Office of Public Affairs

USM community collaborates for greener university

Learn more. Use Less.

These are the guiding principles as the students, faculty and staff of the University of Southern Maine celebrate Earth Day 2019 with volunteer work, recycling drives and continued commitment toward efficiency and waste reduction.

Among the April events are the Husky Day of Service, where students, faculty and staff help nonprofits throughout the surrounding communities, including working on projects focusing on the environment. In addition, USM’s annual Free Electronic Waste Recycling Day, now in its 7th year, draws people from around Portland to recycle a variety of small appliances and personal electronics totalling tens of thousands of pounds. And USM is also hosting the community’s annual Bike Swap event.

The work makes USM and the community a greener place.

The university recently earned accolades for its efforts to reduce food waste, earning its eighth award in five years from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

From 2017 to 2018, USM increased the amount of food waste it recovered from 77.4 tons to 92.5 tons. Working with Sodexo, the university was awarded a Food Recovery Challenge Achievement Certificate from the EPA’s New England regional office in Boston.

Other recent New England honorees have included Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, Northeastern University, the Raytheon Company and Hannaford.

"Winning our 8th award from the EPA is a huge honor, and speaks to the dedication of our USM community toward achieving our sustainability goals of increasing waste diversion to 70%, while decreasing waste creation by 25%." said Aaron Witham, USM’s assistant director for sustainable programs.

The Office of Sustainability employs 15 to 20 students — called “Eco-Reps” —  to work on various sustainability initiatives on campus. The student employees have conducted waste monitoring in the Woodbury Campus Center on the Portland campus, implemented a food waste recovery pilot program in Upperclass Hall on the Gorham campus and deployed a sneaker recycling program.

To USM President Glenn Cummings, the work is part of a long-term plan to eliminate the school’s carbon footprint.

“I am extraordinarily proud of the progress we’ve made through the hard work of so many students, faculty and staff throughout USM’s three campuses,” Cummings said. “But we won't let up as we continue to move forward in reaching our goal of attaining carbon neutrality by 2040."