The University of California’s #MyLastTrash campaign needs YOUR HELP to achieve Zero Waste to landfill by 2020! Do your part by joining UCLA’s #MyLastTrash campaign and eliminating your own waste!

Quarterly Campaign Themes (2017-2018)

  •  Fall Quarter: Food
  •  Winter Quarter: Waste & Social Justice
  •  Spring Quarter: Waste & Climate Change

TL;DR: Refuse, reduce, repair, repurpose, reused, return, recycle, rot

Fall Quarter: Food

In the United States, up to 40% of our food is wasted. Forty percent! Imagine that every time you buy a dozen eggs, you throw away five of them.

Food and Food Justice

While some of us are lucky to have sufficient access to food, others are in situations in which they do not have consistent access to fresh, healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. These individuals and communities may not have a supermarket nearby, land to grow food in, or accessible transportation options. There may not be food that they are familiar with and that their cultures use. Achieving food justice involves local food systems and improving distribution of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes – foods that are healthy for people and the environment.

Food and Climate Change

All this wasted food is contributing to climate change.

Before You Eat

It takes a lot of resources to produce, transport, package, and even consume our food. Oil is used to power farm tools, trucks, cargo ships, refrigerators, and more. If the food is processed, take into account the energy used to power those industrial machines: washers, slicers, ovens, driers, etc. And think about the resources it takes to produce the other products that join your food before it gets to you: preservatives, food coloring, and who knows what else. Consider all the materials and energy that go into producing boxes, pallets, bottles, cans, even the waxy layer inside your milk carton. And if you’re eating with a disposable plastic fork – well, that’s made of oil too.

When we waste food, not only is the food item wasted, but all the oil and resources that go into that product are wasted also. The combustion of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that trap heat inside. This accumulation of heat has drastically altered our climate, and is causing extreme weather events to occur with increasing intensity and frequency. Additionally, burning fossil fuels pollutes air and water, which creates health risks.

After You Eat

When organic matter decomposes in nature or in a compost bin, it produces carbon dioxide and natural fertilizers and is broken down into soil. But when organic matter is sent to landfill, it generates methane gas, a greenhouse has 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills are engineered to be like tombs, so that their contents do not interact with surrounding soil or water. Which makes sense, since landfills are home to many dangerous toxins that we don’t want in our water supply.

But what does this mean for the food in landfills? Wasted potential.

The organic waste that winds up in landfills could have been placed into compost bins, where they continue the cycle of nutrients through the food system. The banana peel you drop into the compost bin today can be a happy worm’s dinner tonight.

What Can We Do?

Source Wisely

Choose foods that are local, minimally processed, and farmed with the most environmentally friendly techniques. Transportation accounts for an enormous portion of greenhouse gas emissions due to food production.

Buy food at farmers markets or buy Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Boxes. Not only are they fresh and local, but you support the farmer instead of all the middlemen in the food industry.

Cook at home instead of eating out.

Eat Slowly and Mindfully

Anticipate your hunger throughout the day and keep track of your eating habits to recognize how much food you need during meals. Only cook or take as much food as you need, and eat slowly so that you pace out your meal and your body has time to feel full.

Manage your grocery list so that you know how much food you need to buy for the week.

Dispose Consciously

Sort your trash well so that no organic matter ends up in landfills. UCLA’s compost system accepts any organic matter, including meat, fish, eggs, and baked goods. Remove plastic packaging and stickers so as to minimize contamination of the compost bin.

Be aware of the composition of your utensils and tableware. On the Hill, most take-out materials are compostable. Look for the “PLA” symbol: what looks like plastic may be made of corn and can be composted in an industrial facility.

Volunteer with organizations working toward food justice in Los Angeles:

Food Forward fights hunger and prevents food waste by rescuing fresh surplus produce, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same.

Project Angel Food‘s mission is to feed and nourish the sick as they battle critical illness. Volunteers and staff cook and deliver nutritious meals, free of charge, to homes throughout Los Angeles County to alleviate hunger, prevent malnutrition and return our clients to health.

LA Kitchen reclaims healthy, local food that would otherwise go to waste, and use it to empower, nourish, and engage the community.

Los Angeles Regional Food Bank mobilizes resources to fight hunger in our community.

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Winter Quarter: Waste & Social Justice

The three pillars of sustainability are environment, economy, and equity.

Equity refers to the wellbeing of individuals and communities, and the healthy environments everyone deserves to have. Waste is a prominent social justice issue because it involves toxins, pollutants, and poisons that harm and destroy. For the most part, those who produce the most waste are more privileged and less vulnerable, while those who experience the worst consequences are often poorer, people of color, and/or in the Global South. Despite this reality, everyone is deserving of environmental justice, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency defines as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” ()


Landfills stink. They attract vermin and pathogens. Garbage trucks loudly come in and out at all hours of the day. Rain causes landfills to produce leachate – a liquid tea steeped in trash. Since landfills are composed of an enormous variety of waste (including organic matter, chemicals, and toxins), leachate often contains toxic metals, ammonia, pathogens, and other harmful materials. It can leak into the surrounding land and groundwater, damaging the quality of the soil, vegetation, and the local water supply.

Because of this, communities living near and around landfills have deflated real estate prices, are exposed to disease, and always have to see, smell, and hear the landfill. They experience terrible health consequences, including higher rates of birth defects, cancer, and respiratory illnesses. In the United States, poorer communities and communities of color are disproportionately located near landfills and suffer these consequences.

Electronic Waste

Electronics contain dangerous substances, including lead and other heavy metals, mercury, and hydrocarbons. When electronic waste is sent to landfill, these substances wash away into the leachate and poison the surrounding area.

Electronic waste that is collected in the United States and other wealthy countries is often exported to developing countries, where there are less stringent or nonexistent health and environmental laws. Workers process this waste to extract precious metals and often do not have adequate protection. Thus, they are exposed to toxic fumes that are harmful to their health. These processing centers are usually located in poor communities in developing countries.

Textile Waste

The fast fashion industry produces clothes at an amazing rate. These clothes are quickly purchased, worn out, discarded, and replaced with newer trends. As a result, landfills are piling up with textiles, many of which are made of synthetic materials that do not degrade well.

Clothing is often made with synthetic materials, pesticides, and/or dyes. At each step of the production chain, toxic substances are released into the environment. These damage the soil and waterways, and are harmful for the people who live and work in these areas. Additionally, heavy machines emit greenhouse gases and pollutants

What can we do?

Purchase Wisely

Only purchase items that you absolutely need – this will reduce the amount of things produced and the amount of things thrown away. Choose clothing that is higher quality and will last a long time. Decide not to upgrade your phone every year. Instead of buying new, you can visit thrift stores, repurpose or repair old items, and switch to reusable materials. This will not only contribute to environmental health, but it will also save you money.

Dispose Consciously

Sort your waste to minimize the amount that goes into landfill. Waste diversion can significantly reduce the amount of material that enters the landfill in the first place, and allows for these materials to have new life as products made of recycled items or as nutrient-rich compost.

Dispose of your electronics and other hazardous waste at designated facilities such as the UCLA S.A.F.E. Center (electronic waste is only accepted on Saturdays). The Hedrick Rieber, Sproul, and De Neve Front Desks also have e-waste collection sites for used batteries. Electronic waste contains precious metals that can be recycled into new electronics, thus reducing the need for mining operations. Make sure that your e-waste recycler is certified responsible and processes its waste in the United States.

UCLA partners with the American Textile Recycling Service (ATRS) to collect textile waste. Clothing and other textiles can be donated to those in need. Items that are too worn out can still be repurposed into building insulation. Dispose of your textile waste in the large orange ATRS bins that can be found all over the Hill during Move-Out.

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Spring Quarter: Waste & Climate Change

The greenhouse effect is the process through which global temperature increases due to heat trapped within the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are responsible for preventing heat from dissipating into space by reflecting it back onto the earth. Carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and nitrous oxide are all examples of greenhouse gases.

Since the industrial revolution, humans have been pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels combines carbon from the fuel with oxygen from the air to create CO2. Though machines and electronics are useful and beneficial parts of our lives today, they are still mostly powered with 19th century technology. The rise of global temperature has caused and will continue to cause more frequent and more severe weather events, such as wildfires, hurricanes, and droughts.

In terms of waste, the processes involved in getting all this stuff produces a lot of greenhouse gases. Fossil fuels are burned to power the grid and create electricity for machines that are used at every step of the way from extraction to disposal. Unfinished and finished parts are shipped all over the world and fuel is needed for the transportation of these items. And at the end of the day, the breakdown of our waste emits carbon dioxide and methane at landfills.

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Monthly Campaign Themes (2017):

  •  February: Recycling & Plastic
  •  March: Paper
  •  April: E-waste & Social Justice
  •  May: Green Labs/ Living Labs
  •  June: Move-Out
  •  September: Move-In
  •  October: Compost
  •  November: Re-Use and Upcycling
  •  December: Reduce

For more information, please read the monthly campaign descriptions below or contact sustainability@ucla.edu.

February: Recycling and Plastic

Almost everything around us has a plastic component. Plastic is made of crude oil or other fossil fuels and is NOT biodegradable. Plastics can take 500 years to decompose, and when they finally do break down, they release toxic chemicals that contaminate the air, water, and soil. Our landfills and oceans are filling up with these plastic items. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one of FIVE major gyres of marine debris in the oceans, which contain billions of tiny microplastics that harm marine life.

The best way to eliminate plastic waste is to refrain from using plastic as much as possible. If you have any plastic waste, dispose of it in the recycling bin. UCLA’s recycling bins accept all types of plastic, even plastic bags!


  •  Choose products with the least packaging. Choose paper packaging over plastic because it’s easier to recycle.
  •  Use reusable items as much as possible! These include grocery bags, water bottles, utensils, cups, tumblers, razors, and much more!
  •  Bring your own containers to buy food in bulk.
  •  Opt out of items such as straws, bottled drinks, individually packaged snacks, and even gum (which contains plastic!).
  •  Pack your lunch in reusable food storage containers instead of plastic baggies.
  •  When you eat out, bring your own food storage containers to take home your leftovers.
  •  When in doubt, recycle! If your item was sorted incorrectly, it will be taken out of the recycling.

March: Paper

When you dispose of paper products in the recycling bin, this waste is recycled to produce new paper products. Paper products made from recycled materials require less energy and water, and contribute to carbon sequestration by reducing the amount of carbon-capturing trees harvested. Recycling paper also saves landfill space and decreases the need for incineration.


  •  Use a hand dryer when available. If necessary, use only one paper towel to dry your hands.
  •  Print double-sided as much as possible.
  •  Sort all clean paper into the recycling bin.
  •  Sort any soiled or greasy paper (including pizza boxes and other food containers) into the compost bin.

April: E-Waste and Social Justice

Environmental issues are an enormous part of social justice. For example, electronic waste produced in the United States and other wealthy countries is often exported to developing countries, where there are less stringent or nonexistent health and environmental laws. Workers processing this waste to extract precious metals often do not have adequate protection, and they can be exposed to toxic fumes that are harmful to their health. This combination of social justice issues (inequalities due to “exporting” human health impacts) and environmental concerns (improper handling and release of toxic waste) is often referred to as environmental justice.

Environmental justice issues are not limited to e-waste disposal, in fact, they are pervasive in many industries. Workers all over the world, including in the United States, have inadequate wages and work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions. Organizations and certifications such as the Fair Trade system work to address these issues by ensuring fair wages, good working conditions, sustainable practices, and more.

Other environmental justice issues include:
  •  Climate change, which is causing extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels that especially affect developing nations.
  •  Pollution, which disproportionately affects low-income communities of color.
  •  Learn more about environmental justice from the National Resources Defense Council.


  •  Repair your electronics instead of purchasing new ones.
  •  Dispose of your electronic (and other hazardous) waste at the UCLA S.A.F.E. Center or other certified responsible recycling facilities.
  •  Dispose of your used batteries at e-waste collection sites at the Hedrick, Rieber, Sproul, and De Neve Front Desks.
  •  Choose products certified by Fair Trade USA or Fairtrade International.
  •  Volunteer with social justice organizations.

May: Green Labs/Living Labs

The University of California is a top research university, and sustainability has a place in laboratories too! While it’s important for labs to follow all safety protocols, there are still ways to minimize the amount of waste labs produce. Check out My Green Lab and the City of LA Green Business Program for more ideas and details!

If you don’t work in a lab, consider your household, office, or department. Encourage everyone around you to develop sustainable habits! Our day-to-day activities can make a huge impact in how much waste we produce.


  •  Make a resolution with My Green Lab to bring sustainability to your scientific research.
  •  Register your lab, office, or department under the LA Green Business Program
  •  Use the Green Office Catalog to make sustainable purchases from BruinBuy.
  •  Use the Green Guide for tips on sustainable living.

June: Move-Out

College students accumulate a lot of things throughout the course of an academic year. Often, these items get thrown away and sent to a landfill, especially when students are unable to transport bulky items home for the summer. Reduce your waste by donating these items instead!


  •  Before purchasing or obtaining an item, consider what you will do with it after the year is over.
  •  The orange Clothes Out bins accept donations of textiles, shoes, small appliances, and more.
  •  If you must throw something away, do some research and find out if it’s recyclable or compostable.
  •  As the end of the year approaches, pack in advance so you have time to sort your things.

September: Move-In

New students, welcome to UCLA! Returnees, welcome back! The new academic year is a fresh start toward Zero Waste. Consider how much waste you produce as you’re moving in.


  •  Visit a local thrift store (like the UCLA Thrift Shop) to purchase used items instead of new.
  •  Purchase with sustainability in mind. Choose items that:
       •  are made from recycled content
       •  have minimal packaging
       •  are recyclable or compostable
  •  Communicate with your roommates to avoid purchasing duplicate items.

October: Compost

Composting is a way to break down organic matter to use as fertilizer and soil. When you toss something into the compost bin at UCLA, it gets sent to an industrial compost facility instead of a landfill. All the restaurants on the Hill dispose of their food waste in the compost. Learn more about the composting process here!

You can also set up your own compost bin. There are many composting guides and videos online that can help you get started.


  •  Use this guide to sort your waste into the appropriate bins.
  •  Greasy or soiled paper (such as pizza boxes) are compostable.
  •  Look for waste-sorting signage that can help you decide where your trash goes.
  •  Read the packaging to determine if something is a plastic (recyclable) or a bioplastic (compostable).
  •  If your housing does not have a compost system, save your waste in a small container and bring it to a compost bin regularly.
  •  Dispose of your compostable waste in the bins throughout the Hill.
  •  Bring your food waste to the DIG garden on top of Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.

Symbols on compostable items:

November: Re-Use and Upcycling

December: Reduce

Reducing and reusing go hand-in-hand. For November and December, focus on the source of your waste! Disposable products not only take a lot of energy, water, and carbon emissions to produce, but they also result in an enormous amount of waste. You can also save a lot of money by purchasing a reusable product once instead of purchasing many disposable products.


  •  Reduce unnecessary consumption and purchases, reduction is the most efficient and productive way to reduce your environmental impact.
  •  Consider purchasing needed items used at thrift stores, yard sales, resale websites, and Facebook groups.
  •  Seek reusable alternatives to single-use items such as grocery bags, water bottles, ziploc bags, etc.
  •  Avoid unnecessary upgrades for electronics such as phones, laptops, and desktop computers.
  •  Donate unwanted items that are usable or unconsumed.