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S-Corps Waste Initiative Comes to a Close

S-Corps Waste Initiative Comes to a Close

Authors: S-Corps Leadership Team

Just before Thanksgiving break, S-Corps wrapped up the last phase of their semester long focus on the theme of waste. Throughout the semester, S-Corps has hosted various awareness campaigns, events and activities, guest speakers, and even built new infrastructure in the Living Lab to help support closed-loop waste efforts. The overall goal of this semester long focus on waste has been to help O’Dowd move closer toward their goal of being a zero-waste community. Below are some highlights from this semester long focus.

S-Corps Activities

The semester kicked off with S-Corps inviting the the entire student body to attend the Fall Equinox Festival, which was held simultaneously with a home football game. While the event as a whole was aimed at honoring the natural change from summer to Fall, S-Corps also used this as an opportunity to promote zero waste, but declaring it a zero waste football game. S-Corps coordinators and leaders served as “Green Gloves Experts,” helping community members sort their waste. To read more about the full overview of this event, see here.

At the close of the semester, S4S and the Living Lab Team joined forces to do one final educational awareness activity, which was an MP event featuring students lead TEDx style mini presentations on the global and local issues of waste and how O’Dowd, S4S, and the Living Lab are active change agents for a zero waste world. The presentation by S4S students covered the environmental, social, and economic aspects of littering and waste, the history of the anti-littering movement in the United States, and what is being done about it on campus. While the The Living Lab’s student presentation discussed organic waste, the effects of waste on global hunger, and the Living Lab Compost System that is in operation right here on our campus.

Following the presentations, the audience was asked to put on gloves and dig into O’Dowd’s daily waste stream in the first ever waste audit. The goal of the waste audit was to give the S-Corps, and the student body a baseline measurement of O’Dowd’s daily waste output. The waste audit was a measuring stick for the amount of waste that we produce as a school, and the accuracy with which we sort our waste. The audit also provided an opportunity to observe the items which contribute most to the campus waste stream, as well as the items most commonly misplaced.

S-Corps leaders divided students into waste audit teams to tackle the three large piles of waste that was laid out on three tarps – landfill, recycling, and compost – on the quad. Students assisted in analyzing the three tarps, first measuring the volume of the contents, then sorting for accuracy by separating out the items that were incorrectly placed and thus belonged in other bins. The results showed that on a daily basis we are sorting at the following accuracy rates:

  1. Landfill: 40% of the items placed in landfill actually belonged there; however, the majority could be placed in other bins

  2. Recycling: About 60% of what the student body puts in the recycling bins is accurate

  3. Compost: The bin that students are using most accurately is the compost bin, coming in at about a 70% accuracy rate

Once the sorting was complete, students used a tape measure to recheck the volume of the contents of the tarp in order to find O’Dowd’s diversion rates. The findings were also quite interesting. About 40% of O’Dowd’s overall waste stream could be considered compost, 30% falls into the recycling category, and another 30% landfill.

S-Corps hopes to use these findings to better educate the Bishop O’Dowd community about how to reduce frequently found items from our waste stream, and how to do a better job diverting waste from the Landfill bin and to recycling and compost. It looks like the Green Gloves program in the Spring, an educational partnership between S-Corps and the Religion Department will be a great opportunity to continue these educational efforts.

Students for Sustainability (S4S): Division Activities

The Students for Sustainability (S4S) division of S-Corps decided early on in the semester to make anti-littering and waste sorting the main focus of the rest of the semester. The leaders and coordinators worked together in October to develop a three week campaign that would take place in the beginning of November. This campaign kicked off with a homeroom video explaining the problems with littering and a brief description of solutions to the problem. The video was followed-up with a lunchtime relay race, which was a fun way to promote anti-littering and proper sorting of waste in each bin. The S4S team also noticed a large amount of litter in certain areas of campus, and therefore decided to enact a cone-of-shame campaign for a two week period in order to locate all the areas of campus with high amounts of litter. This cone of shame activity showed significant success from week one to week two, with a reduction of litter in the most abundant areas.

Living Lab: Division Activities

O’Dowd’s Living Lab is already providing a solution to waste reduction through its organic compost system. In this 5-box system, green waste such as cafeteria food scraps, plant clippings, and animal waste layered to create an environment suitable for decomposers such as bacteria and earthworms. These organisms break down the organic waste, and help to produce nutrient rich soil used to grow more food. Air is provided by layering wood shavings or other brown matter in order to allow the bacteria undergo aerobic respiration, meaning to breathe with oxygen. The compost system is close-looped, meaning that it is a zero waste system, and is a key proponent in the success of the Living Lab. Recently, the Living Lab leaders have added compost lids to protect the compost from rain and moisture, and are planning to add a vermiculture compost bin, a “cold system” for producing compost which utilizes earthworm casings to provide nutrients.

Looking Forward

As the close of the semester quickly approaches, S-Corps hopes that the student body’s increased knowledge and awareness of campus littering and waste continues to influence them in the coming future. The hope for a more beautiful, less-littered campus and increased waste-sorting accuracy as a result of their efforts in this semester-long waste initiative remains strong. Even though S-Corps will pursue a different initiative next semester, they will continue to follow up and check in on how O’Dowd has improved its habits surrounding waste.

In the second semester, S-Corps coordinators and leaders have voted for the theme to be ENERGY, and the group will focus on how the O’Dowd Community can reduce energy consumption by making smarter choices about renewable vs. nonrenewable energy sources. Additionally, S-Corps will highlight environmental, social justice, and economic problems regarding energy.


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