Striving for Zero Waste at the 2019 President’s Picnics

Many of our celebrated BYOP-ers are pictured above! Read the blog post below to learn what all of them are smiling about

This year’s President’s Picnics took the various Tufts campuses practically by storm, one happening right after the other at the end of May. A few weeks ahead of previous years, President Monaco kicked off the picnic season on the Medford/Somerville campus. It was a bright early summer day that drew staff and faculty out of their offices, labs, and studios, not to mention a few students that were still around as well. A shuttle was provided for people coming from the SMFA campus, with over 1,700 attendees counted in all.

Keeping in line with the zero waste efforts of years past, the Office of Sustainability coordinated with catering services to see that all of the disposable, single-use tableware provided at the picnic was compostable, including the plates, utensils, and cups (plus napkins too, of course). This also meant going over the menu in detail, recommending cookies over, say, a whipped dessert that might come in a plastic cup which could be too hard to clean of leftover food and ultimately have to be trashed. Condiments for the delicious main fare of burgers/veggie burgers were set out in bulk, to avoid any single serving packets and reduce the overall amount of food packaging. Out under the shade of the trees on the President’s lawn, several compost-only waste stations were set up and staffed by students to help people compost all their unfinished food along with the biodegradable tableware– meaning nothing should have been sent to the landfill on the attendees’ part. An Office of Sustainability intern who is well-versed in recycling and compost rules worked near where catering was set up, sorting the waste generated by food preparation and clean-up into the appropriate waste streams, greatly reducing what otherwise had the potential to be sent to the landfill.

Student worker standing next to Medford/Somerville picnic waste station

For those ready to take their sustainability to the next level, the Office of Sustainability offered a limited number of prizes to attendees that participated in the picnics’ BYOP initiative– Bring Your Own [Reusable] Place-setting. By visiting our table with a complete place-setting of their own– a plate/bowl, a utensil(s), and something to drink out of– each picnic attendee was eligible to take home this year’s prize: a bamboo straw with a cleaner and a carrying pouch to easily tote the set around with you. The bamboo for the straws was sustainably sourced in Indonesia and each one was laser engraved with the university-wide ‘Tufts – sustainability’ text lock-up. We ran out of straws at each picnic, with the Boston Health Sciences campus being the most enthusiastic and emptying our supply in less than half an hour that day.

Even if a picnic attendee didn’t have a complete place-setting, they were still awarded a President’s Picnic sticker printed by the Office of Sustainability and given the chance to enter our raffle drawing for this year’s grand prize of a set of three reusable produce bags. One prize was drawn on each campus, with 132 entries for Medford/Somerville, 96 at Boston Health Sciences, and 74 in Grafton. After moving the Grafton picnic to it’s rain date as a result of temperamental weather and still getting a rather brisk May picnic day, we were especially impressed with the attendees at that campus that kept their BYOP numbers on par with previous years.

A big thank you to everyone who brought a reusable of any type to one of the President’s Picnics this year. To all who earned a straw, we hope that they get put to good use representing the ever-growing culture of sustainability at Tufts, and inspire co-workers, students, and community members around you to carry their own reusable items with them to reduce the waste of single use products. We look forward to greeting everyone at next year’s picnics– and don’t forget to tell your friends to BYOP too!


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