerosol cans from hairspray or shave cream, cardboard toilet paper and paper towel tubes, and cleaning product bottles are all recyclable. 





Kitchen Scraps

Kitchen scraps make up about 21.6% of your household waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, constituting 21.6 percent of discarded municipal solid waste. A few ways to reduce the amount of food that ends up in the landfill consider how much food you actually need to prepare, use those leftovers, don't buy more food than you will use before it goes bad, and consider composting  kitchen scraps using a home composting bin. 



Lights out

Follow a “last out, lights out” policy. If you are the last one to leave a room or building after normal operating hours, turn off the lights and any electronics that do not need to be on overnight. When you are at home, turn the lights out when you leave a room. Teach your children and grandchildren about the benefits of turning off lights.

Light Bulbs

Choosing the most energy efficient light bulb you can afford. LED lights are the best for energy savings and long life span. You may spend a bit more over compact florescent (CFLs) and incandescent lightbulbs but in the long term you will save more energy and will replace lightbulbs less often. A double whammy on saving money. 

Recycle lightbulbs. When your old lightbulbs burn out and you replace them with more efficient LEDs, remember to recycle your old lightbulbs. CFLs have mercury in them, which is an environmental hazard. LED and incandescent lightbulbs do not have environmental hazards in them which makes them a better choice for the environment. Many big box stores will accept old CFL bulbs for recycling. Look for a recycling station near the front door or service desk. Also, each city's household hazardous waste facilities recycle lightbulbs.




Opt out of unnecessary mail. Often we receive catalogs and marketing mailings we do not want. There are options for opting out, which means to remove your name from mailing lists. By removing your name from mailing lists, of materials you are not interested in, you ensure that fewer resources are being used and it reduces the need to recycle unwanted materials. A few options for opting out of junk mail include:,, and a phone app called PaperKarma


Recycle all brands of markers. If you have children and grandchildren in school, ask their school district about taking part in the Crayola ColorCycle program. K-12 schools and classes can package up markers that no longer work and send them to Crayola. Crayola pays the shipping costs so there is no expense for the school and it is an opportunity for students to learn about recycling and corporate responsiblity.


Earn money selling your scrap metal. Scrap metal from old motors, sink faucets, aluminum and steel siding, old appliances, and more can be recycled at a number of different scrap metal businesses. Many of these places will pay you for your scrap metal. One individual had to replace her kitchen faucet. She brought the old broken kitchen faucet to a scrap metal buyer and received $3 for it. It pays to keep these items out of the landfill. Type "scrap metal buyer" into a search engine to find a scrap metal buyer near you.




Newspapers and all inserts are recyclable. Paper and cardboard in general can be recycled over and over again.




Unplug unnecessary items from your outlets. When you are no longer using an appliance, device charger, nightlight, etc. unplug them from the outlet to save energy. Any time something is plugged in, even if the item is turned off, it is using power in your home. Unplugging unused items will save energy and money on your electricity bills. 




Request Limited Packaging. When making purchases on campus, request limited packaging options when available or skip the plastic bag. Amazon offers a way to reduce the packaging on your shipments. Here's how to request reduced packaging material from Amazon


Reuse office paper. Consider using the back side of printed material as informal notepads for your home or office before recycling. If paper contains FERPA, HIPPA or other sensitive information, be sure to place it in a secure document destruction bin, where it will be destroyed and then recycled. When at home be sure to shred any papers containing sensitive information.


Dispose of paint safely. Many communities have a household hazardous waste collection site that allows you to drop off unused or left over paint (among other household chemicals). In addition, individuals can go to the collection site and pick up paint for free. One individual has found this to be a useful and economical way of completing smaller painting projects or art pieces. 

Plastic Bags & Thin Plastic Wrapping

Recycle plastic bags and other thin plastics. Consider all the purchases you make in our community and decide if a plastic bag is really necessary or if you can carry a collapsible, reusable bag with you for use when needed. Your plastic shopping bags are recyclable at the NDSU Bookstore in the Memorial Union and at many grocery stores in Fargo. Some additional items that can be recycled at local plastic bag collection sites include bread bags, food storage bags (zip style baggies), bubble wrap, and thin plastic wrapping for items like toilet paper, cases of water and diapers. Also, don't forget to recycle those Hoagie Hutt bags. These items take up more garbage space than you think.  Collect them for a few weeks and see for yourself. For a full list of accepted items and participating collection sites visit Trex Recycling.


Consider what really needs to be printed. When possible, read electronic files on your computer monitor rather than printing them. Keep electronic records rather than making paper copies for retention purposes.

Printer Cartridges

Do not throw away your old printer cartridges. Many printer companies will either give you cash for your cartridges or store credit for returning used cartridges. In addition to being recyclable, these cartridges are refillable. Refill cartridges are often backed with a money back warranty if it doesn't work properly. 






Bring your recyclables home. Bring home items not accepted in NDSU’s recycling bins or find a drop site near you. Check out the following links for more information about what is accepted where.

City of Fargo

City of Moorhead

  • ALL-in-ONE Recycling. NDSU is now offering all-in-one recycling on a limited basis. Watch for an educational event in Fall Semester 2018 that will provide more details. Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo all offer ALL-in-ONE recycling. This is where you get one large recycling cart and throw all approved recyclables in it. The contents of the cart is collected by the city and sorted for you. In some cities you may have to pay a small monthly fee for the service. However, because of the amount of accepted recyclables, you may be able to request a smaller garbage cart, which could save you money on your monthly garbage bill. You may actually break even by participating in the ALL-in-ONE recycling program.

    • For example, in Fargo if you switch from the largest garbage cart to the smallest one you would save $8 per month, which more than covers the $3 per month ALL-in-ONE recycling cart charge. That saves you $5 per month and keeps a lot of recyclables out of the landfill.

Reusable Bags

Carry a collapsible bag. Consider all the purchases you make in our community and decide if a bag is really necessary or if you can carry a collapsible, reusable bag with you for use when needed.

Consider how many reusable bags you really need, if you don’t need one don’t take one. Even reusable bags have to be disposed of eventually. If your stash of reusable bags is getting too large, drop off your good condition, clean, and reusable bags at any NDSU Bookstore or Herd Shop cash register. 

Look for reusable bag discounts around our community, many grocery stores and big box stores offer bring your own bag discounts. Often you can get a 5 cent discount for each reusable bag of yours they use to pack your items in.

The NDSU Bookstore may also carry NDSU branded reusable bags for purchase and for showing your Bison pride around our community.




Whenever possible don't use styrofoam. There aren't very many places it is recyclable and it never really decays. Choose paper products if you must have disposable containers but choose reusable containers as often as possible. If your department purchases styrofoam for take out containers or water cups switch to paper products instead. A better option is to consider that many campus food service departments are switching to a reusable take out container programs. In this program reusable takeout containers are purchased and individuals across campus purchase them for a small fee. When you return a container you are given a clean container or a coin to use in the future. Upon leaving campus you return your container and receive your money back. 


Whenever possible go without a plastic straw or use paper or compostable straws instead. Consider removing plastic straws from all dining service locations and replace with paper or compostable straws. Many universities now ban plastic straws and offer paper straws upon request. Read more about plastic straw bans as reported by EAB.

Single Use Swaps



  • 1 bamboo toothbrush saves 4 plastic toothbrushes
  • 1 glass floss container saves 7 plastic floss containers
  • 1 reusable water bottle saves 167 plastic water bottles
  • 1 reusable bags saves 170 plastic bags
  • 1 reusable cup saves 500 coffee cups
  • 1 metal straw saves 540 plastic straws
  • 1 cloth towel saves 7,300 paper towels




Tailgating - Recycling Bags

Team Makers is pleased to announce that can and bottle recycling is now available during tailgating events! Place your plastic bottles and aluminum cans in the clear plastic bags provided by the Team Makers staff. Bags will be collected by the Fargo Dome at the end of tailgating. Proceeds from the recycling program will go to support student-athlete scholarships. Recycling at tailgating is ONLY for aluminum cans and plastic bottles, tubs, or jugs. Tailgating Recycling cannot accept food waste, plastic silverware, and paper products. View Team Makers Poster >>

Take Out Containers

Many campus food service departments are switching to a reusable take out container programs. In this program reuseable takeout containers are purchased and individuals across campus purchase them for a small fee. When you return a container you are given a clean container or a coin to use in the future. Upon leaving campus you return your container and receive your money back. 

When going out to eat at your favorite restaurant, bring your own reusable take out containers. Restaurants most likely won't have an issue with it because they are not spending any extra money. It isn't a huge savings for restaurants but every little bit helps. Another option is to request that your favorite restaurant switch to a more environmentally friendly take-out packaging like a bio-degradable container or even paper containers that will break down in the landfill long before plastic or styrofoam would.


Make minimal temperature changes. Set your thermostat a couple degrees warmer during the summer and cooler during the winter to reduce your energy use and save on heating and cooling costs. 


For short trips, save on gas and get some exercise by walking or riding your bike. For longer trips, consider taking the city bus or carpooling to your destination. This cuts down on fuel consumption and related emissions.





Water Heater

Lower your water heater to 120 degrees to save the energy and prevent scalds from too hot water.




Keep your xylophone in good working order. We couldn't think of anything sustainable that fits under the "X" category but we are pretty sure that keeping your xylophone in good working order is good for the planet. Also, when your xylophone wears out you can probably recycle the metal parts.




Zero Waste 

Consider Zero Waste Alternatives. Zero waste is a practice that identifies ways to save as many items from heading to the landfill as possible. Some examples include swapping silcone baking sheets for aluminum foil, bring reusable containers to pack restaurant leftovers in, and buy food in bulk rather than in portion packs, use cloth napkins instead of paper, use cloth towels instead of paper towels in shared break rooms. A little internet research on the term “zero waste swaps” will provide you with lists of easy swaps. Many swaps will actually save you money right away or in the long run.

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North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-8627
Physical/delivery address: 1340 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 1040 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
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Last Updated: Friday, February 14, 2020 10:35:19 AM
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