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“Be sure how you recycle reflects why you recycle.”

A few weeks ago, Tina Woolston and Shoshana Blank attended the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference. With a community of sustainability coordinators from all over the U.S.(as well as other countries), Tina and Shoshana attended workshops, talks, and all vegan meals. Fellow conference attendees, although from different colleges and universities, have similar tasks, challenges, , and breakthroughs.

Tufts has a strong composting and Eco-Reps program. We engage with students in residence halls, as well as with faculty and staff, through the Eco-Ambassador program and Green Office Certifications. At the conference several ideas were shared that we haven’t yet tried:  

  • Recycling bins with a sign attached to the back of the bin and extending up, rather than the wall. This way, the bins and their signs can be moved around together. Plus, sometimes signs are not allowed to be fixed to the wall.
  • Mattresses made of recycled materials. They have one firm side and one soft side, and can be sent back to the company to recycle again.
  • Quieter, waterproof electric leaf blowers to avoid noise pollution and fumes. They are much safer for the health of facilities workers.

At a pre-conference talk, Boston University described their commitment to achieving 100% renewable electricity by the end of this year. Because Boston and New England in general have relatively “clean grids” (meaning we use less coal and oil for energy), financing a renewable energy project in a part of the country that uses less clean energy. In this case, BU is offsetting emissions in North Dakota.

Tufts University might consider a similar approach in an effort towards carbon neutrality on our Medford/Somerville campus.

Other highlights of the conference include:

  • A discussion with sustainability directors who report directly to university presidents
  • LEED certified buildings in Pittsburg
  • How efforts to reduce dorm waste during move-out can reduce carbon emissions
  • Internal carbon tax: how much are people willing to pay per unit of carbon on campus?
  • Northeast colleges: some issues are specific to New England institutions. For example, Middlebury college can use wood as biomass for energy instead of oil, coal, or natural gas.
  • Carleton College’s geothermal project: restoration rather than expansion. Alternative to steam was to replace steam with hot water
  • Three University of California schools working together as part of a system to reach STARS platinum level . Reminding senior leaders that STARS is a strategic tool, not just a marketing one
  • Panelists also highlighted that we should “be sure how we recycle is why we recycle.” Thoughtful and intentional messaging and recycling infrastructure is necessary to ultimately reduce input to landfills.

Conferences are a great way to reach outside of Tufts and meet people who are also interested in sustainability. If you are interested in attending a conference as a student leader, look into the Student Sustainability Leadership Weekend Conference, which will be held at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy.


November 30-December 2, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson NY

C2C workshops are for undergraduate students and recent graduates who want high-impact sustainability careers that can change the future, in policy, business and politics. A registration fee of $30 covers meals and housing. Led by Dr. Eban Goodstein, Director of Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy, C2C trainings focus on key leadership skills: vision, courage, developing your network, telling your story, and raising funds. Graduates of the workshops join a national network with access to continuing educational and professional opportunities, including dedicated scholarships to attend Bard’s Graduate Programs in Sustainability: Masters of Science degrees in Environmental Policy and Climate Science and Policy; a new M. Ed. Degree in Environmental Education; and the Bard MBA in Sustainability.


  • Registration:  $30 includes meals and housing.
  • Conference begins at 5 PM Friday 11/30 and ends on 12 noon Sunday 12/2.
  • Bard College is 90 miles north of New York City, and is easily accessible by Amtrak from Penn Station in NYC.
  • Questions? Please contact Agim Mezreku,


Zero Waste Week

interns with zero waste week bags

When we throw away our trash, it does not just go “away.” It goes into a landfill. You might have seen people carrying around clear ziplock bags full of trash on their backpacks this week. Instead of disposing of their waste immediately, where it is out of sight an out of mind, Zero Waste Week participants will collect their landfill-bound waste for one week to visualize how much we contribute to that landfill. How much trash do you think you produce in a week?


  • Place all non-recyclable, non-compostable waste into the plastic bag.
  • Compostable and recyclable items should be properly sorted into their respective toters or bins.
  • We include disposable plastic water bottles in our bags, since 50 billion of them were bought in the US last year. Carry your reusable water bottle instead!
  • Do not include bio-hazards

Zero Waste Week stories from OOS interns:

Michaela: Zero Waste Week has compelled me to start composting my Kleenex because I didn’t want to see them go into my bag. So now I have a compost in my bathroom.

Ana Sophia: I have a Keurig coffee machine and so I feel bad about having so many K cups in my bag. I’m going to look into finding reusable cups where you just fill it up with coffee.

Isabel: Most of my waste would come from food, but I buy a lot of my food in bulk, so I don’t have a lot of packaging waste. I found out that some granola bars I eat are not foil-lined, so I cannot put them in the terracycle.

Maria: I have not started Zero Waste Week until today. Last year, the wind blew my bag off of my back pack on my way home. I was so worried that I had littered a whole bag of trash. But later that night, I retraced my steps and found it snagged in a bush. I was on my way to a concert, where I was pretty sure they wouldn’t let me in with my trash bag, so I stashed it in another bush, and picked it up on my way home to continue with my Zero Waste Week.


New “How to Recycle” Video!

Due to the level of contamination of U.S. recycled materials, there have been recent changes to global recycling systems. You can read more about these changes on our previous blog post.

We know that keeping up with current recycling guidelines can feel like a full time job, but the Office of Sustainability at Tufts is here to help you! We have the low-down on what to do with pizza boxes, soiled plates, and even your sneakers. Watch our new video below to learn more:


Journal Article Review: Indigenous Artists Against the Anthropocene

Jessica L. Horton’s “Indigenous Artists Against the Anthropocene” highlights the history of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in relation to the Ecological Movement, then brings attention to present day Indigenous Artists who have persisted through white supremacist and capitalists structures that threaten both the environment and Indigenous communities.

While AIM’s conceptualization of humans living “with the land and not simply on it,” points to a valuable approach to sustainability that recognizes humans’ participation in a larger ecosystem, it is important to avoid stereotyping Indigenous Americans according to the “ecological Indian” trope. Horton writes, “Substituting the ecological Indian for the work of Native thinkers and makers reinforces images of American Indian people as localized reactionaries under perpetual threat from large-scale ruptures such as colonization and climate change, rather than as purveyors of imaginative forms of global collectivity and connectivity.”

Indigenous American oppression is often cast as an object of the past, but like global warming, their struggle is ongoing, part of the past, present, and future. As we fight against climate change, keep in mind the colonial history of resource extraction and exploitation. The same Enlightenment ideals that inspired the industrial revolution, warming our planet, also led to brutal conquest of Indigenous people.

You can read Horton’s full article here: Indigenous Artists against the Anthropocene

Other resources:

From PBS, Native American Communities Affected by Climate Change Plan for the Future

Climate Change’s Impacts on People

Denmark: Where the skies are blue and sustainability is nothing new

I spent my last semester in the beautiful city of Copenhagen, Denmark. I was very excited for the pastries, beautiful scenery and trying the Nordic cuisine. Little did I know how much their sustainability values would amaze me! Through the cold winter, gloomy days, and dark nights – the Danes continued to implement sustainable initiatives. Denmark’s goal is to produce enough renewable energy to cover its total energy consumption by 2050. Impressive!

Denmark prides itself on honing the best companies and creators of technology in the world. As part of my core course, we visited various types of companies in Denmark to understand business strategies in different industries. After visiting some of the larger companies and examining their corporate cultures, it was evident that sustainability was a big part of their business models. A lot of their energy sources depended on wind and solar power.

This value system holds true among the population as well. From toddlers on tricycles to businessmen in suits and old retired couples buying groceries, Denmark is a haven for cyclists. With over 390 kilometers of designated bike lanes, it was no surprise that Copenhagen is officially the first Bike City in the world. Last year it was voted as the “Best city for cyclists” and the “World’s Most Livable City.” The air is fresh, there’s light traffic on the roads, and the population is healthy and happy!

I was fascinated by how committed Copenhagen is to their sustainability goals. To achieve their emissions reduction goal, the country aims to reach a 40% reduction by 2030, and is expected to achieve that rate in certain sectors by 2020. Because of their commitment, Copenhagen has been chosen as the host of the C40 Mayors Summit where delegates from nearly 100 cities around the world will meet to discuss strategies to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and limit CO2 emissions.

My personal experience and further research has reinforced my belief that as a community at Tufts we can come together to make our space a cleaner, greener, and healthier one. The biking culture is such a great way to stay healthy and environmentally friendly. An emphasis on using public transport (which is so efficient in Denmark, too!) is another way to stay on track.

I highly recommend studying abroad in Copenhagen. It is a great way to experience a new culture of tremendous environmental commitment first hand!

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