Nine Percent Waste Initiative Aims for 100 Percent Participation

On the cusp of Thacher’s busiest weekend of the year, talks of resource consumption and sustainability have spurred major changes for parents and visitors.

Amidst the dance rehearsals, riding demonstrations, and class projects that have accompanied Thacher’s family weekend since it’s inception in the late 1960s – visitors will notice a distinct addition to the festivities when they step foot on campus over the next few days.

Under a new initiative by Thacher’s own Environmental Action Committee, the students, in conjunction with the maintenance department and Bon Apetit, have big plans in the realm of sustainability, intending to enact a campus-wide “zero-waste” policy for the weekend.

By definition, an event can be considered “zero-waste” if at least 91% of waste is diverted from landfills. To ensure that this goal is reached, the EAC has a number of reinforcements in place. A new system of bins will be placed all around campus, staffed by EAC members to oversee waste separation. In addition, the committee has worked with the dining hall to replace all napkins and disposable dishware with compostable materials.

Before the festivities begin, EAC members will visit dorm meetings in order to educate the student body regarding the disposal of certain materials, clarifying what can be recycled, composted, or sent to the landfill. In order to discourage single-use plastics, the committee will be selling custom Nalgene bottles which can be refilled at our brand new hydration stations. Finally, to keep track of our progress, all waste generated over the weekend will be further sorted at our dumpsite, with specific landfill bins measuring our exact waste output and ensuring we remain below the 9% mark.

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Mr. Meyer shows off his design for new the new tri-bin receptacles that will be used during Family Weekend.

Even with this system in place, the zero-waste goal cannot be reached without the cooperation of the students.

“There is a general consensus that we need to do more about [sustainability]. The momentum is building,” Mr. Juan Sanchez, Director of Sustainability, pointed out. “But we need more people to jump in. This is going to be a lot of work and it’s not possible with just a few people – it’s a collective effort.”

As EAC Head Kipper Berven ’16 stated, “It will involve a lot of diligence and a little bit of luck.”

However, if all goes according to plan, this event could mark a significant stride in sustainability efforts at Thacher.

The hope of the Environmental Action Committee is that, as the new tri-bin system will not disappear when the weekend reaches its close, neither will the zero-waste mindset. Not only is this plan conducive to reducing waste as the concentration of people on campus increases, but it will also raise the issue of everyday waste to its deserving prominence.

As Mr. Bennet, Director of Facilities, pointed out, “We really want to encourage people to recycle and begin the process of talking about food waste and compost, which I don’t think we’ve thought much about here at Thacher.”

Once the weekend is over and the conversation about waste has begun, the topic will be more present than ever in the minds of the members of our community.

Mr. Bennet added, “It’s all going to translate, hopefully, not just for a weekend, but for the rest of our course here at Thacher.”

Though Thacher takes pride in its status as a sustainable institution, there is still more work to be done.  If the community can rally around this cause and reduce its waste to such a degree as this plan lays out, Family Weekend will mark a monumental step forward in our pursuit of environmentally friendly practices here on campus.

 Contributions and edits by Reade Rossman ’16