The Office of Sustainability interns announced an initiative to distribute reusable utensils in the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop) to contribute to Colgate’s plan of zero-waste by 2030 plan. This initiative is headed by Office of Sustainability intern senior Matt Swire along with fellow Office of Sustainability interns senior Willa King and junior Anya Steinmetz.
According to Colgate University’s web page, “Student Involvement in Sustainability,” the Office of Sustainability interns are hired to promote sustainability on campus and plan events and programming for the year. Endeavors that have been led by these interns include mentoring first-year sustainability representatives and RecyleMania, an intercollege competition in the Spring 2022 semester centered on reducing waste, increasing recycling and spreading conservation awareness. This current initiative is an effort by the Office of Sustainability interns to alter small behaviors within the Colgate community in order to create positive change on campus and work towards zero-waste goals.
“While this institution is at the forefront of sustainability in higher-education and in its third year of carbon neutrality, there is still much work to be done in becoming waste free on campus,” Swire said. “As a member of the Waste and Recycling subcommittee along with Anya Steinmetz and Willa King, we were hoping to create a behavior change around this issue. One easy change that we thought of was the adoption of reusable utensil kits on campus.”
According to the Office of Sustainability, single-use plastic has long been an issue in regards to the Coop and Chobani at Hieber Café, with the “Waste Minimization and Recycling” page on Colgate’s website urging students to bring their own utensils when dining at these locations. Director of Sustainability John Pumilio commented on the significance of greater practices of reducing plastic waste on campus.
“We live in an era where plastic consumption and pollution are ubiquitous. Disposable plastics are cheap and convenient but have devastating long-term environmental and human health impacts,” Pumilio said. “For this reason, Colgate’s Office of Sustainability has been working with Chartwells and Dining Services to find viable solutions to the disconcerting number of disposable plastic utensils coming out of the Coop and other venues on campus.”
Swire held similar sentiments, stating that student consensus at Colgate has long agreed to eliminate plastic waste, according to what he has gathered from interaction with his fellow peers.
“So far, there’s been tremendous optimism and hope for this initiative to work out, which is great to hear,” Swire said. “Most times when I tell my peers about this campaign, they kind of nod their head and say ‘Yeah, that makes sense’ which goes to show that plastic waste is something that we are aware of as a student body but have not explicitly addressed yet.”
Swire remarks that after brainstorming with his team on possible methods of reducing single-use plastic waste on campus, they worked with the Student Government Association (SGA) to formulate a plan for utensil distribution.
“We now have support from SGA to buy at least 200 kits for a pilot program beginning in Spring 2022 with the hope of creating a larger program on campus if all goes well,” Swire said.
Students interested in receiving a utensil kit will fill out an interest form before-hand the details of which have yet to be disclosed.
In anticipation of this initiative, sophomore Joseph Berberich indicated his support of the program and its effort to enact positive environmental change.
“When it comes to the environment, I’d like to think that any positive change is significant,” Berberich said. “If we can normalize this at Coop, I think we could have more sweeping environmental initiatives, all to help protect the Earth. Getting people to become conscious of the resources they use is the first step towards creating a better future.”
Swire commented on a similar sense of hope toward creating a greener campus and community at Colgate.
“I hope that this campaign can be a means for students to adopt sustainable practices and begin broader momentum for a sustainability-minded student body,” Swire said.