Amidst all the festivities and celebrations at Friday’s Bicentennial launch event, numerous volunteers stood diligently at their posts near various waste stations across the Lawn. Each of these waste stations were complete with bins for compost, recyclables and other trash and served as part of the Office for Sustainability’s “Zero Waste” initiative, which seeks to reduce the University’s environmental footprint by reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills.
The role of the Office for Sustainability volunteers was to to help Bicentennial guests understand what of their waste was compostable or recyclable, and sort it accordingly into the appropriate receptacle. The Office for Sustainability does not know exactly how much waste they were able to divert, but has estimates that 350 pounds of compost were gathered.
Anna Cerf , a second-year Engineering student who works at the Office for Sustainability, was one of those volunteers during the event and said they were there to be a source of knowledge.
“There’s a big problem with composting and recycling in that people have really good intentions when they’re trying to sort, but there are lots of confusing things within our recycling system and our composting system of what is acceptable and what is not,” Cerf said. “That’s why the volunteers were there to help — just because we are knowledgeable on what can go where.”
Sam Hunt, a third-year College student who also works at the Office for Sustainability, said they were happy to see people interested in learning about how to best dispose of their waste.
“It was about education too,” Hunt said. “We were excited about how much the guests were interested and curious about what materials went where. They were wondering how they knew which ones were compostable and which were not.”
The Office for Sustainability was involved not just in waste collection at the Bicentennial event, but had also worked with organizers and vendors to find as many opportunities to compost, recycle and terracycle. For example, the water cups used at the event were made to be completely compostable.
“It was really encouraging to see how positive U.Va. and Charlottesville was responding to the Zero Waste initiatives,” Hunt said. “We got tons of people thanking us for being there and thanking us for explaining it and just thought it was a great and positive thing to bring into the Bicentennial event.”
In addition to the waste reduction itself, the Office for Sustainability also wanted to raise awareness about this Zero Waste initiative and what students and organizations on Grounds can do to help.