A Sustainable Orientation Week

Education and Outreach Program Administrator, Shoshana Blank, and summer Communications Intern, Michaela, table at the Graduate Student Resource Fair in Alumnae Lounge.

Every year, the Office of Sustainability makes a tremendous effort during Orientation to teach as many incoming students, staff, and faculty as possible about Tufts’ sustainability commitments and initiatives, its waste management practices, sustainable commuting options, and more. We also try to reduce the University’s carbon footprint by making as many Orientation events as possible zero-waste, ensuring that materials are either recycled or composted. 

This year was no exception. Throughout Orientation, the OOS made presentations on sustainability at Tufts to a total of 511 new students, faculty, and staff across our many graduate schools, including the Dental School, the Friedman School, the Fletcher School, the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, to name a few. In addition, the OOS trained 220 Tufts Dining employees on proper recycling rules to ensure they were well-informed to sort recyclables, compostables, and trash in the kitchens and cafes. 

Summer Programs Intern, Jennifer, tables on the Boston Health Sciences campus.

The OOS also tabled at events for a wide range of programs offered at Tufts. We reached about 500 new students by speaking directly with them at events held by their respective schools. Two hundred of these students were new first-year students. The remaining 300 were graduate students from the Tufts School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Engineering, the Fletcher School, and Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning, among others.

At all our various tabling events, the OOS distributed a total of 1,340 informational brochures on sustainability issues ranging from recycling, to biking, to sustainable commuting to Tufts’ many campuses. The most widely distributed and seemingly the most popular were the Eco-Maps, which identify the locations of important sustainability landmarks on the Medford/Somerville campus, such as recycling and compost bin locations, bike racks, hydration stations, and even a geothermal heat pump. You can find an interactive Eco-Map that spans all Tufts campuses here, and online versions of our other brochures here.  

A zero-waste event worker staffs her waste station at the Freshman Food Fair.

In addition to spreading awareness about sustainability at Tufts, the OOS worked to make Orientation itself more sustainable by diverting waste from landfills. Throughout the week, 34 students made 16 events zero-waste, meaning all waste accumulated was either recycled or composted. This effort diverted waste from landfills/incinerators from 14,000 meals. From these 14,000 meals, 232 bags of compost and 72 bags of recycling were collected. 

Pictured above is just a portion of the total 192 pounds of plastic film waste that was collected during Move-In this year.

Additionally, twenty of our Eco-Reps met and educated residents as they were moving into their dorms. The OOS also created seven new educational Move-In recycling signs and OOS workers collected 192 pounds of Move-In-related plastic film to be recycled into plastic benches through Trex.

Summer Donations Intern, Serena, coordinated pick up of the cleaned and tested items back from GradBag.

Last May during Move-Out, the OOS diverted three tractor-trailer loads of reusable items from the waste stream and worked with the non-profit GradBag to clean, test and organize them into another Back-to-School Sale. Incoming students served by the FIRST Resource Center, a community for first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students, were able to choose items first and without cost. About 75 of these students took advantage of these free goods to outfit their dorm rooms and collect winter clothing and other school supplies.

The Back-to-School sale had many things students may need to make Tufts home, including dorm decor and other festive goods.

The remaining items were sold back to returning students and staff on Labor Day. Several offices and organizations also benefitted from the recovered items: 

  • Tufts Mountain Club received sleeping bags and pads
  • Tufts Sports Medicine was given various crutches, braces, and weights
  • 233 items totaling 90 pounds of dishes were returned to Tufts Dining
  • Around 300 books were donated to More than Words, a job training and youth development program that employs Boston’s most vulnerable youth in their bookselling business
  • Non-perishable food donations were given to Project Soup, a Somerville food pantry
  • All current textbooks were offered to the FIRST Resource Center for low-income, first-generation and undocumented students to use. 

All in all, it was a very successful Move-In and Orientation Week for sustainability at Tufts. The OOS will continue to work to make more Orientation events zero-waste and to reuse as many items donated from Move-Out as possible to divert this waste from landfills. We will also work throughout the year on publicizing and monitoring Tufts’ sustainability initiatives—this is just the beginning!  

Blog post written by exiting Programs Intern, Celia Bottger.

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