Environment

Zero waste initiative drives sustainable opportunities at campus events

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley via Flickr
Written by Haley Appelmann

Additional reporting by Kat Tenbarge and Winter Wilson


According to senior Kate Blythe, every single student at Ohio University has attended a Zero Waste event, but they might not have known it.

“Bobcat Student Orientation this year was a green event, with getting reusable bags for all of the freshmen. Commencement, the football tailgates with campus recycling, the new rolling bins that everybody in the city of Athens gets, were all a direct result of some of the work that our coworkers at Rural Action did,” Blythe, a Zero Waste coordinator, said.

This semester, the Office of Sustainability has teamed up with Graduate Student Senate, International Student Union and the Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative to create Earth Day Every Day, a theme that rallies student organizations across campus to make their events more sustainable.

Alex Burke, vice president for finance of GSS, engaged with the Zero Waste Initiative after observing the amount of waste generated by most people on campus, especially food.

“Understanding the global crisis around waste and our inability to deal with it just had me morally obligated to minimize my own waste and engage in everything I can do to diverge waste,” Burke said, mentioning that the Sustainability Plan has its own goals that can be accomplished through sustainability-based classes and curriculums. “Sometimes diverting waste dreams isn’t the most glamorous thing in the world, but it certainly makes a difference.”

The Appalachian non-profit organization Rural Action follows in the Zero Waste challenge, illustrated by community events like Pawpaw Fest, where 90 percent or more of all waste was recycled, reused or composted.

So far this semester, events like the International Dinner, hosted by ISU, also followed Zero Waste goal policies. OHIO Leaders, a forum hosted by GSS, diverted waste through compost and recycling and Game Day challenges during home football games encourage efficiency.

The New Political interviewed students at a Zero Waste tailgating event, and while none were aware about the Earth Day Every Day initiative, they expressed that it has become more convenient around campus to be earth-friendly.

“We did a survey last fall and got hundreds of people to respond to why recycling is important to them, why they do it, and what can make it better on campus,” Elissa Welch, a full-time project manager for the Zero Waste Initiative, said. “There’s really a lot of passion there, but it’s about learning how to service the needs of different populations in the university community.”

The Zero Waste Initiative was instrumental in the OU community winning the game day recycling challenge in 2015. It brought composting to more accessible points on campus, including offices and academic buildings. Burke hopes that students are encouraged to take the sustainability initiative into their own hands.

“Every student is responsible for helping divert the waste,” Burke said. “No matter how hard a few select individuals work at organizing and putting together great initiatives like Zero Waste, it really takes a culture on campus to recognize that we have an impact on our environment.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Rural Action as a chapter based organization. It is a member based non profit organization serving Appalachia. We at TNP apologize for the error. 

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Haley Appelmann

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