Earth Day to Earth Week: Students to increase sustainability efforts

Eco-friendly initiatives abound on campus, from PrintGreen to the recent campaign to chasten those who still favor the obscenely large plastic water bottles at the S.U.B. It should come as no surprise, then, that Earth Day­­—April 22—turns into Earth Week at Puget Sound, celebrating current sustainability efforts and promoting eco-awareness.

Kaitlan Ohler, Sustainability Program Manager for Sustainability Services, and Annie Bigalke, Student Sustainability Outreach Coordinator, talk about the upcoming Earth Week events, particularly the electronic waste campaign and collection drive hosted by Sustainability Services.

In 2005, President Ron Thomas established the Sustainability Advisory Committee, launching Puget Sound’s public commitment to sustainability. Thomas signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007, and the “Loggers Live Green” branding campaign was put into full effect on campus soon after.

In 2009, the University enrolled as a charter member of the Sustainability Tracking and Rating System from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (just in case anyone still questioned our dedication to staying green).

Earth Week is the product of collaboration between several campus organizations, including Sustainability Services and The Sustainability Advisory Committee. There will be a student market on Saturday, April 20 in the Rotunda (or outside, weather permitting), but the week will officially kick off with an Earth Day showcase on April 22.

The showcase is an opportunity for students to learn about sustainability on campus, as well as provide feedback. There will be a running PowerPoint highlighting different areas of sustainability on campus, and President Thomas is scheduled to speak at 12:15 p.m. The showcase will begin by featuring the S.U.B.’s “farm to table” options for the week, and paperless dining will be in effect for the entirety of the day.

Tabling throughout Earth Week and the week prior will give the campus community the opportunity to ask questions about on-campus sustainability. Organizers of Earth Week encourage people to submit questions to sustainability@pugetsound.edu, in hopes of posting both the questions and answers online and in The Trail.

The showcase is a collaboration and celebration of all of the sustainability efforts on campus, from individual choices made by students to the environmentally-friendly products used by custodial and grounds services.

“I think it’s a common conception that sustainability at Puget Sound is all for show [in order] to interest prospective students, but in reality the University does a lot for sustainability efforts,” Ohler said.

Bigalke agrees that effective communication with the campus community is crucial.

“It doesn’t mean anything unless the students can see and understand what we’re doing,” she said.

Other events during the week include a showing of award-winning documentary Minds in the Water, guest speakers, cooking demonstrations and the electronic waste collection. For further information, including the full event schedule, visit the University’s website.

Ohler, who has worked for Sustainability Services throughout her career at Puget Sound, spearheaded the electronic waste campaign in an effort to educate the campus community about the importance of recycling electronic materials, and the protocol for doing so.

The collection will take place during the last three days of Earth Week, April 24-26, at the Facilities Services Complex behind the Memorial Fieldhouse, from 7:30-9:30 a.m., 11-1p.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m.

For those unfamiliar with the area, there will be signs to point you in the right direction. Satellite collection areas will also be set up in the lobbies of residential halls and participating Greek houses.

The satellite collection areas will also have pledge sheets that students who are still using their electronics but plan on disposing of them during move-out can sign. This will enable the SAC to better coordinate getting their electronics at the end of the semester.

Electronic waste can be recycled into the small blue bins next to the recycling bins in all of the academic and residential buildings. They are referred to as glass bins for convenience, but actually take electronics, batteries and printer cartridges as well.

The idea behind the campaign is to raise awareness that electronics can be recycled year-round. “It’s one of the most important and most sustainable programs that we run,” Ohler said.

“Electronics are highly toxic; they are one of the most important waste streams to divert from landfills.”

The University recycles through a vendor called Green PC, which is not only a local company, but is also committed to repairing the electronics if possible.

The culmination of the awareness campaign is the collection drive, which Ohler hopes will turn into an annual or biannual event. All electronic waste will be accepted, from old cords to defunct microwaves.

Items deemed hazardous—such as televisions with broken screens—and university-owned equipment will not be accepted.

Ohler predicts that mini-fridges will be a hot item to dispose of, as the price to discard them at a landfill is $20. “Personally, I have three or four in the basement of my off-campus house that have accumulated over the years,” Ohler said.

After four years of working for Sustainability Services, Ohler has seen the program develop significantly. “Electronic waste is one area that we do really well and that the campus community isn’t aware of, and I wanted to establish a connection between the community and our program.”

For more information on sustainability at Puget Sound, visit the Loggers Live Green Facebook page or the sustainability website.