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.
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?
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!
Zero Waste Week
Today, October 17th, is the start of Zero Waste Week! From October 17th to October 24th, 200 students will participate in this challenge to raise awareness that trash doesn’t just “disappear.” Participating students will place all trash that will not otherwise not be recycled or composted in a clear plastic bag that they will carry around with them for the week. Students should feel less compelled to create waste since they’ll have to carry it all with them! The plastic bags will be dropped off on the RezQuad at Mt. Trashmore on October 24th and the amount generated by the participants will be compared to the trash generated from a comparable sized dorm. Visit the Office of Sustainability, the Crafts House, or find your Eco-Rep to be a part of the challenge!
October 24th, the end of Zero Waste Week, is also Sustainability Day! This event, taking place from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm, focuses on raising awareness of what has been done and what needs to be worked on to become a sustainable campus. Events for this year’s Sustainability Day include Mt. Trashmore, which will feature individual piles of trash taken from Miller, Houston, Carmichael, and Hill Halls, and “The Story of Bananas” dinner at Dewick. “The Story of Bananas” dinner seeks to educate students on the path of the dining halls’ most eaten fruit from farm all the way to compost. Check out the five stations, play the fun foodie game to win banana themed prizes, and enjoy foods with bananas! In addition, Annie Leonard, the author of “The Story of Stuff” will be holding a talk, question and answer, and book signing session in Cohen Auditorium from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Last night Eco-Rep Sidney May, the Eco-Rep for Wren Hall, held her first event. She set up a tap water vs bottled water taste test and raffled off a Brita reusable water bottle! Sidney threw residents a fun curve ball by serving only tap water. Residents had fun doing the test and were almost always surprised they tried two cups of tap water. Way to go, Sidney!
Hill and West residents, don’t miss the Sustainability Dinner event tomorrow night put on by Eco-Reps Chantal Davis and Laina Piera. The dinner will focus on sustainability of the food in the dining halls. You can’t miss the delicious Flatbread pizzas they’ll be serving for dinner! The event takes place from 6-7pm in the Hill Hall Lounge.
Plus, look out of Do It In the Dark, an inter-dorm competition to see which can reduce their energy consumption the most over a one-month period! More information to come in our next post!
Last September, the AS&E Faculty Meeting announced their plans to “Go Green” with initiatives such as switching from paper to electronic copies of meeting documents, recycling, composting, and encouraging attendees to bring their own cups and silverware.
We are incredibly pleased to share their results from last fall, via an email from Jillian Dubman, Secretary of the Faculty for AS&E:
“On behalf of the Office of the Provost, we wanted to thank all of you who have supported the go-green initiative during the fall 2011 A&S and A&S&E faculty meetings. Because of your efforts, we have:
- Composted 24 bags of post-meeting waste
Instead of throwing out 24 bags of trash
- Recycled all forks and knives
Instead of putting these items back in the trash (and consequently, the ground)
- Cut back meeting document waste
Instead of wasting our paper resources
Most importantly, these efforts make the A&S and A&S&E faculty meetings zero-waste events!”
Congratulations to Jillian and Courtney Spieler for their hard work in spearheading the greening of faculty meetings! May your actions inspire others and move Tufts closer towards becoming a zero-waste campus.
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?)