Lawrence competes in annual Campus Race to Zero Waste

The annual Campus Race to Zero Waste started on Jan. 30 and is continuing through the end of Winter Term. This year, Lawrence is participating in the Diversion, Food Organics and Per Capita categories. 

Campus Race to Zero Waste is a competition between universities across the U.S. to promote waste reduction of all kinds within their campus communities, according to the Campus Race to Zero Waste website. It originally started as RecycleMania in 2001 between Miami University and Ohio University to see which college could recycle the most per student. Since then, over 1,000 universities have participated, and the competition has grown to include four categories of waste measurement.   

Out of the four categories, Lawrence is participating in three. Diversion measures the amount of recyclable and organic waste that is kept out of landfills by calculating what percentage of each university’s total waste is diverted away from landfills and into recycling and compost.  

Food Organics focuses on minimizing food waste. The Campus Race to Zero Waste website lists multiple ways universities can earn points for this category, including compost, which Lawrence is focusing on this year. The Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG) and Lawrence University Environmental Organization will assist in measuring the amount of compost produced.  

Per Capita is the original category of Campus Race to Zero Waste. It measures the weight of recyclables produced by each school, then divides that weight by the campus population to approximate how much the university is recycling per student, which is measured through Lawrence’s dumpsters and compacter. 

Sophomore Anders Hanhan, co-chair of the LUCC Sustainability Committee, said that the goal of participating in Campus Race to Zero Waste is to encourage students to actively practice sustainability and reduce Lawrence’s waste output as a campus. He hopes that the competition will help ingrain waste-reducing practices into Lawrence’s permanent culture.  

The LUCC Sustainability Committee is focusing on the amount of waste produced surrounding Bon Appetit — food and otherwise. They are encouraging students to use the green clamshells, bring their own mugs to Kaplan’s Café and bring their own utensils to Andrew Commons.  

The LUCC Sustainability Committee plans to put up promotional and educational material throughout the term on both social media and posters hanging around campus. They have also partnered with Bon Appetit to encourage clamshell usage by implementing a golden ticket system, where a QR code will be placed in several clamshells per week and can be redeemed for reusable dinnerware such as straws, utensils and water bottles.  

There is a similar lottery system in place in Kaplan’s Café, according to Adya Kadambari, co-chair of the LUCC Sustainability Committee. Any student who brings their own mug will be able to scan a QR code at checkout to enter a drawing for a prize.  

However, the golden ticket system with clamshells has not yet started due to a lack of available clamshells for Bon Appetit to hand out as a result of students not returning them or throwing them in the trash. There are no further plans at the moment for promoting Campus Race to Zero Waste due to a lack of resources and time, according to Hanhan. 

Grace Subat, Sustainability and Special Projects Fellow, added that Lawrence is working to make it easier for people to know what to do with their waste, such as putting larger stickers on dumpsters to indicate what can and can’t be recycled, as many items which end up in the garbage should be recycled and vice versa.  

Last year, Lawrence finished in the bottom 15% of participating schools. Hanhan said that bouncing back from last year is dependent on students having the opportunity to choose to produce less waste and doing so. He acknowledged that it can be difficult to always be sustainable on a closed campus with few dining options and an ongoing shortage of clamshells, but he said the key is that students make the sustainable choices and changes when they can.  

Hanhan emphasized that sustainability is not a one-person endeavor and individual changes alone are not enough to make Lawrence more sustainable as a whole. Kadambari added that Lawrence’s outcome in Campus Race to Zero Waste will be greatly affected by which sustainability options Lawrence provides to students. However, she and Hanhan said that individual changes in behavior can still contribute to Lawrence’s success.  

“More than anything, more than doing one action on campus, something that I think is really important over these next five weeks is: be conscious about when you put something in the garbage,” Hanhan said. “That doesn’t disappear from the planet, right? That goes and sits for years in a pile over in northeast Appleton.”