Did you know that it’s “No Waste November”? The global initiative began in 2017 during a conference where students in the Roots and Shoots program from a number of countries including Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, England, and New Zealand spent a week with Jane Goodall and other Roots and Shoots leaders. They envisioned it as a commitment that people would make to reduce the amount of waste they produce for an entire month.
“No Waste November” may be aspirational but it hopes to be inspirational too. Similarly, at the college, we call our waste reduction efforts “zero waste,” as do many other institutions across the country. Is zero waste possible? It’s difficult to imagine but the name is inspiring and has a better ring to it than “Waste Reduction Efforts!” Moving towards zero waste is probably a more accurate description as folks across campus work to increase the circularity of materials in our campus ecosystem and beyond—increasing reuse and diverting what we can from disposal in the landfills, incinerators, and “waste-to-energy facilities.”
Do you feel the “No Waste November” movement tugging at you? Why not ask yourself “How might I reduce my waste footprint?” Could you go the extra stepand keep more divertibles (compost + compostables as well as recycling) out of the trash bin? Could you give items a second life by reusing or repurposing them yourself or by sharing them with others? Could you generate less waste by reducing your consumption? And what if you scaled those questions and ambitions up to something that you are a part of that is bigger than just yourself? The student organizations you are involved with? Your department or floor of your office?
Alternatively, you could jump onboard ongoing campus zero waste efforts, whether they are established (Give It Up!, the move out donation program) or relatively new (reduce plastic and decrease carbon emissions by using GenCo* detergent sheets).
As the No Waste November organizers recognized, it takes a little while—some say about a month—to ditch old habits and develop new ones. So what if you accept the No Waste November challenge and spend 30 days exercising your zero waste muscles and building new habits around reduce-reuse-recycle? Let us know how it goes and what you learn!
For more information about campus Zero Waste efforts, check out the Zero Waste Action Plan and stay tuned for other Zero Waste initiatives that are in the works such as the Zero Waste Events Guide, which will be published soon, and an initiative to make campus surplus property more visible and easier to repurpose.
Mike Evans is the Deputy Director of the Zilkha Center.