Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Four Step Waste" at Carleton commencement ceremony 2014

At Carleton College, Bon Appétit collaborated with the college facilities department, the Food Recovery Network, and college administrators to set a precedent for managing  box lunch waste. The call to action came when the college administration requested 4,000 box lunches for the 2014 graduation ceremony. In the past, a smaller order of boxes overwhelmed Carleton's waste system, which consists of separate receptacles for compost, recycling, and landfill. This year, all parties involved decided to make the event clean and sustainable by engaging guests with the decision-making process of disposing of box lunch waste.
All of our efforts concentrated on encouraging the consumers to perform a simple, thoughtfully designed four-step process: 1) recycle bottles and cans, 2) donate uneaten food, 3) compost all remaining waste, 4) flatten and stack your box. BA's decision to make all the components of the box lunch compostable greatly simplified what could have been a five- or six-step process. During production, BA placed  paper inserts into each and every box lunch, which boldly illustrated the four steps (Figure 1). A campaign to publicize the four-step process in the lead-up to the event included an announcement during the graduation rehearsal, a note in the graduation program, and table tents in BA dining facilities around campus. A robust set of banners and signs (Figure 2) were deployed on the day of the event, and nine specially engineered "waste stations" were assembled at strategic locations around the seating area. Each waste station consisted of a food donation receptacle, a compost receptacle, a recycling receptacle, a table for flattened  boxes and a  volunteer attendant. These "waste patrol" volunteers were instrumental in guiding people through the four step process as they approached waste stations with their box lunches. Ultimately, no number of printed signs can match the influence that a single, breathing human being is capable of.
As a waste patroller on the day of this event, I was thrilled by the curiosity and cooperation of guests of all ages and backgrounds. Our guests benefitted from being guided through the process of breaking apart and responsibly disposing of the different elements of their box. In the process, they realized that Carleton--Bon Appétit, staff, administrators, and our other community members--care about what does and does not belong in the landfill. For guests who are used to depositing of all different types of waste in the same place--the landfill--this was a strong exposure to a different way of doing things.  In the end, everyone involved could rest easier knowing that all the leftover food would, the very next day, be sent to a community in need, and that the entirety of the box and packaging would be turned into soil.
 --Article by Jackson Vanfleet-Brown, published in Bravo Magazine, 2014, Volume 3

Friday, June 20, 2014

Move-out and Graduation

A familiar sight to most Carleton students, this is one of two "roll-offs" in front of Musser. Students generate an enormous quantity of waste during move-out. Facilities places roll-offs in front of dorms to capture the tidal wave of garbage.
I discovered a group of  townies dumpster diving the roll-off in front of Evans. The townies concede that they do this every year. They were wary of being caught and wore fake mustaches to protect their identity. They asked me which campus official to look out for; they were afraid that somebody in a white Facilities van would come and give them trouble. I told them they had to look out for the silver RAV4 -- campus security.

Pictured here is approximately half of the box lunches that were commissioned for graduation. In total, 4000 disposable box lunches were produced.

These are food donation boxes that were positioned at waste stations during the graduation ceremony. Anticipating a large quantity of uneaten food in used box lunches, we decided to collaborate with the Food Recovery Network to divert this food from entering our compost waste stream.

A diagram of our waste station strategy. In retrospect, we could have allocated our resources more effectively by concentrating waste stations and waste patrol around the seating tent. The most important consideration is to ensure that  a waste patrol volunteer is present to supervise and guide people through the decision-making process as they approach a waste station to get rid of their used box lunch.

A large banner that was posted for high visibility near the food service area
The day after graduation, Henri finds a $140 bouquet of fresh roses in the dumpster. Happy graduation.

This commencement week made me vastly more apathetic towards my efforts to recover resources during the normal term. The volume, the quantity of resources heading to the landfill is, in this single move-out week, an order of magnitude greater than all the resources we recovered in the ten weeks before that.

I am inspired to concentrate my efforts on making the move-out process cleaner, more efficient, more sustainable, more organized.

For one, it is obvious that recycling and compost must be provided as additional options for excess waste during move-out. As it is, the roll-off is used indiscriminately for all types of waste.

Secondly, it is clear to me that Lighten Up must be more rigorously advertised. Although the participation rate is high, there are still many student who are wither unaware of the donation venue or who undervalue their possessions. Clearly, if Townies are coming to Carleton to root through our dumpsters, their are still lots of good things that could be diverted towards the Lighten Up sale.

Thirdly, I think it is time for the administration and for Facilities to consider a change in college policy. As it is, students are so incredibly rushed to get out of their dorms, that they do not have the time to make responsible decisions. As a result, they end up throwing away thousands of dollars worth of resources.

Monday, June 2, 2014

9th Saturday

We found so much stuff this Saturday.

Cosmetics, toiletries, stationary, food, clothing and footwear, CDs

The waste monitors tentatively claim resources

Establishing a permanent venue and/or routine for donating resources.

The idea was at the forefront of my mind as I raked through a pile of trash rife with resources. Shouldn't there be a way for us to intercept resources before they end up in the waste stream? This saves us major effort, and it makes these resources more appealing to third parties who may be interested in claiming them.