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Key Objective: 5.3 Establish a Culture of Reuse

The iCAP 2020, objective 5.3 is: “Establish a culture of reuse, with two major campuswide zero-waste events using durable goods and composting in FY22, four in FY23, six in FY24, and eight in FY25.” The responsible campus unit for championing this objective is F&S with the support of Provost. Progress is tracked in the iCAP Portal project page for Campuswide Zero Waste events.

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Objective #5.1 focused on purchasing, the origin of the university’s waste stream; Objective #5.2 guarantees that any waste we generate can be disposed of using appropriately labeled bins. Building on these strong foundations, Objective #5.3 ensures that items used on campus — particularly at large events — are durable, repairable, and reusable, and that they contribute to our university-wide culture of reuse.

Zero-waste events

Because of their high-profile nature, university-sponsored events provide the perfect opportunity to cultivate a campuswide culture of reuse. While remaining cognizant of current and future safety concerns like the COVID-19 pandemic that may alter event formats, we have developed strategies for facilitating university gatherings that are mindful of sustainability concerns.  

Student welcome events and Grange Grove tailgates alike are charged with camaraderie and excitement; however, they generate garbage bins full of disposable bottles, single-use plastics, and uneaten food scraps. It is the university’s responsibility to ensure that these events (particularly those hosted by the Office of the Chancellor and/or Office of the Provost) are as sustainable as possible. To guide event planners toward environmentally conscious best practices, F&S will draft a guide for hosting zero-waste events.

Catered events are especially prone to waste production, as purchasers often opt for single-use utensils, plates, and serving implements for financial reasons or out of convenience. In response, we will establish incentives and pricing structures to encourage using durable materials for campus events involving food.

We also aim to address events that include tabling, distributing marketing materials, and hosting giveaways. A prime example is Quad Day. This event is quintessential college: the Main Quad filled with music, pathways lined with canvas tents, throngs of students eager to engage with Registered Student Organizations (RSO). While academic and extracurricular tabling events cultivate community, they generate waste from discarded pamphlets, fliers, packaging, and branded items with short life cycles. To reduce disposables associated with these activities and provide sustainable alternatives, we will develop a zero-waste swag document to be referenced by offices, departments, and RSOs.

Our initial goal is that two events practice zero waste by FY22. In light of adjustments made as a result of COVID-19, we hope to generate momentum and encourage widespread adoption of these practices. Starting small  allows us to achieve gradual footholds and continue making progress each year.

From athletics to commencement, university events are prestigious traditions. Introducing zero-waste practices to these occasions will allow us to lead by example and encourage all who attend to adopt sustainable habits.

Excess items

Central to our zero-waste philosophy is interdepartmental collaboration. In an effort to encourage reusing items as opposed to buying new, we will ensure that unneeded items (office supplies, electronics, furniture, etc.) are made internally available to university units. To do this, we will establish an intra-campus communication system allowing departments to post, claim, and exchange items. In the event that an item cannot be reused internally, we will seek opportunities to make it available to external recipients (e.g., local nonprofits and state agencies). 

All of the above will incorporate feedback from the Surplus Warehouse[1] housed under the Office of Business and Financial Services (OBFS) to ensure that transactions are completed through established procedures and are permitted by relevant policies. 

Individual culture of reuse

In tandem with event policy revisions and reuse of Surplus items, it is crucial to establish a culture that encourages individuals to take actionable steps. The practices we implement as a campus will make it easier and more intuitive for individuals to make zero-waste choices of their own.

For example: by installing refill spouts on drinking fountains, we hope to encourage students, staff, and faculty members to carry reusable rather than single-use water bottles. 


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