Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

Compost Champs

If you read our last waste-related post from the summer, you may be hungry for updates on how SPU is doing this school year. As we will be conducting our next waste audit come May 2017, we thought we’d give a mid-year update, specifically regarding compost.

In its second year, SPU’s compost program is already diverting more food and yard waste as compared to last school year. Here’s a graph detailing our campus compost by tons for the last year and a half:

compost-comparison-fy Continue reading

Mottainai: Waste Nothing, Respect All

Have you ever thought about how much waste you generate on a daily basis? If you’ve spent any time in Japan, you may be more aware of your waste habits. Last December, my sister visited the country and got first-hand experience of this. She was struck by Japan’s lack of public trashcans and surprisingly litter-free streets. Some municipalities have over 44 different garbage categories and people often carry around their trash all day to dispose of it properly at home.

Waste is a serious matter in Japan, guided for centuries by the cultural concept of Mottainai

having respect for the resources around you, to not waste these resources and to use them with a sense of gratitude.”

This way of life and disposal makes sense for an island country with limited landfill space. It’s encouraging that affluent, consumer-based countries have created such dynamic cultural waste norms, especially in light of America’s throw-away habits. For food waste alone, it’s estimated that the U.S. tosses 30-40% of its food produced annually, costing about $165 billion and producing almost 34 million tons of waste. Considering that every ton of food wasted creates 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the scope of this issue is staggering. What’s more, globally about $1 trillion or one-third of all food produced goes uneaten.

Due to these realities, we conduct an audit to track SPU’s waste contribution. This year with the implementation of a campus-wide compost program, it was a lengthier collection and recording process. Over the course of May, we analyzed about 820 cubic yards or 310,535 lbs. of waste: 26% garbage, 61% recyclables, and 13% compostables.  Continue reading

1 Comment

Follow up on the Food Waste Fight and Faith

In some of my previous posts I touched on the problems of food waste , as well as some solutions for the rising problem in America. I also appreciated and reflected on parts of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter in a 3 part series about how faith and sustainable practices go hand in hand. The Pope is not the only person who has noticed this connection and is asking faith communities to step up to the issue of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency here in the states has also recognized how the faith community can partner in helping the planet. With this thought, the EPA has launched their Food Steward’s Pledge to help reach the goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent in the next 14 years.

This move towards encouraging members of the faith community is based on changing food waste through systemic channels. In an interview with NPR, Gina McCarthy the EPA Administrator says that this strategy allows the EPA to tap “into incredibly motivated and dedicated people”. NPR’s report goes on to highlight many religious groups who are taking part in the food waste fight, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or other faith groups.

Continue reading

Indoor Gardening with Vegetable Scraps

celSpeaking of spring break gardening projects, did you know that you can start growing celery indoors with the cut ends of a celery plant? Simply take your cut ends and put them in a shallow bowl of water, placing the bowl in a location that will get lots of sunlight. Make sure to change the bowl’s water every two or three days. From there, the inner areas of the cut ends will start to grow, and the outside will show signs of brown and rot-but fear not! This rotting is what feeds the new celery and spurs on its growth! Continue reading

SPU and the Green University

SPU.01Universities are getting more and more green these days, providing examples of sustainable communities for all kinds of institutions to strive for. The evolution of the university is one that can be seen plenty in the features of SPU, which has received such recognition in the past and acheived much in its own green pursuits. Continue reading

Sustainable Gift Giving

ecoGiftWrapThe holidays can bring a lot of excess waste with them, waste that we think little of while caught up in the season’s good cheer. There are small things we can do, however, in an effort to go about our merriment in a more sustainable way. On the subject of gift-giving, it’s possible to spread a double-dose of goodwill by making people happy while keeping the environment in mind. For instance, if you’re shipping a lot of presents, try to send them off early, before you need to rely on last-minute air delivery, which burns bookoo fossil fuels and releases more CO2 than other modes of transportation. Continue reading

1 Comment

Steps to Happiness: Environmental Quality

SeattleSkyline_300Media and research often talks about how people affect the environment, but few are concerned about how the environment affects people. Issues like greenhouse emissions, waste management, and air quality actually influence our levels of happiness and satisfaction in life.Though we have posted about environmental awareness before, this post primarily concerns how environment directly affects your happiness. Continue reading

Sustainability & Film Series: WALL-E & Waste

wall-e-and-plant1Using tried and true techniques that the company has mastered in the past decade, Pixar creates cute, comic movie characters to access serious themes that relate to the real world. Marlin the clownfish displayed the trials of single parenthood, Woody and Buzz witnessed the painful process of growing up, and, most recently, Merida must navigate the volatile nature of mother-daughter relationships.

In Wall-E, Pixar raises environmentalist awareness with a particularly sympathetic main character, and – in my opinion –  the most adorable robot since R2-D2.

Continue reading

SPU Composting Program

Exciting things are happening on campus! This year SPU has incorporated a pilot composting program for students living in campus apartments. At the beginning of this quarter, each apartment was granted a their own personal compost bin along with a sample of compostable bags. The individual bins can be emptied into a larger food/yard waste collection bin next to each building’s exterior garbage and recycle bins. This composting program is a significant step in SPU’s continual commitment to waste reduction and supporting a sustainable campus. Last year’s waste audit was a reflection of the amount of materials that campus apartment residents will be able to divert from the landfill by properly recycling and composting.

Continue reading

What Are We Throwing Away?

2011 waste audit graphic summaryOver the past few weeks, the sustainability staff has carried out a waste audit to determine how much of the waste from campus apartments could in the future be diverted away from landfills. While rifling through garbage wasn’t exactly pleasant, the results found were pretty staggering: over the course of the audit, a full 80% of waste from campus apartments was material that could either be recycled or composted. That means only 20% of the garbage was actually waste!

The data from the audit will be used to better inform SPU’s waste policies and encourage the promotion of composting options in campus apartments. The University is planning on establishing a composting program for campus apartments in the fall.

Continue reading