Brown is Green FAQs


If you can't find the answers you need here, e-mail 

TOPIC: Waste & Recycling

What happens to Brown’s trash once it’s placed on the curb?

Watch the video version by E&E intern, Haily Tran. Currently Brown University (Brown) contracts its waste hauling and recycling with Waste Haulers. WH hauls the bottles and cans to the Johnston Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) and the paper to their Providence facility in one truck three days per week and the corrugated cardboard in a separate truck to their Providence facility three days per week.  The paper and cardboard is then bundled and sold to a commodities broker, of which revenue Brown receives a nominal share according to market value ($55 per ton for cardboard and sorted office paper). Bags of recycling deemed over 10% contaminated by trash are fully included in the waste incineration process.

Trash (non-recyclables) is trucked to a Waste-to-Energy facility in Connecticut (SECONN). From an environmental perspective land-filling waste at the Rhode Island Central Landfill (Central Landfill) is more detrimental to the overall environment than sending it the incineration facility. The environmental benefits of incineration include greater secondary recycling through pre-sorting at the plant, reduced landfill waste volume, lower indirect carbon footprint as the incinerated waste generates more electricity than the landfill Gas-to-Energy (GtE) plant, displacing fossil fuel generated electricity, and increased recovery of potentially toxic material from entering into the air, water, and soils.

What is meant by Diversion Rate?

A diversion rate captures all elements of the Brown waste stream that are removed from the general incineration process, i.e. recycling, small-scale composting, re-purposing and donating unwanted items.  Brown’s organic matter diversion includes donating to community groups, recycling fry-oil with Newport biodiesel, repurposing and selling food waste as pig feed, and meat scrap composting.

Does Brown University compost?

Brown University has not currently implemented a campus-wide composting program, however, there do exist small composting initiatives. Green Event, a student-driven initiative, pays for a single composting bin (64 gallon) housed at the Brown RISD Hillel center. PF Trading, an offsite composting facility, picks up the bin twice a week. In spring 2014, Green Event collected over 1,000 pounds of compostable material.

SCRAP, another student group, focuses on residential waste, handing out free buckets for personal use and drop offs at two student managed compost piles (West House and Young Orchard).

What are the most common recycling mistakes?



Rinsed out yogurt containers

Paper Towels/Napkins

Plastic coffee cups and lids



Refrigerated cardboard containers

Plastic silverware

Compostable containers

Clean aluminum foil

Ziploc Bags

Post-it Notes


Still have questions? Check out the RIRRC A-Z Guide.

TOPIC: Transportation

Does Brown University have a bike-share?

Brown University does not yet have a bike-share program; however student groups have begun researching this possibility. Specifically, Brown Student Association (BSA) has worked extensively on the recommendation that Brown coordinates a pilot bike-share program with Providence’s proposed Alta contract. Providence is currently fundraising for its own city-wide program.

What alternative transportation options exist on campus?

Public Transportation: Brown University is making great strides toward increasing the availability of public transportation.  With the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) U-Pass program in its fifth year, all Brown University ID holders (faculty, staff and students) may ride any RIPTA bus or trolley free of charge anywhere in the state of Rhode Island.

Zipcars:  The University has partnered with Zipcar to offer Brown community members an alternative to driving to campus. Brown University students, faculty and staff pay an annual $20 fee.  Hourly rates range from $7.25 to $11.00 depending on the type of vehicle reserved.  Eight of the 23 vehicles are hybrids and 2,500 Brown-related members use them to travel 30,000 miles a month.

Bicycle Racks: Brown has bicycle racks in convenient places all around campus, offers bicycle registration to discourage theft, and is working with various civic groups to help promote cycling in the city. All new construction and major renovations are required to install racks as part of their projects.

Bicycle Sharing:  Bikes at Brown, a student initiative, launched a bike-sharing program in March 2009 utilizing University funds to purchase three new Schwinn Cruisers and four Mongoose mountain bikes.  They now have a fleet of thirty-two bicycles, which can be signed out for a week at a time at no charge and for no deposit. Additionally, in FY 2014, Brown University’s Brown Student Agencies (BSA) and the City of Providence began discussion on a collaborative city-wide bike share system.

TOPIC: Getting involved on campus

How does emPOWER work?

emPOWER  is Brown’s student environmental umbrella organization.  emPOWER’s common meeting time and collaborative structure create a strong sense of community among member groups that address a wide variety of sustainability issues.  The following student groups are included under emPOWER.

Beyond the Bottle

Bikes @ Brown

Climate Action League (formerly BCAF)


Fossil Free Brown

Green Event

Healthy Housing Hub

Rhode Island Student Climate Coalition (RISCC)


Sustainable Food Initiative


Where does Brown source its food?

                Brown Dining Services works with a network of local and regional farmers to source local ingredients whenever possible. Some of the farms include:

How can I order ‘greener’ catering?

                Complete a Brown Catering order at least ten days before your event. Here is a sample order confirmation:

EVENT NAME: Student Food Leaders
EVENT DATE: 11-11-14
END TIME: 01:00 PM
(NA for Delivery Only meals)
TYPE OF SERVICE: Delivery Only
DINNERWARE: Paper / Plastic (This is addressed further down. If you’re able to provide reusable-ware for your event, it is strongly encouraged).

DEPARTMENT: Facilities Management
GROUP CONTACT: Meggie Patton
MENU / DETAILS: We are hoping to showcase some of the local purchasing and green efforts BDS and Catering have undertaken. We'd like a sandwich tray featuring vegetarian/local ingredients (Seven Stars Breads, Narragansett Creamery Mozz., Roasted local veggies, in-house Pesto). Additionally, we'd like Food Should Taste Good chips and a tray of vegan brownies.
We will provide labels for ingredients.

Please do not provide any to-go ware. We have plates and silverware in our kitchen, and would like to create as little undue waste as possible. Minimal plastic wrap and NO serving utensils.
Thank you so much for helping us make this a Green Event.
DIETARY RESTRICTIONS: YES - 2 Gluten Free Sandwiches

MENU CONSULTATION NEEDED: --(This comes at an additional fee.)

Are there Green Catering packages?

                The full catering menu was reviewed and adjusted for Green Event certification. With some adjustment, the Green Event silver certified menu is featured on the Brown Catering site (left-hand column).

TOPIC: Energy

How can I find out more about a specific building’s utility data?

                Brown residence halls are metered to show real-time electric energy use on Brown’s Building Dashboard. Brown EcoReps use this tool to host their annual energy-saving competition, Brown Unplugged: Do it in the Dark. If your residence hall is not metered on the dashboard, you’d like a specific academic or office building, or you’d like utility data besides electric, Brown tracks its monthly bills through Facilities Management. If you’re doing research for a class project, e-mail