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Striving for Zero Waste at the 2019 President’s Picnics

Many of our celebrated BYOP-ers are pictured above! Read the blog post below to learn what all of them are smiling about

This year’s President’s Picnics took the various Tufts campuses practically by storm, one happening right after the other at the end of May. A few weeks ahead of previous years, President Monaco kicked off the picnic season on the Medford/Somerville campus. It was a bright early summer day that drew staff and faculty out of their offices, labs, and studios, not to mention a few students that were still around as well. A shuttle was provided for people coming from the SMFA campus, with over 1,700 attendees counted in all.

Keeping in line with the zero waste efforts of years past, the Office of Sustainability coordinated with catering services to see that all of the disposable, single-use tableware provided at the picnic was compostable, including the plates, utensils, and cups (plus napkins too, of course). This also meant going over the menu in detail, recommending cookies over, say, a whipped dessert that might come in a plastic cup which could be too hard to clean of leftover food and ultimately have to be trashed. Condiments for the delicious main fare of burgers/veggie burgers were set out in bulk, to avoid any single serving packets and reduce the overall amount of food packaging. Out under the shade of the trees on the President’s lawn, several compost-only waste stations were set up and staffed by students to help people compost all their unfinished food along with the biodegradable tableware– meaning nothing should have been sent to the landfill on the attendees’ part. An Office of Sustainability intern who is well-versed in recycling and compost rules worked near where catering was set up, sorting the waste generated by food preparation and clean-up into the appropriate waste streams, greatly reducing what otherwise had the potential to be sent to the landfill.

Student worker standing next to Medford/Somerville picnic waste station

For those ready to take their sustainability to the next level, the Office of Sustainability offered a limited number of prizes to attendees that participated in the picnics’ BYOP initiative– Bring Your Own [Reusable] Place-setting. By visiting our table with a complete place-setting of their own– a plate/bowl, a utensil(s), and something to drink out of– each picnic attendee was eligible to take home this year’s prize: a bamboo straw with a cleaner and a carrying pouch to easily tote the set around with you. The bamboo for the straws was sustainably sourced in Indonesia and each one was laser engraved with the university-wide ‘Tufts – sustainability’ text lock-up. We ran out of straws at each picnic, with the Boston Health Sciences campus being the most enthusiastic and emptying our supply in less than half an hour that day.

Even if a picnic attendee didn’t have a complete place-setting, they were still awarded a President’s Picnic sticker printed by the Office of Sustainability and given the chance to enter our raffle drawing for this year’s grand prize of a set of three reusable produce bags. One prize was drawn on each campus, with 132 entries for Medford/Somerville, 96 at Boston Health Sciences, and 74 in Grafton. After moving the Grafton picnic to it’s rain date as a result of temperamental weather and still getting a rather brisk May picnic day, we were especially impressed with the attendees at that campus that kept their BYOP numbers on par with previous years.

A big thank you to everyone who brought a reusable of any type to one of the President’s Picnics this year. To all who earned a straw, we hope that they get put to good use representing the ever-growing culture of sustainability at Tufts, and inspire co-workers, students, and community members around you to carry their own reusable items with them to reduce the waste of single use products. We look forward to greeting everyone at next year’s picnics– and don’t forget to tell your friends to BYOP too!

Third Carbon Neutrality Community Workshop

By Michael Wilkinson, Office of Sustainability Intern

The Third Carbon Neutrality Community Workshop provided students, faculty, staff, and community members an opportunity to try their hand at creating a path to carbon neutrality at Tufts through a carbon reduction simulation. In this simulation, the carbon neutrality planning team and Tufts’ carbon neutrality consultant, Ramboll Group, provided information on potential scenarios to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Teams broke off into groups to see if they could arrive at full carbon reduction by 2050 within the temporal, social, environmental, and economic constraints of our University. Through critical thinking and teamwork, the groups were able to assemble a cohesive and functioning group of projects that both satisfied our carbon neutrality requirement while remaining conscientious of our constraints. Following this simulation, groups were given an opportunity to explain their choices.

Dan Kelley from Ramboll Group then provided relevant information to explain potential projects for the Medford/Somerville Campus. Throughout this presentation, event participants asked pertinent questions relating to each project and their larger implications for campus life. To conclude their presentation, Ramboll Group provided the current project choices, which include steam to hot water conversion, connection of the Upper and Lower Campus heating loops, a conversion of existing boilers to biofuel, and several more.  

This event allowed participants to learn and engage with the carbon neutrality planning process. Chockfull with complex technologies, on-campus interests, varied stakeholders, and peculiarities, this project requires the attention of our entire community.

Recycling in Tufts Apartment Style Dorms

Do you know how to properly recycle in Tufts residences such as Latin Way, Hillsides, SoGo, and Coho?

Test yourself:

Which of these can you recycle?

  • clear plastic cups
  • colored plastic cups
  • paper plastic cups

Can you dispose of your recycling in a plastic bag?

Where is the recycling dumpster for your dorm?

To learn more about recycling visit!

UEP Tupperware Initiative

I asked Mike Flanary, a staff assistant at the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Eco-Ambassador, about UEP’s Tupperware initiative. He described a system that reduces waste – both food and dishware – as long as students remember to bring them. Below, read more details about the program. 

The Urban and Environmental Policy department hosts an event series each semester called the UEP Colloquium. The events, usually presented by alums of the program, focus on urban and environmental issues. Since they take place during Wednesday open block (12-1pm), the department provides lunch. 

Mike Flanary says that with extra department funds, the department Chair, Mary Davis, wanted buy swag for students. “It’s pretty crazy the amount of objects that you can put a logo on these days and most of them aren’t very practical or usable and are rather cheap quality… Our students and faculty use the kitchen in our building for storing their lunch in the fridge and microwaving food, so when I was looking at possible swag items, this instantly came to mind.” Tupperware would be practical, especially for bringing home food from the colloquium. Otherwise, leftovers are thrown out, whether on the day of the event or later, when the fridge gets cleaned out. 

Flanary described a lesson from his Eco-Ambassador training that stuck with him: Companies try to “go green” but often just to make it look or feel good, without making a dent in waste production. For example, recyclable or compostable products are more expensive and still are only used once. If they are not disposed of properly, they will end up in the waste strem along with the food that remains uneaten at the event. He quoted a proverb, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

The response to this initiative has been positive. Many students also bring reusable water bottles, coffee tumblers, and mason jars. Flanary says that food waste has decreased. “It’s allowed students to grab some extra food for later that would probably have been thrown out. We don’t send out an RSVP for the event so we try to get enough food while not having too much leftover. Since getting the containers, we have tried to have food that fits in the containers and that people would want to have later.”

For the future, or for other departments to adopt? “Remind students to pack up their containers the day before or even better to just have it their backpack.” The production of the plastic containers will only be offset if students use the containers frequently. “My hope is that students continue to bring them to future events, but it might be like the reusable bags issue, they’re great but it only works if people actually bring them into the store, or to the events in this case. Perhaps entice people with an incentive for bringing it with them.” Other departments who would like to start a similar initiative could think about what disposables get used up often. What costs a lot when ordering through WB Mason? How could an alternative work? Do you think it would be used? Would it be convenient? 

More information about past UEP events is available:

New Eco-Reps!

Meet our new Eco-Reps for this Spring 2019!

Tara is a first year from Berkeley, California. When she’s not busy doing work for her undeclared major, you can find her bouldering with the Tufts rock climbing team, hiking up a mountain for a beautiful view, getting crafty at the Crafts Center, scribbling in her journal, or Rubik’s cubing. She’s super excited to get her hands dirty in some compost with the Eco-Reps team this year and to spread her love for the environment with other Tufts students!



Dani is a sophomore from New Jersey who plans on majoring in Sociology and minoring in Studio Art. Dani has been a vegetarian since they were seven years old, and has always made a passionate commitment to protecting the earth and all of the life it holds. On campus, in addition to being an Eco-Rep, Dani does mental health advocacy with the student group Active Minds, and they volunteer at the Craft Center! In their free time, you can likely find them doodling, making friendship bracelets, drinking tea, and creating an unreasonable volume of playlists on Spotify.


Eduardo is a freshman from South Bound Brook, New Jersey majoring in Environmental Engineering and minoring in Engineering Management. Eduardo was born and raised in Costa Rica, a country where flora and fauna are of utmost importance, hence his passion for sustainability. His dream for the future is to work with water treatment and sanitation around the world. Unlike many other people from NJ, he certainly does believe that central Jersey exists. He is a math enthusiast, loves playing soccer and tennis, as well as weightlifting. On campus he is part of Tufts SOLES (Society of Latinx Engineers and Scientists), Tufts Club Soccer, Students for Environmental Awareness, future Latino Peer Leader, and works as a research assistant with the Lantagne Group.  


Susie is a freshmen majoring in international relations. She is from Chengdu, China, where you can find a lot of pandas. Susie enjoys eating croissant, taking pictures and running on campus. Her dream is to have a Shiba Inu cafe. She is excited to be an Eco-Rep this year!

Jiyoon Chon is a second year student majoring in biology and biotechnology.  She is originally from Seoul, South Korea but grew up in Seattle. She is also a Tufts 1+4 in Madrid fellow and loves to travel the world. At Tufts, she is part of the Flute Ensemble and the Korean Students Association. In her free time, she loves making and drinking coffee and watching dog videos in bed!


Katie is a sophomore from North Caldwell, NJ double majoring in Applied Environmental Studies and Science, Tech, & Society. A lover of all things health and wellness, Katie is a Certified Personal Trainer, a group fitness instructor, and a semi-professional mango peeler. Katie is stoked for her environmental internship this summer in Tel Aviv and the opportunity to explore agricultural and food tech start ups. She is so thrilled to be an Eco-Rep and would love to talk all things food and fitness!



Angela is a first-year medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine. She enjoys running, hiking, and virtually any outdoor activity, and has played the violin since she was 3 years old. On Saturdays in the fall you can find Angela watching her alma mater (Notre Dame) play football.



Christine is a first year medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine. She is originally from California and attended the University of Southern California where she studied biology and French as an undergrad and genetics as a graduate student. Christine enjoys being outside diving, climbing, hiking, and exploring. Before starting medical school, she spent two months in Honduras researching and promoting marine conservation and is now super stoked to find a new outlet to promote sustainability and environmental awareness as an Eco-Rep!




Robert Davis is in his final year at the Fletcher School where he studies development and trade. He hopes to work in the field of economic development in Southeast Asia. Originally from Mesa, Arizona – the true sunshine state (move over Florida!) –  he grew up digging for worms in the dirt and gardening in his backyard. He identifies as an obsessive-compulsive recycler (sometimes at the expense of water usage) and his pet-peeves include those pesky stickers on banana peels. As an Eco-Rep, he looks forward to helping his fellow students make good use out of what would otherwise be waste.


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