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How A Little Trash Can Make A Big Difference

By Sharon Chen
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While many universities are going green by focusing on sustainable sports, local foods, and clean energy initiatives, we can’t overlook the importance of trash. At Emerson College, a recent trash audit found that almost half of all the contents of the trash cans on campus were recyclable materials. This has inspired the college’s sustainability coordinator, Amy Elvidge, to work on behavioral changes from staff and students. Elvidge plans to increase recycling and trash signage, to work on campus awareness, and to outreach to the campus community.

Emerson College’s trash audit is a reminder for all of higher ed that there are many ways to achieve sustainability. Teaching students and staff how and what to recycle are important, yet often overlooked ways to take action on diverting landfill waste and encouraging a more sustainable, less wasteful way of life. For more ways to make your campus a greener one, please join us on the Path to Positive.

Poor trash audit results prompt changes in recycling policy

Allison Hagan | Berkeley Beacon | January 21, 2016

From the compost bins in the Dining Hall to the absence of plastic water bottles at The Max Cafe, Emerson appears to be a notably green institution. The results, however, of the college’s first waste and recycling audit conducted in November, say otherwise—46 percent of contents in trash bags on campus were recyclable materials.

The trash audit was suggested by Amy Elvidge, the college’s new sustainability coordinator, and carried out with the help of a representative from the waste hauling company Save That Stuff, Inc., and two Emerson EcoReps. Elvidge said she organized it to appraise the college’s waste disposal, and said she was disappointed with the results.

“I think we have the capacity to go above and beyond what we’re doing right now,” Elvidge said. “There needs to be behavior change from everyone—students, staff, and faculty."

Prior to being hired at Emerson, Elvidge was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program coordinator at Project Bread, a nonprofit in East Boston working to promote sustainable and reliable access to healthy food. She said she left to look at the “bigger picture” of environmental sustainability.

Elvidge said her goal for 2016 is to ensure all recyclable materials get discarded correctly.

Hired in October 2015, Elvidge is the only staff member whose entire job is dedicated to improving sustainability efforts on campus. These tasks include the college’s move in October 2014 to hire Save That Stuff, Inc. to introduce single-stream recycling, which is the process of discarding common reusable materials in one bin instead of separately.  

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