By Nathaniel Shahan
As the reds, oranges and browns of late autumn grace the Hill, the Environmental Campus Organization (ECO) is using the month of November to make the College a little greener. ECO co-leader Sonia Prabhu ’16 says the group is “trying to raise student consciousness about various forms of waste on campus.” Each year, through posters and installation art, ECO makes a public case to the student body to reduce waste on campus.
According to Prabhu, this year ECO will be taking on three initiatives, one for each week of November. Last week the focus was on reducing paper cup use in Peirce Dining Hall. This week ECO has been focusing on reducing paper use in Olin Library. The initiative for the last week before break is currently undecided, though Prabhu suggested it might focus on reducing food waste. In the past, ECO has focused on party waste and litter on campus, but Prabhu believes cup use in Peirce and paper use in Olin are the two biggest sources of waste on campus.
However, despite initiatives led by ECO, it does not appear No Waste November is making a big impact. Johanna Klinman ’15 and Michelle Schulte ’15 both expressed uncertainty about the effects of ECO’s initiatives. When asked their opinions on No Waste November, Klinman said she didn’t know what it was, while Schulte said, “I was aware of it because there was a poster in Peirce.” However, AVI Resident Director Kim Novak said she has not “really noticed any change” in paper cup usage during the month of November for the past three years, despite displays by ECO urging students to avoid paper cups. Already, Novak said, “from August 25 through [Oct. 28] we have used … 120,000 [paper] cups.”
Last year the dining hall lost 2,350 cups and was forced to order more in October. Prabhu noted that “a lot of people use paper cups to take food out of Peirce when they could use the reusable dishware.” The reliable return of plates and cups to Peirce is a goal both Novak and Prabhu believe will be achieved by creating a new cup collector position. This new paid position, which ECO will be responsible for establishing, will be filled by a student whose sole responsibility will be collecting cups and other dishes from residence halls. The application is expected to be available at the start of next semester.
The idea of a cup collector was Jonah Allon’s, a former member of the class of 2016 who is now attending Tufts University. Prabhu and Allon applied for a sustainability grant offered through the College last spring for this particular position. Since Prabhu and Allon applied for the grant, Kenyon’s Sustainability Director Ed Neal was let go, which led to a hold up in distributing the grant money. Prabhu was not sure where exactly the money for the sustainability grant was coming from. “To my understanding Jonah and I were the only ones who applied for the sustainability grant,” Prabhu said. “The money seems to still be there,” she added, expressing confidence that a new sustainability director will be coming to campus soon and saying, “I think it was understood it [the grant money] was granted to us.”
Last year, an AVI worker was responsible for both receiving shipments at the trucking dock and collecting dishes from around campus. Due to an increase in local food purchases resulting in rising numbers of deliveries, the AVI workers tasked with retrieving dishes had to spend more time on the loading dock and could not devote as much time to collecting dishes from around campus. A problem arose when the number of dishes scattered around campus began increasing simultaneously with the number of deliveries at the loading dock, due to an increase in local food purchases. With the time strain growing, Novak discussed a student employee collector with ECO and the school, paid for with a grant. But this project stalled and Novak hired two part-time employees to pick up dishes, starting this year. But soon Kenyon will hire the new student collector who will, according to Prabhu, “go to all the residence halls … twice a week,” though Prabhu said the academic buildings will still be covered by AVI employees. This was confirmed by Novak, who said that for Peirce employees, “it’ll end up being … four days a week going to the regular classrooms and the library.”
Both Prabhu and Novak appeared confident that the new student position would be a success. Prabhu would prefer students to bring reusable cups to Peirce, but hopes that at the very least, “if they’re using plastic cups to return them to the bins around campus.”