Since the beginning of March, the three Working Groups of the Campus Sustainability Council have been meeting to discuss the current state of energy/emissions, water, and waste policies and practices at Tufts, and to create new policy measures in these areas.
The Waste Working Group met for the first time on March 12th and reviewed its roles and responsibilities, which include collaborating to create university-wide solid waste reduction/avoidance goals, presenting goals to the main Council for feedback and approval, and creating strategies to meet the goals, including implementation planning.
The group reviewed how Tufts manages its waste as well as consumption data. They learned that causes of waste output variations are usually hard to determine but that waste increases noticeably during a strong economy and times of high consumption, and that reduced consumption and reusing materials could impact waste output considerably. The group reviewed the waste breakdown for the past several years on the Boston and Medford campuses. Finally, the group looked into strategies for waste reduction. The waste management hierarchy follows, from most preferred to least preferred:
- Source reduction and reuse
- Energy recovery
- Treatment and disposal
In the second meeting, the Waste Working Group decided to break down into smaller sub-groups, and the third meeting was spent working within those groups. The groups, along with their objectives, are:
- Waste Management
- To identify gaps and weaknesses in current waste management and address gaps, and to achieve uniformity in waste management practices wherever possible
- Group will cover practices and metrics
- Source Reduction
- Group will impact waste reduction and responsible choices through purchasing contracts and client interface
- Labs and Hospitals
- Group will focus on laboratory and hospital waste management including animal facilities
- Marketing and Education
- Group will raise the level of awareness for waste reduction across all Tufts communities through behavior change
The working group members are now in the process of brainstorming goals and areas of policy change within their subgroups. Once this process is complete, the sub-groups will discuss their findings and the Waste Working Group will make a report to the Sustainability Council. The working group is co-chaired by Gretchen Kaufman, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Medicine in the Department of Environmental and Population Health and Director of the Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dawn Quirk, Waste Reduction Program Manager in Tufts Facilities Services.
As always, Tufts community members are welcome to add their own suggestions for the working group through the easy, on-line form available on the Office of Sustainability’s website.
This holiday season, when considering what to give your loved ones, why not show some appreciation for the planet as well? With the growing popularity of green gifts, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list. To help, websites such as Inhabitat and the Huffington Post have compiled guides specialized for different kinds of gift recipients.
When looking for a special gift for her, think organic cotton, hand knit scarves and gloves, or recovered and repurposed metal necklaces and earrings. These options provide, stylish, personal gifts that won’t impact the environment as much as your everyday accessories. Organic fabric scarves and pendants made from recycled metal are good bets. For him, look for organic shaving and body products, or eco-friendly tech gadgets and accessories. From eco-friendly body kits to shave kits with natural oils, there are great options that won’t harm the planet. In terms of gadgets, think recycled felt ipad cases, stylish watches made from corn resin, or wooden earbuds that not only boost sound but cut down on plastic. When it comes to the food lover in your life, go for recycled material bottles or glasses, or even a hand powered espresso maker. Definitely don’t forget about Mom and Dad this holiday season; we’ve got them covered too with a selection of sustainable products to beautify the home and amp up the kitchen. Go for a plant or mushroom growing kit, cork bowl or cork and bamboo chopping block, or even a bird house to spruce up the home. Even if you’re shopping for a child, you can still go green. Kids are sure to love recycled-content alphabet crayons, a toy school bus made from recycled milk jugs, or eco-dough—sure to provide hours of entertainment.
So, whatever you choose to give this year, remember that it is possible to not only find the perfect gift, but also to buy responsibly and support a more sustainable world. Give back in every way this season with thoughtful, sustainable gifts for everyone on your list.
Luckily the guy behind me didn't have any complaints about my bag…
Since today is the last day of Mass Car-Free Week, my fellow commuter rail travelers got a special peek at my Zero-Waste Challenge trash. We have now sent out invitations to lots of students and employees at Tufts encouraging them to try their own challenge. My colleague, Ann Greaney-Williams (also the Environmental Studies coordinator) is going to do it with her five-year old and her husband. And two other staff from OOS will be starting their challenge week on Monday – so you can join them too.
I did notice another unintended consequence – the Zero-Waste Challenge keeps your dietary indiscretions in full view – no more pretending you didn’t eat that cookie or candy bar. I haven’t decided if this is a good thing yet…
On another note, the other day I was reminded that there was life before disposable tissues and it’s time to re-discover handkerchiefs! With so many awesome designs out there like these by Hank & Cheef, how can you resist buying one for every day of the week? If you don’t want to buy anything you can make your own perfect ones with a sewing machine and a scrap of fabric. Or, if like me, the sewing machine won’t be entering my life soon enough for my next bout of sniffles, check out this awesome blog on how to make simple, adorable, no-sew t-shirt tissues.
Maybe this is the solution to my cat’s insistence on pulling my non-eco-friendly tissues out of my trash bin and chewing them to bits on the floor… (speaking of which – does that count as trash for this week if I used them last week?)
OOS intern Hannah contemplates her trash so far
The Eco-Reps started their Zero-Waste Challenge Tuesday night and several of the OOS staff members are participating as well. What does this mean you ask? In a nutshell it means that for an entire week you don’t throw anything in the trash – instead you carry it around with you in a clear plastic bag on the outside of your backpack (shocking, eh? Full rules here) or you recycle or compost it. The idea is that there is no “away” and how different would we act if we actually couldn’t throw anything ‘away’? It’s quite an enlightening experience as you realize how many things have packaging and how hard it is to not generate trash.
My reminder not to throw anything in the trashcan!
As this is the fourth time I’ve done this exercise (it’s always a great reminder about how much you can compost, recycle and reuse – especially after you’ve slipped back into some wasteful habits…*wink wink*), I knew that the hardest thing in the first couple days is to remember not to use the trash can. So… this time I borrowed a social marketing tool and created prompts. I also noticed last time that the most abundant item in my bag was q-tips, so I pledged to do without my morning ear-cleaning ritual (yes, yes, I know you’re not supposed to – but it feels so goood!).
No q-tips for me!
The interesting thing about this exercise is that you realize that there are actually lots of unintended positive consequences that stem from trying to not generate trash. For example, this morning I didn’t have anything obvious in my fridge to bring for lunch, so I figured I’d just buy something. But then I thought of the potential dreaded take-out container – what if it wasn’t recyclable?! So, instead I packed up a lunch of some tomato and kale soup I had been waiting to make taste good (right now, it just tastes healthy) and some brown rice I had cooked a few days ago and stored in the freezer. You can’t really get more healthy a lunch than that can you? So, unintended consequence #1: healthy, home-made food saves money and promotes good eating.
Hannah’s unintended consequence from her first foray into zero-waste challenges was that instead of throwing that extra bit of extra pasta into her pot last night (since the box was almost empty), she left it in the box – cooking only exactly the amount she needed for dinner. Therefore, unintended consequence #2: portion control and perhaps even preventing wasted food (if you, like me, have a tendency to forget about your leftovers…).
We will be posting more tips and discoveries as the week goes on. What about you? Do you think you could ever try the challenge – for one day, one week, one month?? (one of our Eco-Reps did it for 6 weeks when she was in high school!). If you want to join us on our adventure, we would love to hear about your experiences – please comment below!