Sustainability Office Conducts Waste Audit

On April 16th, SIU’s Sustainability Office conducted a waste audit of the Student Center with the assistance of volunteers from the Registered Student Organizations SENSE and LOGIC, as well as volunteers from Saluki Service Days. Redirecting all waste normally sent to dumpsters, the volunteers sorted and measured GARBAGE, COMPOSTABLE WASTE, CARDBOARD, CLEAN PAPER, SOILED PAPER (paper that was soiled from being in the trash), ALUMINUM, GLASS, and PLASTICS.

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Also calculated in the audit were the weights for the MISCELLANEOUS PLASTICS, LIQUIDS, LUMBER, REUSABLE ITEMS, and ELECTRONIC WASTE. A breakdown of the day’s percentages can be viewed in the graph below.

Overall, these results were positive with no glass at all found in the waste audit and an insignificant percentage of the waste coming from aluminum. Only 19% of the waste could have been recycled with current recycling practices on campus highlighting the achievements of the Sustainability Office and affiliated offices.

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It is interesting to note that most of the waste analyzed could have been composted but perhaps unsurprising considering that the primary factor of compostable waste was likely generated from the food court; food that made its way into the trash as well as waste generated from preparation. What this suggests is that the introduction of a composting program for student waste would drastically change the outflow of waste that the Student Center produces. Such a shift in waste management could have resulted in the reduction and appropriation of waste resources to the amount of 214.75 pounds. The impact on the mass of waste alone would be remarkable not to mention the positive applications of a composting program. Compost could be used for soil, mulch, potting soil, worm beds that can be directed towards aquatic fisheries, and numerous other possibilities.

The result of the waste audit is revealing in that it shows how governing the in and outflow of resource on campus can lead to a more sustainable campus, not only ecologically but economically.

The Sustainability Office’s waste audit is timely not only because Earth Day was Wednesday, April 22 but also because current proposed budget cuts put many of the SIU resource centers at risk. Sustainability Office is faced with a potential budget cut while other sustainability/ecologically oriented centers such as Touch of Nature, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Cooperative Wildlife Research face nearly one million dollars in potential cuts. Given that the Sustainability Office is relatively young and met with student support, budget cuts would be a step backwards.

On May 7, 2009 the SIU Board of Trustees unanimously passed the $10 per semester student Green Fee. Effective at the start of fall semester in 2009, the fee was projected to raise over $300,000 annually for sustainability projects and research as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency on campus.  Chancellor Sam Goldman then appointed the first SIU Sustainability Council to make campus-wide recommendations concerning sustainability and allocate revenue generated by the Green Fee.[1]

With student support, Chancellor approval, and the state of Illinois Sustainability University Compact encouraging universities and colleges to incorporate sustainability into campus operations, academic and research programs, student activities and community outreach, it would be an understatement to say there is support for the activities Sustainability Office makes available. As the waste audit shows, budget cuts are not a solution; SIU must work smarter in order to reduce costs. Clearly positive results have come from the SIU Sustainability and they have not gone unrecognized. The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2013 Edition featured SIU, recognizing it for demonstrating “a notable commitment to sustainability.”

Students interested in voicing their concerns regarding budget cuts for Sustainability Office or any green friendly program on SIU are encouraged to sign the moveon.org petition and/or submit comments to the chancellor at: http://chancellor.siu.edu/budget/ask-the-chancellor.html

[1] http://sustainability.siu.edu/about/history/index.html

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