The average American produces nearly five pounds of trash per day—that’s a terrifying 1,825 pounds per year. So, is it possible to reduce an entire week’s worth of waste down to the volume of a single plastic bag?
Challenge accepted. From January 30 through March 26, Gulls will bring their green game to the eight-week 2022 Campus Race to Zero Waste competition (formerly RecycleMania) running at Endicott.
Carly Thibodeau, Endicott’s Associate Director of Sustainability, and the mastermind behind the events, explained that each of the eight weeks will have a different theme like “Waste Not, Want Not Week,” “Reuse Week,” and “Specialty Recycling Week.”
“We will track all of our waste data for food/organics, trash, and recycling and we’re trying to see how these numbers improve over the course of the competition,” said Thibodeau, who has big plans for Endicott to ultimately become a plastic-free campus.
More than 300 colleges and universities in North America will be angling to see who can most substantially reduce waste on campus. At Endicott, the Office of Sustainability has collaborated with student-led clubs such as the Endicott Environmental Society and the Architecture and Design Club (ECAD) and local community players like Green Beverly and Unpacked Living. The Endicott community can expect a lineup of fun and informative programming to encourage everyone to step up and take part in this friendly battle between schools.
Highlights will include a Late-Night LoCal Recycling Olympics, a basketball game day challenge when Endicott plays Curry College, a sustainable fashion show curated by ECAD, and a workshop where the students from the Endicott Environmental Society will lead the way in upcycling grocery bags into sleeping mats for guests at a local homeless shelter.
A freecycling pop-up will collect donations at different points around campus. Then, on Valentine’s Day, the items will be set up like a store with different departments where students, faculty, and staff can bag items in exchange for a small donation.
Colleges compete across four categories throughout the race and last year, Endicott landed in sixth place out of 104 schools when it came to eliminating food waste.
“That’s impressive for a school of our size,” said Thibodeau, but she hopes the College can top its previous score in a category about diverting food from a landfill. “Food waste is one of the largest components of what we send to landfills today—it produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions,” she explained.
So how much food waste does the Callahan Dining Hall produce at lunch every day? Endicott students who eat meals on-campus will recognize one of the competition’s popular main events, Show the Waste, from previous years. On January 31, Thibodeau, her Sustainability Fellows, and representatives from Sodexo will set up a table at Callahan during lunch, where “waste plates” will be collected and displayed. Diners will be asked to guess how many pounds of food will be on the table by the end and will be shocked to see how much food goes to waste.
Now in its 12th year, the event is the brainchild of Paul Belski, Director of Dining Services. “We continue to have this event twice a year as a reminder to students to think about how much food you are taking at one time,” he said.
While the College is doing a tremendous job with composting pre-consumer waste and food scraps, Show the Waste is a stark visual reminder to think more broadly about how to improve individually—whether it’s squandering less food, reusing packaging, or recycling more scrupulously.
And at the end of the 8-week challenge, it’s those little changes in habits that will help Endicott make a lasting difference—both in the Campus Race to Zero Waste competition and in the wider local community.