In its first such large-scale effort, the University of the South planned four “zero-waste” events surrounding last week’s Founders’ Day and vice-chancellor installation celebrations. Two formal dinners and two picnics, with a total of about 2,700 guests, were planned with the goal of sending no waste materials to the landfill.
The collaborative effort brought together Sustain Sewanee (student group working on sustainability education projects), residents of the GreenHouse (residence where students model sustainability), Aramark (the university’s food services provider) and the university’s Sustainability Steering Committee.
Service for the formal dinners used only reusable linens and china. Packaging materials, including cardboard, glass, and plastic, were all recycled. All uneaten food was collected and composted. Student volunteers supported Aramark staff in the kitchens by collecting the waste in containers and taking it to the campus composting site.
Even the magnolia trees used as event decorations are being planted on campus.
Food service for the picnics used fully compostable items (paper plates and napkins, biodegradable cups and utensils). Student volunteers served drinks in compostable cups (no cans or bottles) and staffed compost stations, assisting diners with the disposal of materials.
From the four events, compostable material filled 20 large bags, two medium bags (approximately 40 pounds each), and five small bags (approximately 30 pounds each). Students transported all the material to the compost site. They will experiment with several variables over time to identify the best practices for composting the particular wastes from campus events.
In his installation address, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell envisioned a Sewanee where visitors “are immediately struck by evidence all around us of a commitment to sustainability… What strikes us is that the commitment to sustainability is not limited to the classroom—recycling and composting are a way of life… This place doesn’t just talk the environmental talk.”
The zero-waste effort made during the Founders’ Day events was a visible start toward the goal of turning that vision into reality. Sub-groups of the university’s Sustainability Steering Committee are investigating full-scale composting and recycling programs for the university; more information about those will be forthcoming.
Forty-four students--including students not affiliated with Sustain Sewanee or the GreenHouse--provided support for the events, managed by Rocco Calandruccio, C’01, assistant director of Residential Life for sustainability and facilities.