August 29, 2012

Orientation Committee Strives to Reduce Waste During O-Week

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Freshmen moving into dorms on North Campus this fall received a first-hand introduction to Cornell’s push toward a more sustainable campus, as the Orientation Steering Committee worked to make this year’s Orientation more environmentally-friendly than any in the past.

At the Welcome Weekend Picnic, for instance, improved sustainable practices generated about 20 bags of compost and about two cubic yards of recyclables — and only three bags of landfill waste.

Last year’s Orientation Week was the first at which OSC designated sustainability as one of its major initiatives, a new tradition they improved on this year, members of the OSC said. Efforts included recycling, composting and eliminating landfill waste during move-in day, the silent disco, casino night and the block party among other events, according to OSC.

“At many Orientation events, we did not put out trash bags. For example, at Transfer First Night the only landfill waste we had was from candy wrappers brought into the event [by students] and the soy sauce and wasabi packets that came with the sushi. Other than that, it was all composted and the serving trays were recycled,” Rebecca Macies ’14 said in an email.

OSC made all resources used at Orientation events recyclable or compostable, and provided recycling and composting receptacles at the events. Macies said this push included purchasing only compostable plates and utensils.

“Almost no waste was made by the events themselves,” she said.  “The only landfill waste at the end of an event is typically brought in by the students.”

Macies also addressed the effect of the new sustainability initiatives on the committee’s budget.

“Cost was something we had to consider. However, the costs for compostable [plates and utensils] were comparable to regular plates and utensils because we buy in bulk,” she said.

To prepare Orientation Leaders to incorporate environmentally-friendly practices into events, OL training this year included education about the committee’s sustainablility efforts.

“I definitely noticed that sustainability was a large focus of Orientation Week this year. New recycling efforts were discussed during OL training provided opportunities to volunteer and learn more about sustainable lifestyles,” said Laura Bakst ’15, an Orientation Leader this year.

Macies said she enjoyed educating new students about how to be environmentally responsible at Cornell.

“It was really great to hear new students say things like, ‘Now I know where this fork goes,’ when they came up to the composting units. At first people were unsure how to recycle and compost here at Cornell, but by the end [of the week] people were much more comfortable,” she said.

One new student said he found Cornell’s commitment to sustainability to be evident during Orientation Week.

“I love that I have a recycling bin in my room. The free water bottle [OSC gave] to me during Orientation also means I don’t have to waste plastic bottles,” Kathleen Huffman ’16 said. “I was especially impressed by access to composting bins on campus, especially in lunch spots.”

Still, Huffman said she also saw room for improvement in sustainability from other campus organizations.

“During Orientation there was also tons of wasted paper, particularly in fliers handed out by clubs that were promptly recycled,” she said. “Using chalk to advertise is a much better, more eco-friendly way to get the message across.”

Original Author: Carolyn Krupski