Tufts Gets Green

Office of Sustainability's Blog

Tag: zero-waste (page 1 of 2)

Zero Waste Week Is Over!

It’s mid-October, which means that the leaves are changing, apples are everywhere, and Zero Waste Week has now come and gone! Thank you to all of the students, faculty, and staff that took part in the challenge this week!

Zero Waste Week has really been eye-opening for me. It reminded me of how much I could actually compost, recycle, and terraCycle (I’ve saved a lot of things from my bag because of terraCycle!), but also how much trash I use. On the very first day of the Zero Waste Challenge, I started cleaning up things around my dorm, only to realize that the paper towels and cleaning supplies I’d used were just trash. On the whole the Eco-Reps really happy with how the week went, and we definitely won’t forget the lessons we learned over the course of this challenge. Thank you to everyone that participated! Check back next week for a recap of the week and hear about Wednesday’s Jumbo Mountains event.

In other news, Eco-Reps are getting even more involved in their dorms. Most dorms have a shiny, new board decorated with helpful environmental tips and recycled paper. Check out what our very creative Eco-Reps have been putting up for their residents!

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Campaigns are also starting up for the semester. Make sure you talk to your Eco-Rep to see what they’re doing through December! More events are coming up, too, so get excited to see what your hall has planned.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading, staying green, and participating in Zero Waste Week!

 

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:

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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 3

It’s day three of the Zero Waste Challenge and I’ve accumulated a plastic bag that once held trail mix. Not bad, not bad. Admittedly, since I cooked all my meals at home, it has been pretty much smooth sailing

This week-long challenge isn’t all about making as little waste as possible. For me, it is about spreading awareness about food waste and the things we can do to minimize it from our lives. It is inspire others to take the challenge and think about their impact. It is a moment to self-reflect on my role and decisions as a consumer.

On the first day of the challenge, my fellow classmates saw the hanging Ziplock bag from my backpack. Just like that, it sparked a dialogue about the importance of reducing and reusing. It’s never too late to join in on the fun! Come by the Office of Sustainability and pick up your own Zero-Waste kit and spark some conversations of your own. Lastly, stay green, Tufts.

Signing out,

Christina

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

Tips for Zero-Waste Week

It’s easy to do the Zero Waste Challenge when you are at a place like Tufts, where recycling bins abound and compost drops are available on campus. Still, here are some good tips to keep in mind:

  • Snack on fresh fruit – it’s healthier AND it’s compostable.
  • Carry a small tupperware to put food to compost later.
  • Bring your lunch and use the container to get takeout for dinner.
  • Get your drinks without a straw.
  • Avoid individually wrapped tea or drink loose leaf tea.
  • Always bring a reusable mug or water bottle.

    Photo courtesy of Tufts Dining

    • Save 20 cents at Mugar Cafe, Tower Cafe, Brown & Brew, Hodgdon Good-to-Go & Commons Deli if you bring your own mug.
    • The Tufts “Choose to Reuse” clear water bottle will get you a discount on any fountain beverage at Mugar Cafe, Hodgdon Good-to-Go, Commons Deli, and Tower Cafe. Water and sparkling water will also be discounted at Hotung Cafe.

A few things to remember:

  • Aluminum foil and yogurt cups are recyclable.
  • All napkins are compostable.
  • Any rigid plastic can be recycled – including coffee stirrers. (It doesn’t have to fit through the openings of the recycling bin, by the way – just lift the cover.)
  • Energy bar wrappers and chip bags are recyclable. Tufts has Terracycle brigades on campus.

For more information on recycling and composting at Tufts, visit the TuftsRecycles! website.

Good luck and have fun!

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