Carnegie Mellon University

The Campus Race to Zero Waste (CR2ZW) is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for colleges and universities to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over an 8-week period, CMU tracks the weights of how much we throw out, how much food we donate, and how much we recycle. With the goal of increasing our diversion and recycling rates throughout the competition!

The 2023 competition is from January 29 - March25. Want to be involved? Check out the schedule of events: 

During the 8 week competition there will be activities, events, and promotions to encourage the campus community to reduce their race. Check back here or follow the @CMUGreenPractices Instagram page for updates and event details. 

While the competition is just 8 weeks each February and March, you can participate all year by consuming less, reusing more, and choosing to recycle or compost when you can. 

Week 1: Campus Race to Zero Waste Kick-off!

Wednesday, February 1 from 3:30-5:30pm
Thursday, February 2 from 1:30-4:30 pm
Friday, February 3 from 11:30 am-1:30 pm

University Center, main floor
Celebrate the kick-off of the Campus Race to Zero Waste (CR2ZW) competition! Stop by the CR2ZW table in the UC to play a fun game, pick up some great swag to help reduce waste, and learn about the CR2ZW competition. 

Week 2: Choose to Reuse: No Sew Bag Workshop

Tuesday, February 7 from 5-7 pm
Friday, February 10 from 2-4 pm
Hunt Library Sustainability Studio, main floor
Take a break and make a no-sew reusable bag out of an old t-shirt! Make one for yourself and/or make one for the CMU Food Pantry. Drop by anytime, it only takes a few minutes! Supplies will be provided or bring your own t-shirt. 

Week 3: Campus Compost Questions

February 13-17
online at the @CMUGreenPractices Instagram page
Have a compost question on your mind? This is the week to get all your questions answered! Join us to learn about how CMU’s compost program works and how it differs from what you can compost in your backyard. 

Week 4: Cinema, Snacks, and Discussion - a Screening of the Film Landfill Harmonic

Friday, February 24 from 5-7 pm
Porter Hall, room 100
Join us for a viewing of a waste reduction themed movie: Landfill Harmonic follows the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a Paraguayan musical group that plays instruments made entirely out of garbage pieces found in the landfill where their community is settled. We’ll have snacks (bring your own cup and/plate for a fun giveaway!) and a lively discussion after the film.

Week 5: Fix-it Fair - Mending Workshop

Wednesday, March 1, 3-6pm
Hunt Library Sustainability Studio, main floor
Do you have shirts missing buttons or pants that need hemmed? Don't throw them out... bring them to the Fix-it Fair! We'll have menders available to help you repair your items and make them good as new. Don't have anything needing repairing , but want to learn? Stop by to learn a few new mending skills. 

Week 6: Spring into Sustainability

March 5-12
online at the @CMUGreenPractices Instagram page
Don't let the momentum slow over spring break. Check our social media page for games, challenges, and information about campus waste reduction!  

Week 7: Spring Swap

Friday, March 17 from 2 - 6pm
University Center, main floor
A collaboration with Thrifty Mellon. Donate or take! Bring your gently used, still good items for others to take or browse through what others have donated. If you donate items are free otherwise everything is a dollar! 

Week 8: Zero Waste Make-a-Thon

Saturday, March 25 from 11am - 2:30 pm
Studio A, Hunt Library

Help us find actionable solutions to campus waste reduction challenges.

We’ve tried posters and signage, we’ve tried fun trash sorting games, but we are still having issues reaching zero waste on campus. Current challenges include: single-use plastics, contaminated waste streams, compostables and recyclables sent to the landfill, and food waste. We are looking for help to come up with ideas to solve these and other campus waste issues. 

Teams of students will work to brainstorm ideas and choose a solution they would like to support and/or implement. Solutions can come in the form of new systems, infrastructure suggestions, apps, and more! 

We suggest teams have a minimum of 3 people and no more than 5 people. If you register as an individual, you will be placed into a team based on the interests you indicate in the form.

Teams will have 2 hours to work on their solutions and the event will end with participants presenting their ideas to the other teams and a panel of judges. The winning team will be able to present their idea to campus decision makers! 

Lunch will be provided! Space is limited, so register today!

CR2ZW offers different levels of reporting for participation in the 8-week competition. CMU will compete in national competitions in the following categories:

  • Diversion Category - the school with the highest waste diversion percentage. Diversion is determined by the percentage of the total weight of recyclables and food organics diverted from total waste generated.
  • Stephen K Gaski Per Capita Classic - the school that collects the largest combined amount of paper, cardboard, and bottles and cans on a per person basis.
  • Food Organics - points are awarded for food waste minimization activities and the amount of food that is diverted from the landfill.
There are also special, one-time reporting categories. CMU often competes in the national Case Study Competition, where schools share their best practices in promoting and improving recycling and waste reduction on campus.

Visit for more information about the national competition.

2023 CR2ZW Results

Weekly results will be posted here and at during the 8- week competition (click to enlarge image): 

week-3---2023-cr2zw-results.jpg.    week-3---2023-cr2zw-total-recycling.jpg      

2022 CR2ZW Results

Carnegie Mellon was a winner in the Waste Minimization category of the 2022 Case Study Competition!

During the 2022 8-week competition, CMU recycled 36.9 tons and donated or composted 46.1 tons of food.