Project Updates: Zero-Waste Event Success

July 7, 2010 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

from Carnegie Mellon University | Pennsylvania, USA

by Vanessa Schweizer

arnegie Mellon is fortunate to already have many sustainability programs in place, including the Green Practices Committee, which is comprised of administrators, faculty, staff, and students; the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research; and numerous co-curricular opportunities for students to enhance campus sustainability. Although Carnegie Mellon has already adopted sustainable practices on many fronts, for 2010, the Carnegie Mellon delegation decided to focus on waste minimization at campus events for its Student Climate Action project.

One of the most important campus events of the year is the fall orientation for incoming students. The orientation program for freshmen is particularly involved and spans a full week. Just as Rome was not conquered in one day, we decided to start small and worked with the director of orientation to identify where waste minimization could be introduced yet still play a high-profile role. Our goal is to impress upon both incoming students and the existing campus community that waste minimization can be part of the university’s sustainability ethic. We would like the visibility of the zero-waste orientation dinner (estimated to serve 1200 students) to serve as an example to numerous university departments that large events involving food can be executed successfully, while waste heading for the landfill can also be minimized.

Zero-waste events are quite easy to host on campus when a few things are incorporated into event planning. For instance, as shown in the pictures below, compostable plates, flatware, and cups can be selected ahead of time. Choices can also be made to provide drinks out of pitchers instead of single-serving bottles. Additionally, clear signage that distinguishes compostables, recyclables, and trash also minimizes cross-contamination in the waste-stream. Although Carnegie Mellon has the infrastructure to support post-consumer composting in addition to recycling, zero-waste campus events are not yet the norm.

In keeping with our larger vision to expand zero-waste events, one of our delegates attended the June Staff Council meeting to announce our efforts. We were greeted with a warm reception, and Staff Council plans to follow up on these sustainable practices in greater detail. A coordinator from Student Activities has already requested that the delegation assist with a zero-waste event training for all student organizations this September.


Entry filed under: *Universities in North America, Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, USA.

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