The Sustainability Council at The Evergreen State College has set a goal: the Evergreen campus will generate zero landfill waste by 2020. Some may see this goal as impossible. Others, such as the members of the Sustainability Council, see this goal as not only possible, but essential. Landfills across the country are quickly nearing capacity, and in response Greeners are taking action.
In order to reduce landfill trash on campus, Greeners have turned to reusing, recycling and composting waste instead. The Evergreen Organic Farm, and Silver Springs Organics, a local commercial composting facility, picks up an average of 6000 lbs. of compost each week. At present, Silver Springs accepts the bulk of it; however, many Greeners hope to see the Organic Farm expand its compost capabilities in the future.
During the winter academic quarter, Evergreen took part in a national competition called RecycleMania. Students, staff and faculty joined efforts to better educate people on proper recycling practices. During the 10 week competition, a group of students, staff and faculty met bi-weekly to coordinate waste reduction efforts across campus. With the help of Sherry Parsons in the office of Facilities Services, coordinators Lindsay Raab, Natalie Pyrooz and Halli Winstead tracked the weights of campus landfill trash, recycling and compost over the 10 week period; the results were then posted on the Evergreen Sustainability website. The RecycleMania team held two waste audits on campus that served as educational tools for everyone involved. Recyclable waste in landfill trash bins was weighed and recorded on a chalkboard for everyone to view, and later analyzed and communicated to the campus community. Other RecycleMania activities included weekly email trivia, creating art from discarded materials, and fieldtrips to Silver Springs Organics.
Students and staff in Residential and Dining (RAD) Services also took steps toward zero landfill waste. When college students move out of their dorm rooms at the end of each academic year, a lot of landfill waste is created. In its effort to strive toward campus sustainability, Evergreen sought ways to mitigate this influx of refuse by offering alternatives for usable and recyclable goods.
In June 2009, RAD Services was able to divert waste both from students moving out, and from the apartment remodeling project. Reusable goods that student residents did not want to take home were collected by the PODS project (portable on-demand storage), sorted, and donated to local non-profits. This project, in its fourth year, is organized by Resident Director Melissa Turkington. Preliminary observations indicate that collections doubled since last year. The program is exemplary in thoughtfully giving back to the community rather than ignoring the environmental and social implications of adding volume to landfills.
New this year, RAD Services was able to donate much of its old furniture that is being replaced due to remodeling some of the apartments. As policy dictates, these goods typically have gone to state surplus in previous years. However, due to the age and condition of the furniture, surplus has not been able to sell these goods, which then may end up at a recycler or possibly in the landfill. Through an agreement with state surplus based on past experiences, RAD Services sought out non-profits who would be able to reuse the goods. RAD Services was able to donate most of the furniture to local non-profits, and recycle approximately 80% of the remodeling waste.
The Waste Reduction and Sustainable Purchasing Work Group of the Sustainability Council at Evergreen continues to focus on two main goals. The first goal is to influence Evergreen’s purchasing decisions toward products and services that are more environmentally friendly. Evergreen's paper usage has decreased almost 25% since fiscal year 2006. “Double-sided printing is encouraged, as well as going ‘paperless’ as often as possible,” said Kathleen Haskett, Purchasing and Contracts Manager. “Many faculty are teaching class without distributing or requiring paper; digital media is used whenever possible.” In addition, the Library and computer labs on campus use a print management system to lessen accidental duplicate printing. The college purchases 100% post consumer recycled content, chlorine/acid free paper, manufactured with 100% certified renewable energy by Grays Harbor Paper of Hoquiam. In addition, Kathleen has proposed a revised purchasing policy for the college that will further support sustainability.
The work group’s second goal focuses on reducing and recycling as much waste as possible, particularly electronic waste. Aaron Powell, Director of Computing and Communications, is drafting an e-waste policy to present to the Policy Oversight Group in the near future. Powell and others across campus continue to work on reducing the amount of printers on campus, and experimenting with green products, such as soy based ink.
It is an ongoing process to update signs, educate people, and keep up-to-date on proper sustainable practices. Sustainability on campus requires effort on both an institutional and individual level. Greeners face many obstacles working toward sustainability on campus, yet they continue to make progress toward their goal of zero landfill waste. For more information about The Sustainability Council at Evergreen, please visit: www.evergreen.edu/sustainability
By Lindsay Raab and Natalie Pyrooz
Members of The Sustainability Council at Evergreen