It’s five ‘til nine on a Saturday morning, and the early fall air is buzzing with activity. Amidst the flurry of final preparations, the Student Council Sustainability Committee members, myself included, station ourselves at our posts for the day — several large, yellow compost bins — and await the start of Pancakes for Parkinson’s. Throughout the morning, we work to make sure all of the waste from the event ends up in the proper place. By the afternoon, we’re sticky and reek of maple after digging through the trash on more occasions than we care to count, but it has all been worth it. Through our efforts today, along with the help of UVa Dining, Black Bear Composting, and UVa Recycling, we’re able to prevent 3,440 pounds of waste from entering a landfill and make one of the University’s most well known service events even better by keeping it classy, not trashy.
I’ve always considered UVa to be a pretty classy place, but this fall I, along with the rest of the Student Council Sustainability Committee, have gotten a firsthand look at the trashy side of the University. If you attended the Cavalier Cookout or Pancakes for Parkinson’s this year, you may have been overwhelmed by the number of options before you as you tried to dispose of your waste. These options are a result of the StudCo Sustainability Committee’s launch of a new initiative — Zero Waste. Zero Waste means that more than 95% of the waste that piles up at these events — our plates, leftover food, coffee cups – is diverted from the landfill and instead becomes a resource to be used by others.
Student Council is taking this idea of Zero Waste and applying it to some of the school’s most popular events. Making an event Zero Waste requires finding ways to reuse, reduce, and recycle. Recycling, in its traditional sense, is a great way to reduce waste. But this year, for the first time, we can recycle more than just our paper, plastic, metal, and glass. Now we can recycle our food as well, by composting.
Food waste accounts for about a third of our trash, so if we can compost it, we can make significant reductions in the amount of waste we toss in the landfills. By recycling our food instead of simply throwing it out, we are saving valuable landfill space, reducing greenhouse gases, and producing useful organic fertilizers. Your food waste can now be used to revitalize the health of soils, promote plant growth, and reduce our dependence on irrigation and harmful chemicals. Talk about one man’s trash and being into another man’s treasure.
If you are interested in making your event Zero Waste, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and Student Council can help give you all of the information and support that you need!
This blog post was written by Rebecca Walker, a member of the Student Council Sustainability Committee.