Tufts Gets Green

Office of Sustainability's Blog

Month: October 2013 (page 2 of 3)

Zero Waste Week: Day 5

My initial approach to zero waste week made the challenge very easy. For the first few days, I chose my behaviors based on my knowledge of the waste they would produce. I ate fresh produce, avoided foods in ambiguous packaging, made my own coffee, and only used tea bags that came without packaging. This approach was going smoothly until the end of the week, when I decided to clean my room. Cleaning up my room was a difficult reminder that my behaviors during zero waste week were not exactly typical of a normal week.

I noticed that there were recyclables and non-recyclables mixed into my desk side trash can. I had, on occasion, thrown paper products into this trashcan, despite that there was recycling bin no more than 15 steps away. There were a few other items which I was unsure about. Cotton swabs, Q-tips, and the waxy sheets of paper which stickers peel off of. After some research, I found out that cotton balls can be composted, as long as they do not contain any synthetic materials. I couldn’t find the packaging, so I held onto these items in my Ziploc bag.

At this point, my bag still contains a small amount of trash. I’ve taken to using the bag as a sort of limbo space for items which I know can be recycled, but not in the typical “paper, metal, plastic” categories. For instance, I’ve used the bag to hold on to some granola bar wrappers when I didn’t have the chance to teracycle them in the sustainability office.  I’ve found that the bag is a helpful reminder to recycle items that I might otherwise have thrown in the trash.

I’ve noticed that many times, when I do throw away recyclable items, it is for convenience. I always choose to recycle bulkier items, like cardboard and bottles, but I’ve found that I make less of an effort to figure out what to do with smaller, atypical items like  shopping receipts or food wrapping. I’ve found that the challenge has made me incredibly aware of my waste producing behaviors, and has influenced me to correct for those behaviors.

 

-Sofie Seiden

Student Sustainability Program Adviser, U Illinois Urbana-Champaign

DEADLINE: October 14th, 2013

The Illini Union at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is seeking a talented student affairs professional to serve as a Program Advisor in the Student Programs and Activities Office.  Founded in 1867, the Illinois campus is one of the original 37 public land-grant institutions. It is one of the top comprehensive research public universities in the nation. The successful candidate will be working on a campus with an academically talented and diverse student population, including 19 percent international students, 12 percent Asian American students, 5 percent African American students and 6 percent Hispanic/Latino students from a total enrollment over 42,000 students.  As the community center of the University, the Illini Union draws together all members of the University with approximately 16,000 visits of students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests on a daily basis.

Learn more!

Zero-Waste Week Challenge: Day 3

It’s day three of the Zero Waste Challenge and I’ve accumulated a plastic bag that once held trail mix. Not bad, not bad. Admittedly, since I cooked all my meals at home, it has been pretty much smooth sailing

This week-long challenge isn’t all about making as little waste as possible. For me, it is about spreading awareness about food waste and the things we can do to minimize it from our lives. It is inspire others to take the challenge and think about their impact. It is a moment to self-reflect on my role and decisions as a consumer.

On the first day of the challenge, my fellow classmates saw the hanging Ziplock bag from my backpack. Just like that, it sparked a dialogue about the importance of reducing and reusing. It’s never too late to join in on the fun! Come by the Office of Sustainability and pick up your own Zero-Waste kit and spark some conversations of your own. Lastly, stay green, Tufts.

Signing out,

Christina

Zero Waste Week Challenge Day 2

I was ready – I remembered to buy only Larabars for breakfast because the wrappers can be Terracycled as opposed to Kind Bars which, due to their clear wrappers, were not. I remembered to choose the Celestial Seasoning’s tea, wherein the little twin teabags come neatly layered in a wax paper wrapper, instead of the other brands which have their pampered teabags individually wrapped in metallic envelopes – NOT RECYCLABLE! I remembered to bring my own plate and utensils to the Environmental Studies lunch and learn about pig farms. I even sat for a spell outside Rancatore’s in Lexington contemplating whether or not ice cream cups could be recycled in the paper bin (they can if they are made like hot coffee cups). However, I forgot about the big items – the bag of catfood that was only one meal short of empty, the granola bag that had only enough for one more bowl of yogurt, the tortilla packet with two tortillas left. Arg! It is the curse of the almost empty bag.

On the other end of the spectrum there are the waste-bespeckled new products – the little clear plastic ‘sealed for your protection’ ring around the organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar bottle; the white plastic circle that pops off a new carton of soy milk; the sticky price tag that falls off a new can of cat food. There’s no winning apparently.

Often time, when I talk to my colleagues with kids about the Zero-Waste Challenge they say, “I could never do that – we have too much trash – I couldn’t fit it into a one gallon bag” and I think they’re right, it would be very difficult to carry around the accumulated Styrofoam trays and those little wet diapers that raw chicken comes on from the deli section; the plastic bags frozen vegetables come in; the box liners holding cereal, not to mention the impossible-to-open hard plastic cases that enclose all electronics that one collects throughout the week.

We are drowning in packaging. The world’s oceans and lakes are even slowly turning into a slurry of tiny plastic pieces (I would’ve linked to the NOAA site but it’s unavailable due to the government shutdown). Plastic, because of its handy ability to float, often collects in Texas-sized floating islands in the Pacific. Hmm… don’t even get me started on plastic – did you know that over 190 million barrels of liquid petroleum gases (LPG) and natural gas liquids (NGL) were used to make plastic in America? And you thought fossil fuels were only bad because of climate change.ZWWphoto

How to reduce plastic use and packaging in general? Well, you can start by using a cool reusable water bottle, a handy reusable bag (Huff post can even help you identify the perfect one) and making yourself rad reusable containers for your lunch from clean beverage containers (so cool).  Can one live life without plastic? Well, disregarding the fact that humans did it for the six million years between the emergence of humans and 1940, this woman has not used new plastic since 2007 (and she even started a week-long plastic challenge oh-so-similar to the zero-waste-week challenge!). What do you think – is it not possible for families to reduce their trash? Only college students?

–Tina Woolston

Zero Waste Week Challenge: Day 1

Today is the first day of the Tufts University Zero Waste Challenge and I am happy to report that, so far, I have accumulated zero waste! Of course, this won’t last long, as I am bound to pick up an individually wrapped peppermint from a restaurant’s greeter or mistakenly order a coffee served in a non-recyclable cup, but I am pleased with my progress thus far!

Unlike last year’s challenge, my goal with this year’s challenge will not be to accumulate as little waste as possible, but rather to test my knowledge about recycling, reuse, and composting on the Tufts campus and in our Massachusetts communities.

For example, I composted my brown paper napkins from lunch today. Did you know you could do that? Because, if not, now’s as good a time as any to start, and with ample compost bins on the Tufts Medford campus, it is not at all inconvenient to do so. I recycled today’s copy of the Daily and took advantage of scrap paper at my Office of Sustainability desk in lieu of clean notebook paper (of course, that too was recycled once I was finished with it). I even used reusable silverware and coffee mugs throughout the day, and took advantage of our campus’ plentiful water fountains to keep my reusable water bottle filled.

Thanks to Tufts’ commitment to being an environmentally sustainable campus, it is easier than ever to keep a zero waste challenge bag empty for a long period of time. If you too are up to the Zero Waste Week challenge, stop by Miller hall to pick up your one gallon bag. Pin or clip it to your backpack, satchel, or purse and keep up with everything you throw away that isn’t composted or recycled, or could have been avoided via reuse (i.e., plastic water bottles used instead of a reusable bottle).

And, don’t forget, on Wednesday, October 16th, at 12pm - bring your Zero-Waste challenge bag to the Academic Quad where the Eco-Reps will be making a pile of the Zero-Waste challenge bags alongside “Jumbo Mountains” -  piles of trash generated from 5 different residence halls in the past week– to demonstrate just how much of a difference being conscious of your consumption and waste can make.

The first 100 people to drop off their bags will get free cider donuts and cider, and one bag will be chosen at random to win a cool Terracycle backpack made of recycled material (so put your email address on the bag when you drop it off!)

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