On Nov. 8, 2017, Manndible went through a major transformation. Deemed “The Intervention” by the students behind this, Manndible now has new signs both inside and outside of the cafe informing and reminding students of where to properly sort your waste. Now all the confusion and questions regarding that disposable item in your hand can rest assured.
Starting from the Spring of 2015, a handful of proactive students gathered together to tackle this issue and formed a group called WasteNot As a club, they have been conducting waste audits first at Martha’s, then at Manndible. By observing and analyzing the contamination issues among the various waste bins, they came up with waste sorting signage that is more user-friendly. The current minimalist, clear signage at Martha’s is a prototype of WasteNot’s first intervention.
Throughout the semesters, they collaborated with Kathleen Pasetty, the co-owner of Manndible. WasteNot’s team members cannot emphasize enough that all of this could not have happened without her kindness, patience and generosity. Through more refined waste audit methodologies, the team came up with evidence-based signage that has replaced the old signage in front and within Manndible.
As pictured, the new signs include multiple languages — the five most common languages at Cornell based on the largest international populations. The designs also include pictures of the same items you can find at the cafe itself, including its degree of “spoiledness.” If you look closely at each item on the signs, you will see that the recyclable plastic container has just a little bit of sauce or food residue in it. The designers wanted to depict the exact same item an individual is holding in his or her hand and make it as easy as possible to decide where it should be tossed away. What’s more, they have emphasized the most commonly misplaced items at the bottom of the signs. With so much yet so digestible information packed into each poster, it is hard to leave the waste bin confused anymore.
They have also included many small signs — ”touch points” — within the cafe. You may have completely missed this intervention because the designers worked hard to mesh the signage with the atmosphere and design of the space. For example, the small reminders stuck onto the napkin container does not seem out of place. Rather, it fits right in, as the designers have, with permission, based off the designs of local artist Alice Muhlback.
With this intervention, WasteNot went even further and decided to tackle the critical issue of disposable coffee cups. Believe it or not, coffee cups are the most common items that head straight into the landfill (no, unfortunately coffee cups are not recyclable due to the thin plastic coating that keeps your drink hot). But do not fret — WasteNot! has placed reusable mugs for you to borrow. These thrifted or donated mugs are placed on a hand-designed wooden shelf next to the microwave. You can return these to the basket on top of the microwave, which the staff have kindly agreed to wash. On top of that, you get a 25 cent discount on your drink! Those 25 cents, just like the accumulated disposable coffee cups, really do add up.
As if this wasn’t more than enough, WasteNot also started a community mug club program. Go to the register with your reusable mug, and the staff will place a token into a hand-designed wooden coffee mug. To incentivize a community of reusable mug users, WasteNot has partnered with Manndible so that every 20th individual who uses a reusable mug would get a free drink.
On that day of the Intervention, WasteNot tabled at Mann Library and had also partnered with two community partners, Master Composter and Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management for further education and community engagement on waste sorting.
The results? Astonishing. When looking at the waste stream from the bins outside of the cafe alone, the contamination (by the quantity of items) has dropped by 10% for landfill, 17% for recycling and 19% for compost. It is important to note that these results were derived from comparing only two previous waste audits prior to the intervention and the most recent waste audit post-intervention. WasteNot Is planning to conduct more studies in the upcoming semesters to analyze the long-term effects of their Intervention.
WasteNot’s designs and successes do not halt at Manndible, however. There is increasing student demand for more consistent and user-friendly designs across campus eateries. For the next couple of semesters, Cornell Dining’s Student Sustainability Coordinators are planning to partner with WasteNot in order to incorporate such effective designs across campus. So be on the lookout!
In the meantime, does WasteNot’s work inspire you to challenge yourself to reduce or go zero-waste? Check out the tips they have provided to help you reduce your own waste! Or, join the WasteNot team to help make a difference!
WasteNot’s 10 Tips to Reduce Your Use
- Carry a reusable water bottle: there are refill stations all over campus
- Bring a reusable container: Manndible gives a discount!
- Bring your own utensil: it fits easily in your bag
- Carry a cloth napkin or handkerchief: to catch crumbs or hold a snack
- Minimize your food waste: plan meals to buy what you need and eat what you buy
- Compost any inedible scraps: at campus dining locations, at Manndible, and at home
- Buy in bulk and bring reusable bags: shop local and DIY to avoid packaging
- Walk, bike, or use public transportation: to reduce per capita emissions
- Shop secondhand and donate: Cornell Thrift has exchange closets on campus!
- Conserve water when you can: it is a resource!