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.

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