Calvin University’s Office of Community Engagement and the Calvin Sustainability Community would like to welcome you to the online Campus Sustainability Guide. This site has been created as a resource for all those concerned with sustainability at Calvin. This is only the beginning. Feel free to also give us feedback, ideas, or additions for this guide by emailing the Office of Community Engagement.

Why should we at Calvin University care about the environment?

We are called to be stewards of the creation in which we are embedded. “Our purpose is to infuse Calvin’s vigorous liberal arts education with thoughtful, Biblically-based principles that lay a foundation for living in a way that honors the Creator and His beloved creation. The Reformed tradition recognizes the important role of creation as God’s general revelation of goodness and grace. We also recognize our responsibility to interpret, wisely use, and compassionately care for God’s creation. In doing so, we take seriously the Biblical mandate to be stewards of God’s good earth.” (Calvin University Statement on Sustainability)

What does it mean to live sustainably?

Sustainable living is the daily working out of God’s stewardship mandate. We seek to live as part of the natural world in ways that mirror the care and love God has for the creation. To live in a sustainable fashion means our daily activities promote the well-being of other people, other species, and the ability of future generations of all creatures to flourish.

This guide serves as a resource with facts and steps you can take to work towards a more sustainable lifestyle in order to make a positive impact on our campus and in our world.

Are you living a sustainable life?

“Ecological footprints measure humanity’s demands on nature. Everything we do has consequences...” including contributing to pollution, deforestation, desertification, sprawl, landfills, global warming, soil erosion, and extinction.

Check your own footprint at

What can you do?

Each member of the Calvin community should lead a life of meaning and purpose in relationship to the physical world, a life that promotes healing and reconciliation among all elements of the creation. Areas where you can make a difference include:

  • Waste
  • Energy
  • Travel
  • Water
  • Food

ReTHINK your waste

General facts
  • In 2007, Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash, recycling and composting 85 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and saved 1.3 quadrillion Btu of energy, the equivalent of more than 10.7 billion gallons of gasoline.
  • Recycling just 1 ton of aluminum cans conserves the equivalent of 1,665 gallons of gas.
  • The average American generates 4.6 pounds of trash daily, or 1,679 pounds annually!

(Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2007)

Calvin facts
  • Approximately 180 tons of recycling and 300 tons of compost were diverted from the landfill/incinerator in 2016.
  • Calvin landfilled about 230 tons and incinerated 460 tons of trash the same year.

“Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. Collecting used bottles, cans, and newspapers and taking them to the curb or to a collection facility is just the first in a series of steps that generates a host of financial, environmental, and social returns. Some of these benefits accrue locally as well as globally.” (US Environmental Protection Agency)

Tips for reducing your waste on campus

  • Use the appropriate recycling bins
  • Think before you photocopy and print documents. Do you really need it?
  • When printing, make margins narrow, decrease font size, and print or copy on both sides by printing odd pages first then all even pages.
  • Take or prepare only as much food as you plan to eat at the moment or later.
  • Use your CUPPS mug at Johnny’s and the Fish House (and get discounted drinks!)
  • Carry a Nalgene or reuse your current water bottle.
  • Bring your own reusable container for leftovers when you go out to eat.
  • Avoid using paper plates and napkins and plastic silverware.
  • Use cloth grocery bags and keep some in your car. Pick one up at the Campus Store for only 50¢ or at Meijer for $1.

What can you recycle at Calvin University?

To view a full list of what you can and cannot recycle at Calvin University, please visit the Facilities department.

Tips for reducing your waste off campus

  • Compost fruit and vegetable remains, eggshells, and grains.
  • Take active steps to reduce the volume of junk mail you receive. Read catalogs online. Contact the senders directly or use a catalog management site like to manage which catalogs you read and how you read them.
  • Stop the credit offers. This is good security for identity theft and temptation management as well. Go to the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry Opt In/Opt Out site or call the number toll free: 888-567-8688. A voice-activated system allows you to remove your name and address from most mailed credit offers. You can opt in again at any time by calling the same number.
  • Receive your various financial statements and bills electronically. This saves paper and reduces costs for the senders.
  • Kent County Recycling information:

ReTHINK your energy usage

General facts
  • Fuel sources to produce electricity in Michigan in 2004 were: 63% coal, 10% natural gas, 23% nuclear, and only 3% from renewable sources. (
  • Though accounting for only 5% of the world’s population, Americans consume 26% of the world’s energy. (American Almanac)
  • Among industrialized and developing countries, Canada consumes per capita the most energy in the world, the United Sates ranks second, and Italy consumes the least among industrialized countries. (Solar Energy International)
Calvin facts
  • Calvin emits or causes to be emitted over 30,000 tons of CO2 each year.
  • Calvin buys over 5000 kW-hr (about $500) of electricity per student each year.

Energy use is so integrated into our daily lives that we hardly even consider it. The United States is the largest energy consumer in terms of total use, using 100 quadrillion BTUs (or 29000 TWh) in 2005, equivalent to an (average) consumption rate of 3.3 TW. The U.S. ranks seventh in energy consumption per-capita after Canada and a number of small countries. (Energy Information Administration)

Not only will nonrenewable sources eventually run out if used as they currently are, these sources have high levels of water or air pollution. The burning and combustion of these nonrenewable fossil fuels also contributes to the heat trapping “greenhouse effect” and global warming. By addressing simple ways individuals can cut back on energy uses, we can in a small but significant way improve our world.

Tips for reducing your energy usage on campus

  • Turn off lights whenever you leave a room.
  • Plug all cords into one electrical strip and turn the strip off whenever you leave. Many appliances and electronics consume energy even when you’re not using them. Also make sure that appliances such as toasters or coffee pots are unplugged whenever not in use.
  • Put plastic insulation over windows or weather stripping doors in your home or dorm room to improve energy efficiency and cut your heating or cooling costs up to 40%.
  • Wash clothes in cold water only.
  • Bring a cloth or reusable bag when shopping.
  • Turn off your car if idling for more than 30 seconds.
  • Buy goods with minimal packaging to reduce your waste by 10% and save 1,200 pounds of CO2 a year.
  • Turn off your computer when you’re not using it.

Tips for reducing your energy usage off campus

  • Install compact fluorescent light bulbs which use less energy and last ten times longer than regular incandescent bulbs.While away or in bed, set the thermostat to 55° during the winter days. When you are at home, set it for 68° or lower. Put on more layers instead of turning up the heat.
  • Air-dry clothes instead of running the dryer.
  • Turn the water heater down to 120°.

ReTHINK how you get from place to place

General facts
  • Powering a jet uses almost as much energy, and emits almost as much climate-changing carbon dioxide, as each passenger would use driving alone in an average car. (Sightline Institute)
  • About 28% of the energy we use goes to transporting people and goods from one place to another. Automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, and buses drove nearly 3.0 trillion miles in 2005. That’s almost one-twelfth the distance to the nearest star beyond the solar system. It’s like driving to the sun and back 13,440 times. (Energy Information Administration)
Calvin facts
  • In 2007 – 2008, Calvin sold over 3072 parking permits to students, but issued only 1355 Rapid passes.
  • Calvin set an all-time bus ridership record in 2008, with over 40,000 subsidized rides.
  • In the summer of 2008, eight new bike racks were installed around campus. We now have a total of 31 bike racks.
  • The Bike to Work challenge from Healthy Habits had 130 faculty/staff sign up. On average, each person rode approximately 3 miles one way.

Transportation accounts for 25% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. As the countries in the developing world rapidly motorize, the increasing global demand for fuel will pose one of the biggest challenges to controlling the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet (automobiles, pickup trucks, SUVs, vans and small trucks) currently consumes 150 billion gallons (550 billion liters) of gasoline a year, or 1.3 gallons of gasoline per person a day. If other nations burned gasoline at the same rate, world consumption would rise by a factor of almost 10. (Scientific American)

Tips for reducing your carbon emissions

  • Ride the bus: Easy and cheap to get to the mall, airport, or downtown destinations. For schedules, routes and prices for the Rapid, see Remember, they have just expanded their hours!
  • Where do you get a bus pass at Calvin? Calvin faculty, staff and students may pick up a Rapid Bus Discount card by going to the Campus Safety Office or the Service Learning Center. The Bus cards are free to obtain and drop the rate for the bus down to $0.50 per ride.
  • Carpool to and from Calvin: Would you rather carpool? Students traveling to or from Calvin by automobile are advised to consider carpooling with other Calvin students making the same trip. The Ride Board is a bulletin board where students can post their need for a ride or the availability of a ride in their car or van. The Ride Board is located under the Community Tab in the student's Moodle account. Even the Rapid can hook you up:

More tips for reducing your carbon emissions

  • Bike: A new Bike Task Force at Calvin will be planning for bike lanes, increased bike racks, and safety awareness on– and off-campus.
  • Proper tire inflation: Keep car tires properly inflated to improve mileage and save up to 250 pounds of CO2 annually.
  • Compare hybrids: Buy energy efficient cars. (
  • Fuel Cost Calculator: (
  • Local bike stores and repair shops:
    • West Michigan Bike and Fitness: 2830 East Paris, Kentwood, MI 49512, (616) 942-1880,
    • Grand Rapids Bicycle Company: 1200 E. Paris, Grand Rapids, MI 49546, (616) 855-7467,

ReTHINK your water consumption

General facts

How much water does it take to...?

  • drink: 1/2 gallon per person, per day
  • shower with a low-flow showerhead: 9 – 12 gallons per person, per day
  • fill the bathtub: about 36 gallons
  • cook: 5 – 10 gallons per person, per day
  • wash clothes or the car: 50 gallons per wash
  • water the lawn/yard: 300 gallons per watering
  • flush the toilet: 3.5 – 7 gallons, or 1.5 gallons with a water saving toilet

(USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region)

Calvin facts
  • Calvin uses about 11,000 gallons of water per student per year.
  • Calvin uses over 50 million gallons of water annually.
  • Campus water usage has decreased from 53.4 million gallons (2003 – 2004) to about 49.6 million gallons (2007 – 2008).

Water is a limited resource on our planet. In West Michigan, the threat of our fresh water supply running out is less severe than in other parts of the country, but this does not mean that water conservation or care should not be addressed by the Calvin community. Pollution of the Great Lakes or even the Grand River puts water degradation on a very local level. As caretakers of the earth, we can take small steps in our dorms, homes and lifestyle to cut back on our water consumption which can have a significant positive affect on water conservation.

Tips for reducing your water usage

  • Run only full loads in the washing machine or dishwasher to save 300 – 800 gallons of water every month.
  • Reduce showers even a minute or two to save up to 700 gallons of water every month.
  • Wait for hot water to come to the tap at the sink or shower and capture the running water to use for drinking or watering plants. This will save 200 – 300 gallons of water every month.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving to save three gallons every day.
  • Wash dishes by hand and rinse them in water plugged in a sink or wash basin to save 200 – 500 gallons of water a month. If washing dishes by hand, use as little detergent as possible to avoid having to rinse more, thereby saving 50 – 150 gallons a month.
  • Rinse fresh vegetables in a filled sink or pan instead of running them under water to save 150 – 250 gallons of water a month.

Tips for reducing your water usage off campus

  • Make sure that sinks or plumbing joints aren’t leaking to save 20 gallons of water every day for every leak stopped.
  • Install shower heads that restrict the flow to save 500 – 800 gallons of water each month.

ReTHINK your food

General facts
  • On average, the food we eat from grocery stores travels 1500 miles before it reaches our plates.
  • 80 – 90% of money spent at farmers markets goes directly to the farmer compared to 3.5% at a local grocery store (Sustainable Table).
Calvin facts
  • Over 60 products were featured in a recent Commons Dining Hall display of Michigan products served in the dining halls.
  • New “green” sack lunches provide recyclable lunch sacks and reduces waste by allowing students to select their own food.
  • Dining Services now uses biodegradable disposable tableware.

Buy green

Buying organic foods helps reduce the amount of harmful chemicals in the environment and in your body:

  • no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are used
  • organic agriculture often uses sustainable methods that help in soil conservation
  • and organisms are not genetically modified.

Buying green items of durable materials can also help reduce waste because they can be re-used rather than thrown away.

Eat local

Buying local saves on fuel and energy by reducing transportation costs, reducing the need for long refrigeration, and reducing the need for excess packaging material. Buying from local farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture farms (CSAs) not only reduces your impact on the environment, but it helps you eat healthier, save money, and strengthen the local economy.

How can you get involved?

Student groups on campus

Off campus involvement

What has Calvin University already done?

Our commitment to environmental stewardship continues to grow in many areas of our community life.