BY BRITTANY PIERCE
Out of habit, we turn off the lights when we leave rooms, recycle when there are bins available, use reusable water bottles, and more. But are these small steps enough?
Using reusable water bottles might be saving plastic water bottles from landfills, but how much waste do people actually produce in a day? According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, “the average American produces about 7 pounds of trash per day.” This is more than throwing out packaging or wrappers, it involves food waste and energy waste as well.
7 pounds of trash per day may not sound like much, but multiply that by the entire population of the United States and it becomes apparent that we have an extreme waste issue.
As we become increasingly concerned about climate change and waste, one thing to consider is moving towards a zero waste lifestyle, which means living without sending anything to a landfill.
The purpose is to reuse what you can, reduce what you need, recycle what you can, and compost the rest.
But how can college students cut back on waste? Start with the small steps first. Alma College already does some work towards cutting back on waste, such as the Green Box program for reusable dining containers, installing motion-sensitive lighting, and implementing water bottle refill stations into the dorms and academic buildings.
According to Alex Karakuc (’21), who is working towards living a zero waste lifestyle, more can be done on campus to help lead these efforts.
Some of the improvements that Karakuc suggested include adding compost bins to Joes, Starbucks, and Highland Java. She also suggested posting informational signs about what can and cannot be composted as well as having a composting site on campus.
Other improvements include putting all of the to-go lunch options in Hamilton Commons in reusable containers rather than disposable ones, having reusable cups in Joes for the fountain drinks, and adding recycling bins in more spaces on campus.
Aside from small changes, a few large changes can be made as well.
“One last and bigger task the college could do is make the current aquaponics system that is currently being built in the greenhouse into something for large scale. Then incorporate growing fresh fruits and vegetables from it—and even harvest fish—for saga and joes. (Which there is already a [campus] project that is trying to start this called The Big Box Farm, ironically),” said Karakuc.
Although this would require time and investments, Karakuc argues that it would be worth it.
“It saves money in the long run and to be able to say something like ‘we are the most sustainable college in America’ would be very big. It would probably even bring more students in for just that reason. We want to be the model for other colleges. We want to show everyone else it’s possible and worth it,” said Karakuc.
For more information and help taking steps towards living a zero waste life, contact the Climate Change Action Network group on campus.