In the week leading up to Earth Day (Friday, April 22nd), I participated in the Eco-Reps’ Zero Waste Challenge. After signing up for the challenge, I received a clear bag to collect all of the waste I generate which cannot be diverted from the landfill (i.e. all non-recyclable and non-compostable items excluding biohazards).
During this time, I became aware of some of my more wasteful behaviors. I found that most of the waste I normally produce comes from food packaging. As a student with a meal plan living on-campus, I don’t have the ability to buy food in bulk to reduce my waste. However, there are many ways to produce less waste with the great and convenient options on campus.
1. Eat at the dining halls!
I am lucky enough to have an unlimited meal plan, so I tend to eat most of my meals at the dining halls. I love Carm, because it offers plenty of food options and convenient, nice, cozy place to study. During this week, I realized that when I eat at the dining halls, I do not directly produce any waste. There is no packaging to send to the trash. Leftover food gets donated to Food For Free through Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative and waste gets composted. Carm and Dewick get all their products in bulk which greatly reduces the amount of packaging that would be sent to the landfill. If you have the time, and the meal swipes, head to the dining halls!
2. BYO containers or mugs to avoid food packaging.
We all have days when dining halls are just not an option. We are heading to class, yet another meeting, or just need to bunker down in Tisch, Eaton, Campus Center, or Halligan. That’s when Hodgdon, Pax et Lox Kosher Deli, and The Rez come in handy! It is easy to forget about the small waste items like straws, plastic seals, and packages for things like dressing, soy sauce, and condiments, but a great way to reduce waste from food packaging is to bring reusable food containers or a mug with you. In fact, The Rez provides discounts when you BYOM (Bring Your Own Mug), for any size you pay for a small. (Extra Special Bonus: The Rez also composts all its used coffee grinds—which are fair trade!) You can also get 20¢ off your purchase through the Mug Discount Program at Mugar Café, Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run, Commons Marketplace, and Brown & Brew Coffee House.
If you forget to bring your reusable food containers with you, some of the packaging at Hodgdon is compostable—the recycled pulped paper containers that come with Quesadillas and Roasters meals.
If you are in a pinch and have to grab a granola bar from Hodgdon, you can hold onto the wrapper and deposit into one of Tufts’ many Terracycle Stations (set up in the Office of Sustainability (in the back of Miller Hall) and in several residence halls) found in the Office of Sustainability’s Eco Map. These wrappers get collected by Tufts and sent to Terracycle which converts them into retail products like bags and lunchboxes.
3. Compost your food scraps!
The organic food waste I created came from fruit scraps (apple cores, orange peels, strawberry leaves, etc.). But, I realized how abundant composting on campus is. I could either wait until I got home to compost in my residence hall, bring my scraps to the dining halls which compost food scraps, or even deposit my waste at one of many compost receptacles on campus, easily found in the Eco Map. Living off campus? No worries! You can compost at home and bring the full bags to the yellow receptacles scattered across campus.
Zero Waste Week reminded me to keep my eyes open and pay attention to the wasteful behavior that I normally don’t notice.
To the Eco-Rep Zero Waste Week Challenge, I say, “10 out of 10, would recommend and will do again!”