I am writing you regarding our goals toward a zero waste campus. Zero waste is not anything new, it can be traced back to ancient civilizations. There is truth in the colloquialism told about the Native Americans using “every part of the buffalo.” In the last 20 years, No Waste, a simple term expressing the aspirations of recycling activists, became Zero Waste and a social movement bearing that name quickly took root in the US, Europe, Asia and the entire globe.

This year, the Campus has again joined the “Campus Race to Zero Waste” (formerly, Recyclemania), an eight-week national waste diversion and recycling competition among colleges and universities to promote waste reduction activities in campus communities. This year, the competition runs from Monday, Jan. 31 to Sunday, Mar. 27. College staff who remove our waste year round will track and report waste totals to the competition organizers. We ask that you make every effort to not only reduce and reuse items in an effort to minimize waste, but that you properly discard any materials that you do throw away into the proper receptacle. Please do not put recyclable materials into regular trash receptacles, and please do not put regular trash into recycling receptacles. For example, if a recyclable item is soiled with food, and it cannot be wiped clean, it can contaminate all the other material in the receptacle, reducing its value for reclamation.

Zero waste isn’t just about wasting less, it’s about altering your lifestyle so that the things you do use are able to be reused, repurposed, or composted. Plastics were already a significant problem back in the 1970s and 1980s, but despite the efforts of many early environmentalists, that problem has grown even more prevalent over the years. If anything, plastics are an even greater problem now, and addressing single-use plastics is an essential piece of the modern zero-waste puzzle. Being zero waste in the modern age is about having less of an impact on the world. As a result, today’s zero-waste strategies also place greater importance on sustainability such as eliminating single-use plastics in our lifestyles. The future of zero waste will likely include changes in the way we manufacture, utilize, and dispose of materials.

We are asking all campus community members to consider zero waste in their daily routines, during this eight-week competition and thought the year, trying to incorporate zero waste activities into our lifestyles. Whether it is the smallest actions such as reusing a single-use plastic item several times or removing contaminants from recyclable materials so they do not contaminate the load, every action you take counts toward the future.

Should you have any questions or comments about zero waste, reusing, or donating materials, recycling, or want to provide any feedback to the campus regarding these topics, do not hesitate to contact the Sustainability Committee at sustainability@csi.cuny.edu.

By CSI Sustainability