Ryan Miller ’17, Contributing Writer
Last Thursday, October 24, Trinity College hosted its annual Sustainability Day here on campus in an effort to raise awareness of sustainability. The college called on students and faculty alike to meet our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs through efficient usage of resources.
Several projects were on display in Mather Hall, including one about water bottle fillers that could potentially be installed on campus, and another regarding future composting in Mather. Green Campus, a student organization with the aimed at promoting sustainability practices around campus, was at a table collecting signatures in support of projects that are viable for Trinity to implement in the next few months, if sufficient funding and oversight are available.
One proposed project calls for the installation of Elkay hydration stations in common spaces around campus. Water bottle fillers would encourage usage of reusable water bottles, provide convenient hydration, reduce our dependency on plastic water bottles, provide a rapid fill water to quench thirst, and help minimize disposable plastic bottle waste in the environment. The hydrations stations would be placed in Mather Hall, Vernon Social Center, and the Athletic Center as well as gooseneck fillers on other existing water fountains.
Another project sets in place a composting system of the food waste from Mather Dining Hall by taking waste to one of the commercial composters in the state. Composting is a great way to recycle biodegradable items including coffee grounds, tea bags, stale cereal, wet paper towels and expired herbs and spices that would otherwise end up in the garbage.
Facilities, the event host, put together several posters for the event outlining existing campus practices towards sustainability, like electronics recycling and Bantam Blitz, the competition between residential buildings to see who can save the most electricity. This year’s Bantam Blitz will run from November 4th through the17th among most residence halls.
Also on display were the results from a waste audit program, “Fresh Perspectives”, taken from two freshman dorms and one upperclassman dorm. The trash and recycling from the second floors of Funston and Jackson were combined to represent the freshmen, while two hallways in Cook were observed to represent the upper classmen.
Although half of the 16 pounds of trash thrown out by the freshman could have been recycled, the freshman recycling rates of 33 percent still doubled that of the upperclassmen. The upperclassman wasted food, neglected to recycle empty bottles, and had a much higher portion of trash that contaminated the recycling bin. Thus, their recycling rate was a mere 17 percent, closer to Trinity’s average yearly rate of 13 percent.
“Fresh Perspectives” is part of a yearlong student-run project in collaboration with Green Campus to promote recycling among the freshmen, and begin to change the campus culture surrounding recycling. Priyanka Menezes, Class of 2014, and Kira Sargent, Campus Environmental Health and Safety manage the program. The program follows a $1,000 mini-grant that was awarded by the Colleges of the Fenway and the New England Campus Sustainability Forum.
Previous activities related to the grant money included a sustainability survey at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, two events involving handing out recycling bins in first-year residence halls, and the Trashion Fashion Show contest at the Fred last Friday. The latter event was a competition encouraging people to use recyclables to make clothes or sculptures. Events such as this raise awareness to sustainability and offer an exciting new lens to recycling.
Existing school policy dedicated to sustainability on campus includes providing transportation alternatives to the use of personal vehicles and promoting of the use of renewable, reusable, recyclable, and recycled materials. Trinity also follows single-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling allows for students to dispose of all recyclables into one bin without having to separate and sort recyclables.
When papers, plastics, metals, and other containers all go into one bin to be processed together, it reduces the work for both recyclers and collectors. More materials bypass the landfill and the collection process becomes more efficient, since recycling trucks only need one compartment for the mixed materials and the collection can be automated. Single stream recycling also allows for a broader range of materials, since the update in the recycling process allows for an expansion in its capabilities. The overall increase in recycled materials; single-stream recycling makes it easier to do the right thing.
Trinity College’s mission statement identifies the community as “committed to enhancing environmental awareness, responsibility, and sustainability throughout the College community.” Through increased environmental sustainability policy Trinity sets an example and enhances its role as a leader in liberal arts education within the greater community. As leaders of innovation in our society, Trinity has the potential to demonstrate sustainable principles in campus operations and endowment policies.