Earth Week promotes sustainability

by Gavin Huang | 4/18/11 10:00pm

As students walked to class on Monday morning, a College-owned truck dumped trash bags from one-eighth of campus residence halls in front of Robinson Hall to signal the start of Earth Week, a six-day event coordinated by the Office of Sustainability. Earth Week will culminate in Earth Day on Friday.

The Office of Sustainability, in coordination with Facilities Operations and Management, sought to use Monday's trash dump to raise awareness of the amount of non-recyclable and misplaced recyclable garbage that is generated by students in a 24-hour period, according to Sarah Frostenson '11, head intern at the Office of Sustainability and the event's primary organizer.

Students planned this and other activities to demonstrate the College's commitment to a 2008 promise to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030, Frostenson said.

Frostenson is a member of The Dartmouth Mirror Staff.

"We want to use Earth Week as an opportunity to celebrate what Dartmouth has accomplished and to also encourage students to be more aware of how they can help and how we can increase our recycling rate and sustainability efforts on campus," she said.

To continue the Earth Week awareness campaign, the Office of Sustainability will launch the Zero Waste Challenge on Tuesday outside of Collis. The challenge requires students to carry around a trash bag for three days and put their non-recyclable or non-compostable garbage in the bag, Frostenson explained. At the challenge's conclusion on Earth Day, participants' bags will be weighed.

"The idea behind the Zero Waste Challenge is for us to think more about what we consume and to think about our daily behaviors," she said. "For instance, a lot of our wrappers and packaged processed foods are not recyclable."

Frostenson explained that despite their misleading labels, the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" cups in the College dining halls despite their labels actually end up as trash.

"You can't even compost them because of the wax lining," she said.

The Zero Waste Challenge has taken place in previous years, but participation has traditionally been low, according to Jenny Juarez '12, an intern in the Office of Sustainability.

This year, organizers reached out to various student groups including athletic teams, Greek houses and the Environment and Studies course in an attempt to expand the challenge to the entire campus, Juarez said.

"We have 85 students from the class who have agreed to participate," she said. "Our goal is to have 150 to 200 participants."

Maya Johnson '14, who attended an information session for the Zero Waste Challenge on Monday afternoon, said she has convinced many of her friends to participate in the challenge.

"I'm interested in how much waste I actually generate," Johnson said. "I want to use this as an opportunity to change and see if I can make no waste."

In recent years, a greater proportion of people in the population has recognized that sustainability is an issue that directly affects them, according to Sustainability Director Rosi Kerr '98.

"It's no longer just about protecting a specific species or a wild place so that just a few people can enjoy them," Kerr said. "It's now about intelligent energy use, efficiency and innovative new ways of doing things that enable us to use fewer resources more efficiently."

To create a wide range of events for Earth Week, the Office of Sustainability partnered with the Programming Board and Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, according to Juarez.

Programming Board compiled a list of bands to perform in a Saturday concert following a block party, which will include booths run by students, local businesses and farmers, Juarez said.

The Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity will also sponsor a dinner on Thursday evening to discuss the relationship between sustainability and social justice, according to Kerr.

Students, faculty and staff should understand how sustainability connects to problems ranging from fiscal responsibility to global health that "they already care about," Kerr said.

"To me, it really comes back to this making the world's troubles your own that [College President Jim Yong Kim] is so attached to," she said.