3 Things the Zero Waste Challenge Taught Me

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The Zero Waste Challenge entails collecting everything that I don’t recycle or compost in a clear Ziploc bag that I clip to my backpack for a week. This was an eye opening experience and (literally) helped me see what type of and how much trash I produced. Here are a few takeaways from my experience!

Zero Waste Challenge Ziplock

My Ziploc bag three days into the Zero Waste challenge

1. Not all paper and plastic are recyclable…

Before my 8:30 AM class, I stop by Hotung Café to pick up their sausage and egg breakfast sandwich. The packaging is made out of waxed paper and plastic. At first glance, I thought I would simply separate the plastic and paper, recycle, and go on with my day.

However, waxed paper cannot be recycled because paper is recycled with water, so any type of wax or oil coating would contaminate the batch. (Check out this infographic that illustrates this process by the Recycle Guide!)

Soft plastics and plastic bags cannot be recycled either. I learned about the Scrunch test—if the plastic item can be scrunched easily into a ball or breaks apart easily, it can’t go into your recycling bin. Unfortunately, the breakfast sandwich packaging ended up becoming the first item in my Ziploc bag.

2. I Use So. Many. Paper Towels

Maybe it’s living with friends, maybe it’s being in college, but my house uses up a lot of paper towels. I’ve noticed that I use them for the smallest things—wiping down the table, picking up food waste in the sink, or even drying my hands after doing the dishes.

These paper towels were piling up in my Ziploc quickly, and I realized I need to make a change in my cleaning habits. I first started to use a small cloth towel to wipe my hands after the dishes, and designated another small towel for wiping down the table.

3. Easy to cook? Difficult to recycle!

As college students, we are probably all guilty of buying premade, or easy-to-cook food like mac and cheese, frozen hot pockets, and ramen. I’ve noticed that I couldn’t recycle any of this packaging. During the Zero Waste Challenge, I started to cook a lot of things from scratch.

Instead of buying individually packaged meals, I bought items in bulk. I got glass bottles of sauces and a big package of noodles, both of which will last a long time. As an added bonus, I noticed that this only adds a few more minutes to my cooking!

5 ways to make your Thanksgiving more sustainable

5 ways to make thanksgiving more sustainable

We’re all excited for the upcoming holiday, but let’s also be conscious of our environmental impact. According to the USDA, Americans will throw away more that 200 million pounds of edible turkey meat this Thanksgiving holiday. Here are a few ways to prevent the wasteful and tragic aftermath of Thanksgiving.

  1. Eat local and/or organic. Many Thanksgiving foods like squash, potatoes, and apples are seasonal in the U.S. during the fall and can be purchased from a local farm. Local farms reduce the miles that the food has to travel to get to your kitchen, reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Some local farms are certified organic, but you should ask the farm if they have organic practices. You can also purchase organic produce from a grocery store. Organic produce protects farm workers from harmful chemicals and is safer for humans. Most importantly though, local and organic food tastes better!
  2. Don’t waste food! Americans waste 40% of all food produced in the United States according to the NRDC. You could give out leftovers to guests, eat it as breakfast, or even compost and transform food waste to benefit your garden. “Begin with the Bin” has a great resource for composting leftover food.
  3. Use reusable plates, silverware, glasses, and napkins. This is better for the environment, and no one likes cutting turkey with a plastic knife and having gravy soak through paper plates.
  4. Eat less meat. The meat industry is the largest source of methane gas, which is a major contributor to climate change. You don’t have to be a vegetarian, but try having less meat on the plate and filling the rest of it with healthy sides like squash and green beans! You could also consider purchasing a smaller turkey.
  5. Drink tap water. Americans spend $18 billion on bottled water, which creates mountains of plastic that will stay on this earth for a long time. If you are concerned about the water quality, investing in a filter for your tap water is a wiser alternative.

Recycling at Tufts is about to get easier…

Today is America Recycles Day!

To celebrate, Facilities Services and the Office of Sustainability are excited to announce the introduction of single stream recycling at Tufts starting in the spring 2017 semester!

Tufts currently uses a dual stream system, which requires separating glass, metal and plastic containers from paper and cardboard items. Starting in January 2017 all these items will now be collected as a “single stream” of material in one bin.

What is Single Stream?

“Single stream” means that all the items you normally sort into the blue and green-capped recycling bins can be disposed of together! Recycling materials collected will remain the same but will not need to be separated.

After the winter recess, Tufts students, faculty, and staff can begin placing all these recyclables in a single recycling bin.

Why is Tufts Moving to Single Stream?

  1. It’s easier for you!

Introducing the ability to put all recycling in one bin will make recycling simple and easy, providing the campus community with two primary options for disposing of waste: “All Recycling” or “Landfill” (along with composting for food waste in some locations).

  1. Our waste stream is changing

The switch to single stream is a direct reaction to the changing needs of the recycling industry: with increased demand for more efficient packaging and changes in personal habits, the makeup of the nation’s waste stream is changing. At one time, paper made up to 70 percent of the weight flowing through recycling programs, but now it accounts for less than 40 percent in many cities. More complex, lightweight materials have begun to replace paper; Tufts single stream recycling program will accommodate the disposal of these changing materials more efficiently.

  1. Single stream will support Tufts waste reduction goals

Transitioning to single stream recycling supports Tufts’ larger plan to improve solid waste and recycling efforts in line with the President’s Campus Sustainability Council’s goal of reducing total waste by 3% per year. Every Tufts community member is asked and expected to help the university meet its waste goals by educating themselves about their campus’s move to single stream recycling. Read more about the President’s Sustainability Council goals to reduce waste here.

Tufts Dining Achieves 3-Star GRA Certification

On September 29th, Tufts Dining achieved the 3-star certification from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a nonprofit organization that recognizes food service providers for their work to become environmentally sustainable.

GRA rates on a 4-star scale in seven categories including:

  • Water efficiency
  • Waste reduction and recycling
  • Sustainable/durable goods and building materials
  • Sustainable food
  • Energy use
  • Reusable and environmentally-preferable disposables
  • Pollution/chemical reduction.

Tufts is the first university to earn 10 GreenPoints™in each category and receive the 3-star certification for all ten of its dining locations on campus, and the first GRA-certified food service provider in Medford/Somerville!

Some of the changes Tufts Dining made include switching to low-flow aerators and pre-rise sprays, changing over to LED lighting in Dewick-MacPhie, and launching Rise Craft Pizza at Hotung Café which features environmentally friendly pizza boxes.

Tufts Dining plans to continue its sustainability initiatives and push for as many 4-star locations as possible. They will start by updating dish machines with a much more energy and water efficient machine in Mugar Hall.

 

This fall, sign up for Sustainability In Action!

Selected Topics – Sustainability in Action (ENV-0195-2) is designed to give students a broad exposure to all aspects of sustainability with an emphasis on the wide variety of careers available in the field.

Sustainability-in-action-ENV195-2

Here are the highlights:

  • Wednesday evenings from 6:00 – 9:00 (may end early some nights!)
  • Counts towards an Environmental Studies major or minor.
  • Open to all students, from freshmen to graduate students.
  • Format will feature an academic orientation on weekly topics followed by speakers / panels from “the real world” working in these fields.  Not a lecture class but rather a discussion class!
  • Class projects will be opportunities for job shadowing, informational interviews, and blogging.

If you would like more information please contact Eric Van Vlandren at Eric.Van_Vlandren@tufts.edu.

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