Tufts Gets Green

Office of Sustainability's Blog

Category: Waste (page 1 of 3)

Eco-Reps Update: New Events!!!

There have been many Eco-Rep Events this month all that involve sustainability, environmental awareness and empowering Tufts students.

Untitled

Compost and Mud Pies

Last week a composting event was held at Houston at which residents learned how to compost, what to compos,t and the purpose of composting. To give a creative spin, the Eco-Rep Rachel Grudt and residents made delectable compostable deserts called ‘mud pies’.

Environmental Jeopardy

On Thursday, Bush and Hodgdon hosted a joint event of Environmental Jeopardy, where residents from both dorms participated in answering Jeopardy questions about composting, recycling, and basic environmental facts. This event also had a make-your-own-fajita Chipotle bar!

Get ready for Earthfest happening on April 11th—and look out for the clothing swap where second-hand clothes are free for the taking! Hang out on the academic quad starting from 11 to 2 pm to see it for yourself!

 

-by Hayley Ernyey

Eco Rep Update: Recyclemania!

The weather this past weekend was just GORGEOUS and we hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did!

We have some exciting news to share… the first round of Recyclemania grades have been released! Woo!

Here are the results…

Screenshot 2014-03-10 13.01.07

Blakely Hall: C

Bush Hall: B

Carmichael Hall: C+

Haskell Hall: C-

Hill Hall: B-

Hodgdon Hall: B-

Houston Hall: C-

Lewis Hall: C

Metcalf: B

Miller Hall: C+

South Hall: C

Stratton Hall: B-

Tilton Hall: B-

West Hall: B-

Wren Hall: B+

The official report can be also be seen here.

It looks as though Wren Hall is in the lead! But have no fear  – If your dorm received a less-than-satisfactory grade, there is another round of grading just around the corner. The winner will be announced at this year’s Earthfest on April 11th! Speaking of which, keep an eye out for a clothes donation box in your dorm where you can drop off any gently used/unwanted clothing. What you may consider a former fashion faux pas may totally brighten someone else’s day. We appreciate very much your donations as we gear up for Earthfest!


Jamie Cordova
EcoRep, Miller Hall

Environmental Waste Coordinator, University of Florida

Application deadline: Feb. 5, 2014

This position is responsible for resource recovery and is integrally involved in accomplishing Zero Waste for the University. Works closely with the PPD Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator and Solid Waste Vendor and the Department of Sustainability to conduct studies in order to identify waste streams that can be diverted into recyclable resources. Researches trends and develops innovative and advanced techniques in zero waste and resource recovery. Implements and monitors the operational processes for the reduction of waste.

Serves as the project manager or lead in projects designed to divert waste from the landfill, which might include programs such as composting, gasification, Bio digestion and others. It serves as the University’s technical expert for these matters, providing strategic direction and program suggestions for sustainable waste management. It is responsible for the progressive development and oversight of these sustainable programs.

Learn more/apply.

Sustainable Selfies Contest!

sustainable.selfies.logoYOU’RE INVITED… TO TAKE SELFIES! 

Who: Tufts University students, staff, and faculty

What: A contest involving selfies, sustainability, and prizes!

When: All semester long!

How: IT’S EASY!  Each week on Monday, we’ll post a prompt on Facebook (“take a picture of yourself negotiating a climate change action treaty” – they’ll be a bit easier than that). Post your selfie to our Facebook page, then encourage your friends, family, colleagues, pets, etc. to like your photo. Whichever photo gets the most likes before the next prompt will win one of our weekly prizes! Plus, whoever takes the photo with the most likes over the course of the semester will win our GRAND PRIZE!

So just to reiterate: snap the selfie, post it to Facebook, accumulate likes, win big!

Why: Prizes! Glory! Plus you’ll learn a ton about sustainability at Tufts and beyond in the meantime.

Some logistics: You need to be in each photo (it’s a selfie!), but feel free to do group pics. Also, you can only win one weekly prize, but make sure to keep participating for the GRAND PRIZE!

GET STARTED NOWLike us on Facebook for the latest info. The first prompt will be up on Monday, February 3rd! Get your polaroids/digital cameras/phones/Google Glasses ready!

Here are some of the prizes at stake:

Spaghetti Scrub

Spaghetti Scrub

Black + Blum lunch box

Black + Blum lunch box

Citrus Zinger

Citrus Zinger

Eco Reps Update: Welcome Back to Tufts!

Hello fellow Jumbos! The Eco-Reps are so excited for a new semester of being green. We are pleased to welcome some new Eco-Reps to our team:

Savannah Christiansen, a sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies and English, will now be repping in Hill Hall. Danielle Mulligan, a freshman from Chicago, is also interested in Environmental Studies and will be an Eco-Rep in Tilton. Hayley Ernyey has returned to her position as an Eco-Rep from a semester in Vietnam; she will be in West Hall while she studies International Relations this semester. Also joining our team is Aparna Dasaraju, a sophomore who will be the second Eco-Rep in Carmichael Hall.

Along with some new faces, the Eco-Reps have some new practices this semester. First of all, compost use will be revamped. This semester, reps will be checking and removing the compost regularly, and each dorm will have a central compost removal hub outside. Dorm dwellers will have the pleasure of knowing whenever their Rep has checked the compost, by viewing the checklist posted at each bin:

 

The bins will be checked on Mondays and Thursdays each week, which will be evident from the sign in sheet.

 Additionally, the Eco-Reps will each be in charge of presenting to the rest of the group about an environmental issue during our weekly meetings. Each of us will get the chance to impart to the group what makes us passionate about the environment, and learn about a variety of others’ interests in the process.

Look out for the Eco-Reps in the upcoming weeks at our meet-and-greets! Hope to see y’all there.

65 Jumbos Did Not Get Wasted for ZWW!

Zero Waste Week finished this past Wednesday! Over 200 bags were distributed, and 65 brave and wonderful jumbos (and professors) did a fantastic job at keeping their waste at a minimum and brought their bags to Jumbo Mountains. Jumbo Mountains was set up on the Academic Quad this year, due to logistical considerations, and many passer-bys’ interests proved this to be a great location with great visibility. Participants were rewarded with some PHENOMENAL Cider Donuts and cider from Wilson Farm in Lexington, and the satisfaction of tallying and knowing they made a huge difference in comparison to normal trash-producing colleagues.

1375818_10201306467316030_1423808072_n1379257_10201306763283429_141550852_n 1378210_10201306762763416_2029029974_n

1374819_10201306743882944_1684032958_n   1374364_10201306764323455_1343410038_n

In addition to students, some professors stopped by, and even Senior Provost David Harris conversed with the Eco-Rep team about the successes and room for improvement in the Zero Waste Week challenge.

Some of the greatest challenges expressed were the individually packaged treats such as candy, cookies, etc., and the fact that when you leave the Tufts Campus and travel to greater Boston or the larger community, recycling and composting is nowhere near as accessible. However, many participants also expressed their surprise at the ease of recycling and composting here on campus-shoutout to Dawn and Tufts Recycles!

Three lucky participants won awesome bags made out of recycled materials from terracycle.com, and they definitely deserve it for their participation.

1240468_10201306750123100_1368906150_n1378885_10201306767043523_1931318160_n

Thank you to everyone who participated in Zero Waste Week. You truly made a difference in our fight to prevent excess waste and reduce our consumption of resources. Green Love!

 

 

Zero Waste Challenge, The Penultimate Day

We’ve reached the last full day of the Zero Waste Challenge. How’s everyone feeling?? Is your bag still empty, or have you had to snag a second Ziploc to handle all your coffee cups?

So I have a bit of a confession to make. I haven’t been totally honest about following the Challenge. I chose not to put in the moldy Gouda that I tossed this weekend – you can’t put dairy in the compost, unfortunately. I also told myself that if I knew that it could be composted if a compost were available, it didn’t count – like the apple I threw into the trash at my internship in Boston or the paper towels I tossed aside in Eaton. I also composted one of those food containers from Hodgdon even though I wasn’t totally sure whether it was compostable… It looked like it! And it was only the second day of the challenge, and I would have had that smelly thing in my bag all week…

I promise I really have been trying, though. I ate a pear between classes one day and carried it around in a bundle of paper towels for hours until I could get back to my dorm and put it in the compost.

Something we’ve discussed around the office was that “Zero Waste Challenge” is kind of a misnomer. We’re not actually asking you to go waste-free for the week: we hope that you’ll be more observant of your own habits and aware of how carrying around your waste – taking the “away” out of throwing trash away – changes how you feel about it. When your waste sticks around, you start thinking about how you can reduce it, right? How could we produce similar results on a large scale? Establish a cap-and-trade system for waste? Set a per capita limit for waste and charge heavy fees beyond that? Require individual landfills in every apartment or backyard so that we all share equally in waste disposal? That would never happen, but you get the idea.

Many of the realizations I’ve had so far have been about our system of consumption and disposal and how it can trap us in or free us from vicious cycles. Like that time I carried a pear around for hours: wouldn’t it have been nice if there were compost bins available on campus besides just in dorms and the dining hall? Same thing with those paper towels in Eaton. Tufts uses mostly unbleached napkins and paper towels, and they can be composted, which is awesome, except that we generally use paper towels in bathrooms where no compost bin is available. Sure, we could carry our used towels around with us – but I think we’d be more likely to see more positive change in individual habits if we were enabled by the system, e.g. if compost bins were available in academic buildings and bathrooms around campus. What’s more, in many dorm bathrooms there aren’t even paper towels but those little tissues that get all peely if you try to dry your hands with them. Why can’t we install some hand dryers, simultaneously saving trees and the hands of poor students in cold and windy winters?

But I realize I haven’t even given you the breakdown of what’s in my bag. Let’s take a look:

  • Gum. So. Much. Gum. I knew this was going to be a problem going into the Challenge – I tend to go through about 4 pieces of gum a day. Most gum wrappers are definitely not compostable, and the internet is divided over whether gum is. I have no idea what my gum is made of – trust me, I tried to read the ingredients and left more mystified than before – so I don’t know how much of it is natural and biodegradable. (Then I start thinking, if it’s not safe to put back into the earth, why am I putting it in me? But it’s an addiction.)
  • Plastic bags - Many plastic bags can be reused or recycled in grocery stores, but then there are those super-thin crinkly ones that you bag your vegetables in at Stop and Shop or Whole Foods or what have you. I try to reuse them but they’re such a low-grade plastic that even washing it feels useless. I HAD a big bag from pretzels in there, but I learned I could Terracycle it! Who knew??
  • Lint. I wish I could have avoided this by hanging my laundry outside – it would have smelled like sunshine! – but such is college. The jury also seems to be out on lint. Tufts Recycles! actually wrote about this issue last year – they would not support composting lint. From the little reading I did online, I think I have to agree with them. If you know for certain that your clothes do not contain synthetic materials, that’s one thing – but most of us, if not all, can’t say that for sure. And any chemicals that end up in your compost will end up in the earth and back in your food or somebody else’s.
  • The plastic wrapper that held my two boxes of soap together.
  • Two hand wipes – I try to avoid these in general (these are the first ones I’ve used in at least a year) because water does the job just fine. Plus, with all the chemicals on them, they’re definitely not going in the compost – so they end up in the trash.

Let’s look at my progression over the week:

photo[1]image[1]image_1[1]image_2[1]

 

For me, the big idea that comes out of this challenge – and something that has already been a huge part of my life, affecting the decisions I make about what I eat, wear, etc. – is that as individuals and as a culture we aren’t cognizant of nor willing to take responsibility for the consequences of our consumption. And not even just environmental either: Earlier this week we posted a Ted Talk by Van Jones, covering the complexities of the intersections of environmentalism and social justice. When we throw away our trash – or even when we recycle – it leaves our little corner of reality but it goes and pollutes someone else’s backyard or fills someone else’s lungs with fumes.  How about that nice blouse you bought from H&M? Do you know where it was made? Do you know how the people who made it live, or how much they earned? If you wear it three or four times and then throw it out because you get tired of it or it gets too ratty, is that doing any justice to the handiwork and materials that went towards its production and distribution? Or the chocolate in the cookies you just ate – was it produced through slave labor in Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)?

I know this is overwhelming, but we as individuals need to acknowledge that our standard of living has consequences, usually not for us directly but for those without political voice or influence, for future generations, etc. I definitely have a problem with the environmental and social repercussions of my lifestyle, and I try to minimize them as much as possible. I hope our Zero Waste Challenge can move you towards doing the same – and together, I hope we can work for systemic change, because whatever we do as individuals, it will have so much more impact if we do it together.

~~Stina Stannik

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!)

Tufts Eco-Ambassadors Take on Styrofoam Mountain

Styrofoam seems to be a perpetual nightmare for environmentalists. A petroleum-based plastic foam consisting mostly of air, it can’t be composted or thrown in with most municipal recycling programs, but for many uses it remains the only practical product.

For example, when departments at Tufts order biomaterials, gel packs or dry ice, styrofoam is the only feasible shipping option, as it keeps the materials cool. Enter Emily Edwards, a staff member in the Chemical and Bioengineering Department, and Abbey Licht, a graduate student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, both of whom became Eco-Ambassadors in 2011 at the Science and Technology Center on our Medford campus. They grew curious when they noticed those unmistakable white shipping containers piling up outside labs and classrooms in their hallway: Could they redirect styrofoam away from landfills?

To assess how much actual need existed, Edwards and Licht began collecting the boxes from the SciTech building in a storage room. After just a month, sixty boxes had accumulated.

Hoping that a solution might already exist on campus, they first talked to Dawn Quirk, the Waste Reduction Program Manager in the Facilities Services Department, about recycling the styrofoam shipping containers. Unfortunately, while the Tufts Recycles program accepts a wide variety of glass, plastic, and metal items, styrofoam can’t go into our green bins.

Above: a month of styrofoam.

Edwards and Licht knew of a local company that would recycle the styrofoam. ReFoamIt, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, compacts the styrofoam into logs at a plant in Rhode Island, then ships it away to be turned into toys and other consumer products.  But Edwards and Licht were also aware that the boxes they were storing were at least 89% air. Could they somehow reduce the volume of the styrofoam to make for easier storage and more efficient transportation? If they handled the styrofoam themselves, would the environmental impact be lower than that of ReFoamIt’s trips to Rhode Island?

Both admit that they are first and foremost engineers, not chemists. Still, like students tackling a science class project, Edwards and Licht dove right in. They first experimented with physical change, recruiting volunteers to smash the styrofoam. They employed mallets and even had the volunteers jumping up and down on top of the boxes – but despite how light and airy styrofoam may seem, Edwards says, it’s a much harder material than one would think, and after hours of work there was little significant volume reduction. The exhausted volunteers placed the styrofoam chunks into bags to be picked up by ReFoamIt.

Not to be discouraged, Edwards and Licht next sought to turn the styrofoam back into a hard, dense plastic. Their first method was chemical: they placed pieces of the styrofoam in cups of acetone, which reduced the plastic to a goopy slime that hardened once the acetone evaporated. While the process resulted in a significant volume reduction, one bag of smashed styrofoam boxes required a whole gallon of acetone, which then evaporated into the air, so significant ventilation was required during the experiment. Moreover, the bottom of a tray of the hardening plastic took months to dry.

Above: a bag of styrofoam boxes, and the equivalent amount of hardened plastic after melting in acetone. The ratio of the volumes was about 50 to 1.

Next, Edwards and Licht melted styrofoam in a large oven at 464 degrees Fahrenheit. This experiment also successfully reduced the volume, but the process produced powerful fumes which filled the lab and the connected hallway. Moreover, only a certain amount of styrofoam could fit into the oven at a given time, so Edwards and Licht needed to open the oven periodically to add more foam, losing heat in the process.

Above: the result of melting styrofoam in an oven. The volume reduction was about the same as in the acetone experiment.

Finally, Edwards and Licht investigated alternatives to styrofoam. After hearing a story on NPR, Edwards ordered an Ecovative box made out of a mix of mushrooms and straw grown into a mold. The box’s weight is similar to that of styrofoam, but Edwards notes that the box has a slight smell and an unusual texture that might not appeal to the general public. So while the mushroom box was an interesting innovation, Edwards couldn’t see a widespread application for them at Tufts.

Above: the mushroom boxes from Ecovative.

 

Ultimately, Edwards and Licht determined that the most efficient, affordable and safe way to dispose of the accumulated styrofoam would be to set up a partnership with Save That Stuff, another local recycling company with which Tufts already has a relationship. Quirk organized a monthly pick-up arrangement, and it has been running smoothly ever since.

Above: sacks of styrofoam waiting for Save That Stuff.

Even though they weren’t able to find an effective way to minimize the styrofoam before sending it away, Licht and Edwards seem satisfied with the results. Licht mentions that until they started collecting the boxes in one room, she had never really thought about how much styrofoam the building used or where it all went. (Prior to their initiatives, it all went into the trash.) They seem eager to find where else this model can be applied at Tufts – there are bound to be other sites of potential improvement that go under the radar, undetected until someone dares to ask whether there might be another way.

Moving forward, Edwards and Licht and Tufts Recycles! are hoping to expand the use of the system they have established at SciTech to collect the styrofoam from labs at the Gordon Institute (200 Boston Avenue) and from the biology department.

Older posts

© 2014 Tufts Gets Green

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑