It was a stinky, rotten job but somebody had to do it.
The stench of garbage filled the Quarterdeck hall in the Grant Building of Royal Roads university (RRU) as three students sorted through about 10 bags of trash collected from outdoor bins around campus and spread out on a large tarp.
This trash audit, meant to determine how many recyclables and compostable items could be found in campus garbage, was just one part of the university’s Earth Day celebrations last Thursday.
Although Earth Day didn’t officially fall until Sunday, RRU students organized this event for a school day, to highlight to students, staff and visitors environmental initiatives on campus, as well as to make announcements for new programs.
Nathan Whipp, Student Society Sustainability Committee co-chair, organized the event, with the help of others. He said that the primary purpose was to provide a forum to showcase what has been done, what needs to be done and to talk about how they’re going to do it.
“Though I believe we’re doing a good job already, there’s always room for improvement,” Whipp said. “It’s about changing behaviours and creating awareness. … You don’t reach your end point without small steps in the right direction.”
The garbage audit, which ended up revealing that around half of the garbage in the trash bins could either be recycled or composted, was one of many sustainability focused displays.
A commerce student group, Students in Free Enterprise, sold Tanzanian beaded necklaces made from recycled magazine materials. Another station ask for help in designing a bike rack for the campus. Another, hosted by Habitat Cafe, offered appetizers made from local ingredients.
Nancy Wilkin, office of sustainability director for the university, announced at the event that the university’s foundation has been accepted as a member of the 1% for the Planet program.
The program, which networks more than 1,300 non-profit groups from 43 countries, puts the foundation in a position to receive donations from other member organizations, as well as to network on projects. All funds received from the endeavour will go to the university’s Sustainability Action for the Environment (SAFE) fund, which ultimately will go towards more environmental initiatives on campus.
Another announcement from the university is the planned installation of two electric vehicle charging stations on campus, one for the public and one for maintenance staff. Wilkin said the ultimate hope is to be able to buy electric maintenance vehicles to use the station. There were two electric vehicles on display at the Earth Day event to promote the initiative.
Wilkin said the results of the garbage audit confirmed that there is also a need to install outdoor recycling receptacles on the campus, as well as a more developed compost system. The three students had filled a child’s wading pool with compostable items, and another with recyclable paper.
“Even though we’ve got the blue bin program we’ve still got a ways to go. We want to be waste free,” said Wilkin. “As new students come to campus every year we need to remind them of that.”