As a research intensive university, the University of Calgary produces large quantities of waste each day. Food and beverage containers, food waste, used lab equipment, office supplies, packaging, electronics, animal waste and many other materials represent only a small portion of the types of waste produced. With thousands of people teaching, learning, researching and visiting campus, waste accumulates quickly, contributing substantially to the institution’s ecological footprint. Recognizing the ways in which waste contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, the University of Calgary is striving to reduce its environmental impact by becoming a zero waste community and implementing various waste reduction initiatives.
Educating members of the campus community on proper waste reduction and disposal and promoting sustainable purchasing practices are important steps towards reducing our waste. The Zero Waste Campus (ZWC) initiative is an outreach campaign designed to improve the understanding of the waste diversion program and engage the University of Calgary campus on proper usage of the four-stream waste bins. Waste diversion is important because it reduces emissions produced from landfills, reduces pollution and produces less harmful greenhouse gases. Meeting the City of Calgary’s bylaw requirements aligns with UCalgary’s commitment to sustainability and creating solutions to environmental issues on campus. To help reach this goal, Zero Waste Campus’ main objectives in this project are:
- Create an engagement strategy targeted towards students to encourage proper usage of the four stream waste bins
- Conduct a waste audit to support staff groups as they work to achieve the Sustainable Offices Waste Badge certification
- Collect students’ feedback about using the 4-stream waste & recycling stations
- Designed an outreach campaign to raise awareness about the project. As an initial starting point, a “Sustainable Monthly Goal” for January was created to increase the waste diversion of coffee cups. This goal was inspired by the amount of coffee students drink and purchase on campus. ZWC conducted research on which coffee cups were compostable or recyclable from popular vendors and used this information to design a poster on social media.
- Created a survey to collect feedback on how the Waste & Recycling program can improve their understanding of proper waste bin usage. The survey consisted of five questions related to their experience using the waste and recycling stations.
- Hosted an “Awareness Booth” to educate people about zero waste on campus and allow students the chance to provide feedback by filling out the ZWC survey on iPads. From this event, ZWC received 59 responses on the survey and the following is a summary of the results:
- 37.3% of students answered “never” wasting food on campus
- 66.1% of students are confused with which stream to discard their waste
- 69.5% of students were frustrated with throwing their waste away due to limited space and discarded trash into single-stream landfill bins
- 42.2% of students tend to throw their waste into the mixed recycling bins
- 51% of students wanted more awareness and better education on discarding waste properly
- Launch a website to generate a list of items that goes into which bin (compost, mixed paper, recyclables or landfill), along with related events and the most up-to-date information on the Sustainable Resource Center (SRC). The website needs to be regularly maintained for the campus community to access advice, resources, news and ZWC’s project progress.
- Continue with uploading Sustainable Monthly Goal posts, along with other related social media content to interact with students and keep them engaged. ZWC is recommended to post at least three times a week to keep people involved and maintain engagement from them.
- Maintain communication with volunteers and stakeholders to collaborate on new ideas to implement at the university. Good communication will foster a safe environment and lead to positive results.