Living Eco-Responsibly

The Tufts students featured below know what it means to walk the walk (hey, they’re trying to reduce their carbon footprint!). Click on one of the stories below to learn how some Jumbos are living in a way that is environmentally responsible.

  • Reduce. _____. Recycle. Can you fill in the blank? When so many people are still grappling with reducing and recycling—a prime example being their pesky plastic bottles that keep popping up in trash bins—efforts to introduce the concept of reuse into the mix can often feel futile. Although the prospect of achieving zero-waste at Tufts sometimes feels like it is light years away, one amazing off-campus house is leading the way in making “reuse” a part of daily routine.
    “Last week we were a zero-waste household,” says Stephanie Tsuji, one of our TR! Interns.  The house on Winchester Street that Stephanie shares with her housemates, Helen and Jenna, is a shining example of self-sustainable living; together, the girls both grow and dispose of their own food, all without touching a trash can or a ten-dollar bill.
    At the start of the summer, the team of three transformed a patch of overgrown weeds into a garden brimming with brightly-colored fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, zucchini and Swiss chard (don’t feel bad, I hadn’t heard of it either). It’s a real oasis in a sea of concrete and crabgrass.

    Homegrown delicacies: yellow squash, tomato, cucumber

    Stephanie waters her garden.

    Once the garden was growing, they turned to the next task at hand: eliminating food waste. The trio decided to start vermicomposting, which is a process that uses red worms to break down organic matter (read: leftover food) into a nutrient-rich compost. In a climate like Boston’s, vermicomposting is arguably the best way to compost because it can be done indoors, so the effect of weather is negligible. They received the worms and composting bin, free of charge, from Somerville Freecycle and set up their compost on the porch off of the kitchen. Today, there are approximately 100 worms wriggling around in the bin, feasting on coffee grinds, rinds of fruits and vegetables, and once even a cupcake wrapper!


    This sign on the forgotten trash can reminds the girls and their guests alike to think before they "throw away."

    One of the common misconceptions is that compost has a smell, but Stephanie says that when done correctly, it should be relatively odorless.  She warns that you have to keep a close eye on the moisture balance of the compost; if not, the worms will drown. She also cautions against putting large amounts of meat or dairy products into the compost, because these are the foods that can attract pests. In Stephanie’s house, however, the compost has actually eliminated the problem of pesky fruit flies; with the food waste safely stored away in the bin, the flies stay away and leave it to the worms.

    Stephanie and her housemates’ efforts are not only eco-friendly, but also wallet-friendly! The combination of composting and growing their own garden gives the girls the opportunity to enter the Harvard farmers’ market and sell their own crops. They couldn’t do it without the help of the worms, who at the moment are too numerous to thank individually; Stephanie jokes that one day she will sit down and name them all! The worms produce the compost to grow the garden, and since the nutrient-rich compost makes the crops stronger and enables them to fight off diseases, they’re producing some pretty robust strawberries and tempting tomatoes.

    For the time being, Stephanie’s biggest challenge is the day-to-day maintenance to ensure that the amount of moisture in the compost stays balanced. Over the past couple of months, Stephanie has grown accustomed to the demands of keeping her worms happy and healthy. “It’s actually sort of fun for me,” she says. “It’s really satisfying to have a project and take care of something that’s living.” She’ll periodically shuffles the worm casings around (read: manure) and work in different materials into the compost to absorb some of the moisture. For the feeble-minded, this might require an investment in a pair of gardening gloves. Luckily for Stephanie, she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty!


    The top of the compost bin

    Click on one of the links below to learn how to start your own vermicompost.



  • Always REUSE when possible!

    • Carry around a Nalgene or mug for easy refilling, instead of getting a new cup each time.
    • When printing out a paper for editing (that you don’t need to hand in), double-side paper. Keep flyers as scrap paper.
    • Always turn the light off when you leave your room. This saves money and energy.
    • When buying anything, choose the product that will last the longest or that you can get the most use out of. For example: refillable pens, pencils, durable bags.
    • When possible, choose items with less packaging. Purchase paper and other goods made out of post-consumer waste (paper that has been made with recovered scraps from consumer use).
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    Here are some tips we recommend to live more greenly on and around campus:

    • Carry around a Nalgene or mug for easy refilling, instead of getting a new cup each time.
    • Always REUSE when possible
    • When printing out a paper for editing (that you don’t need to hand in), set your printer or copier to print double-sided paper. Keep flyers as scrap paper.
    • Always turn the light off when you leave your room. This saves money and energy.
    • When buying anything, choose the product that will last the longest or that you can get the most use out of. For example: refillable pens, pencils, durable bags.
    • When possible, choose items with less packaging.
    • Purchase paper and other goods made out of post-consumer waste (paper that has been made with recovered scraps from consumer use).

    Additional info for students living off-campus in Medford and Somerville can be found at Eco Off-Campus.

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