Waste & Recycling

BSU has done a good job reducing waste, but there is always room for improvement. As a part of the Climate Action Plan, BSU’s goal is to be carbon neutral which means little to no waste.

Reusable Item Giveaway

Since fall 2009, the Sustainability Office has welcomed all incoming first year and transfer students by offering a reusable item for free.  Over the years, we have distributed stainless steel water bottles, insulated coffee tumblers, Green-To-Go food takeout containers, and stainless steel utensil sets. Our goal is to reduce the use of single-use, disposable alternatives like plastic water bottles, non-recyclable coffee cups, plastic utensils, Styrofoam clamshell food containers, and beyond. Providing reusable alternatives at no cost empowers BSU students to reduce their consumption and waste production.  If you are a first year or incoming transfer student, we encourage you to visit the Sustainability Office to claim your reusable item!


The FreeStore is a place in the Sustainability Office where everything is free to current students! Everything inside has been donated by students, faculty, staff, or community members. Clothing, kitchen supplies, textbooks, room decor, and more are available. The FreeStore is one way in which we may reduce the amount of products we consume by encouraging a culture of reuse. According to Reuse Minnesota, the act of reusing products throughout the state of Minnesota leads to environmental, economic, and social impacts like:

  • Avoidance of over 2.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions per year;
  • Reduction of over 67 billion gallons in withdrawals of freshwater each year;
  • Generation of $5.8 billion each year through the reuse economy in MN, or $1,035 per capita;
  • Support of 10,631 reuse businesses and over 55,000 jobs across the state;
  • Creation of a community of like-minded individuals dedicated to reducing consumption!

All these outcomes compound atop the financial savings accrued by BSU students who choose to reuse by visiting the FreeStore before purchasing new products.  If you are a current student, we encourage you to stop by and see what you can find!

Waste Audits

Every fall semester for a decade the Sustainability Office performed a waste audit in Hagg-Sauer Hall. This academic building was chosen for both its high degree of foot traffic and number of faculty offices. Performed over a 5-day period, the audit sought to determine the degree to which our community properly disposes of trash, recyclables, and compostable material.  By sorting contents of our waste stream, we determined whether additional progress could be made toward diverting recyclables from landfill and to recycling facilities. The data shown below depict the contents of trash bins and indicate the percent of our waste stream that could have been recycled. As can be seen, the community effectively increased its recycling rate over the eleven year study period.

Renovation of Hagg-Sauer Hall began in 2019 and prevented further auditing of this particular waste stream.

Organics Recycling

In 2020, BSU began diverting organic waste for organics recycling, also known as composting.  Made possible through collaboration with Beltrami County’s Solid Waste Department, campus partners have collected pre and post-consumer food waste from Walnut Hall’s buffet-style dining hall, Lakeside Food Court, American Indian Resource Center (AIRC), and Tamarack Hall of Housing & Residential Life.  After being transported to the Transfer Station south of Bemidji, the organic material travels to Polk County, where it is processed in a commercial facility and turned into ecologically beneficial compost.

Bar chart depicting tonnage of organic waste diverted from landfill

To participate on campus, look for special collection bins in the dish return area of the Lakeside Food Court, the Gathering Place of the AIRC, and resident kitchens throughout Tamarack Hall to participate.  If you eat in Walnut Hall, all your post-consumer plate waste is collected in the dish room.  Please do not interpret this as license to waste food, though!  Our primary goal should always be to reduce waste and compost only that which we cannot prevent.

If you would like to recycle organic waste you produce but live off campus, you can participate in Beltrami County’s county’s composting program!  To get started, submit a Participation Agreement and begin collecting organics.  [Pro tip! – 5 gallon buckets work great for collecting food scraps, as long as you have a securely-fitting lid.]  When it is time to empty your collection bin, bring it to the Transfer Station south of Bemidji and deposit your organics in the container located on the north side of the residential pull-through lanes.

Visit the Sustainability Office if you have questions about or want to become involved in any of these programs!