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Emerson Looks to Improve Sustainability Practices with Campus Waste Competition

Campus Race to Zero Waste 2023 logo

Ready, set, sustain! 

Starting January 29 through March 29, Emerson will participate in the Campus Race to Zero Waste, a friendly competition between higher ed institutions aimed at boosting waste diversion in schools. 

“Every single person who’s on campus has a role to play in reducing the amount of waste we create and getting as much of our waste into the recycling and the compost instead of the trash,” said Jennifer Lamy, associate director of sustainability. 

Jennifer Lamy
Jennifer Lamy

To increase awareness, Emerson created internal challenges and engagement opportunities, such as a clean plate challenge in which your dining hall waste is weighed; an upcycled art competition where you can make art out of recycled books; as well as film screenings. (Check out the list of events below this article.)

Emerson’s  own competition, Scouts 4 Sustainability, will award points to students, faculty, and staff for participating in events and challenges. Participants with the most points at the end of the program will earn prizes. 

Emerson has already been recognized for its sustainability efforts, coming in third in the Energy category in the 2023 Sustainable Campus Index. But there is room to grow, particularly in the Waste or Food and Dining categories. 

“There are a lot of things where our students don’t have a lot of impact on our end results, sustainability-wise, like deciding what kind of light bulbs go up in a classroom,” Lamy said. “But there is a lot of room for people to have that impact here, so we really like to make things really clear that it’s something that takes all of our community to be involved in.”

Schools that ranked the highest in last year’s competition, including UMass Amherst, documented diversion rates–the portion of waste not sent to a landfill–of more than 60 percent. According to Lamy, Emerson’s diversion rate in 2022 was around 10 percent. 

Unlike energy usage, Lamy said, waste reduction comes from individual efforts and it’s important to get “everyone on board.” Lamy is leading focus groups for faculty, staff, and students to get a read on how useful waste signage is and how the community understands their roles in waste reduction. 

“Our signs right now are fairly minimalist, which is great because people can see the information on them very quickly,” Lamy said. “But there’s not the ‘next step’ of information. For example, we don’t have anything on our recycling signs that tell people they need to empty and dry their containers.”

Lamy hopes that the Scouts 4 Sustainability program will not only help benchmark Emerson against other institutions, but also help reinforce best practices in waste diversion across campus. 

Compost, trash, and recycling bins next to each other with signs that show what materials go into each receptacle
Remember to check out the charts to determine where to toss your compost, recyclables, and trash.

Events

Sign the Recycling and Compost Pledge

January 29 – March 29

Sign the pledge to commit to properly recycling and composting on campus. One point for participating.


Waste Signage Focus Groups

January 22 – February 1

172 Tremont Street

Emerson Sustainability wants to hear from students, faculty and staff about how they can best improve your waste sorting experience. Check out the blog post for more details. One point for participating.


Lunch Film Screening

February 7, 12 pm to 2 pm

Dining Center, 122 Boylston Street

Watch a screening of a zero-waste themed film at Center Stage. One point for watching.


Office Recycling Competition

February 12-18

Sign up to compete against other offices for the highest diversion rate. The winning office gets a pizza party. One point for participating (faculty/staff).


Weigh the Waste

February 28, 6 pm to 8 pm

Dining Center, 122 Boylston Street

Strive to be in the Clean Plate Club as Sustainability staff help you sort and weigh dinner-time waste. Check the blog post afterwards for results. One point for a clean plate.


Teach-In on Sustainability

March 4-6

The 2024 Teach-In on Sustainability will feature a dynamic, interdisciplinary, and interactive exploration of how we advance, create, and communicate toward a sustainable tomorrow. One point for each event attended.


Spring Break Photo Challenge

March 11-16

Keep an eye on @emersonsustainability Instagram for more details. One point for submitting.


Clean Out Your Office Day

March 27

Bring your unwanted office supplies, books, and electronics to SPC Black Box the spring Clean Out Your Office day, or just come browse for new treasures. One point for participating (faculty/staff).


Weigh the Waste

March 27

Dining Center, 122 Boylston Street

Strive to be in the Clean Plate Club as Sustainability staff help you sort and weigh dinner-time waste. Check the blog post afterwards for results. One point for a clean plate.


Upcycled Art Competition

January 29 – March 28

Iwasaki Library, 120 Boylston Street

Featured category: book art! Check out the ongoing book art competition in the library with books that would otherwise be recycled. Books for the competition will be provided. Don’t have time? Join the 1 hour “express” competition from 2-3 pm on March 28. There are special prizes for the winners! One point for participating.


Bright Lights Cinema Series: King Coal

March 28, 7 pm to 10 pm

Emerson Paramount Center: Bright Family Screening Room, 559 Washington Street

Co-presented with Independent Film Festival Boston, the Salem Film Festival, the Boston Women’s Film Festival, the Emerson College Sustainability, and the Engagement Lab, watch a screening of King Coal directed by Elaine McMillion Sheldon MFA ‘13. One point for attending.

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