Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

research impact

For the period 2017-21 

№ relevant publications: 440

№ times cited: 8,196

Key Stats

42 percent of university waste is recycled. Check out the Zero Waste Dashboard for detailed data on waste management at the University of Alberta.

sample Courses



Waste reduction goal

The university has set a goal to divert 90 per cent of its waste from landfills and to continue to reduce waste per capita. To achieve this goal, the university has adopted a number of strategies, including source-separation and collection of organics; diverting construction, demolition and renovation waste from landfill; and eliminating polystyrene containers from locations like HUB Mall. 

Augustana Campus’s Sustainable Food Policy

Augustana Campus Dining Hall serves 300–400 meals three times a day. The dining hall’s approach puts quality ahead of convenience: meals are prepared on site primarily using basic ingredients, rather than coming pre-cooked or packaged. The kitchen sources a portion of its ingredients from local providers (within 200 km), reducing the carbon footprint necessary for transport. Local ingredients include beef, pork, vegetables, eggs, and flour. 

Augustana Campus abides by a Sustainable Food Policy that reads, in part:

Our first priority is to provide safe, fresh and nutritious food. Our second priority is to support forms of food production and processing that sustain the environment, our regional rural economy and farm livelihoods. We understand that those priorities are not necessarily in conflict; often the second complements the first.

Reusable Dish Program

The Students’ Union runs the Reusable Dish Program, giving event planners across the university an easy, free way to stop serving single-use plates, cutlery and cups at events. This student-run service loans out reusable dishes and mugs, taking care of all the washing and inventory management (event planners only need to pick up and return the wares).

Sustainable Procurement

Supply Management Services has worked for many years to incorporate sustainability into their operations. In 2018, it launched a Sustainable Purchasing Network to circulate best practices, foster collaboration between interested staff and stimulate pilot projects within varied work units. This network builds on earlier ad hoc initiatives, the Sustainable Swag Purchasing Guide and PaperCut Initiative.

The university’s preferred supplier system enables efficient delivery of goods and allows the university to push for green products and practices from its suppliers. A Sustainable Procurement Guidelines and Supplier Code outlines expectations for ethical, social and environmental practices from the university’s suppliers.


Recycling Street Team

The Sustainability Council’s volunteer program includes the Recycling Street Team, a group of undergrad and graduate students who champion waste reduction and develop educational campaigns. In the past, the team has helped collect recyclables at Golden Bears and Pandas athletics games, reaching thousands of spectators with their message.

Waste Free Edmonton

Faculty of Law alumni Melissa Gorrie and Sean Stepchuk are using their backgrounds in law reform and policy to advocate for the elimination of single-use plastics in Edmonton. In 2018, they founded Waste Free Edmonton, a community group that includes many current University of Alberta students. The group has expanded rapidly, launching the Becoming Less podcast, organizing campaigns and delivering curriculum-specific education to Division II and III students in Edmonton.

🔗 Tips to Free You From Plastic

Gorrie and Stepchuk offer a few easy strategies that anyone can use to curb plastic use.


Materials Chemistry Research Group

Aman Ullah’s material chemistry research group focuses on converting biomass into different types of plastics and chemicals, for instance using food oils and fats as stock for polymers. The group uses innovative techniques to help bioplastics match the quality of fossil fuel derived plastics by, for example, using nanotechnology to improve structures and using microwave reactors to enhance biopolymer yield.

Notable Stories

🔗 UAlberta gets reducing food waste down to a science

LeanPath technology that helps kitchens monitor and reduce their food waste has been adopted by 10 campus food vendors.

🔗 Stashing our stuff is little better than tossing it in the trash, says marketing researcher

Changing wasteful behaviour could mean taking full measure of the utility of the things we don’t use—and even treating them like people we care about.

🔗 Creating an impact: How UAlberta students are changing the way we think about waste

In hopes of creating change, UAlberta students are championing a new way of thinking when it comes to feminine hygiene products.

🔗 Putting a Cap on Waste: Two UAlberta Students Plan to Reduce Harmful Packaging Materials in the Beauty Industry

Two UAlberta Business students tackle waste production in the beauty industry with their idea of ALL CAPS, skincare products contained in single-serving capsules.