In an effort to make the college community aware of their recycling and composting practices, the Green Advisors, in conjunction with Environmental Services, the Grounds Crew and the Sustainability Committee, organized an audit of the college’s waste.
The Green Advisors, a student group that promotes environmentally-conscious decisions on campus, conducted the trash audit outside of the Science Center on Wednesday, November 6. During the audit, students, faculty and staff helped sort waste into nine categories: items in the trash that are compostable/recyclable/trash, items in the recycling that are compostable/recyclable/trash and items in the compost that are compostable/recyclable/trash.
Out of the waste thrown into the trash, 37 percent of it was actually trash while the rest could have been composted or recycled. Out of all of the waste that could have been composted, 7.6 percent of it was put into the compost. Additionally, the college community threw away 79 pounds of compost.
“The idea behind the trash audit was to have an actual visual of how much waste we as students produce and how much is being disposed in the wrong ways,” green advisor Indiana Reid-Shaw ’17. “We will continue these audits so that we can have records and observe the downward trend in campus waste.”
Following the audit, the Green Advisors’ plan to put up more signs and create educational campaigns to make people more aware of what should be composted and recycled. In addition, the Green Advisors hope to be able to put more compost bins in place around campus.
Green Advisors found the audit to be productive, helping them better understand how much general knowledge about recycling and composting that the community possesses.
“I was really happy we were finally able to do the audit, since we’ve been waiting to get baseline waste data for a while so that we have something to measure our improvement against,” wrote Green Advisor Kelley Langhans ‘16 in an email to the Phoenix. “The results were striking, and show that as a school we do a really bad job composting. The audit has given [the Green Advisors] a stronger focus on teaching people what is compostable and making composting more convenient.”
Although the audit has had a positive impact on many members of the community, for Dining Services, cost is standing in the way of acting as environmentally favorably as possible.
“We will continue to think of better products for the environment,” wrote Linda McDougall, director of dining services. “The shame about this is most of these products are still quite costly and we have to pass these costs along to our customers, and many customers do not want to pay added costs for such things.”
Some say that the trash audit has already had a positive impact on the way that students are recycling and composting. Since the audit, Hazlett Henderson ’17, who frequently picks up the compost from the Science Center and Kohlberg, has observed an increase in the amount of compost and a greater interest amongst the student body about what can be composted.