DePauw University Office of Sustainability declares a war on waste

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The Office of Sustainability has set its sights on managing and eliminating waste on DePauw’s campus for the 2014-2015 school year.

The theme of this year’s initiative is “Envisioning Zer0 Waste," the four goals of which are to reduce and reuse, to recycle, to reestablish a compost system and to rethink and rebuild DePauw’s culture of sustainability and waste.

“We are focusing on envisioning a campus that has zero waste,” Anthony Barratta said.

Barratta, director of the office of sustainability, oversees the campaign

“I really like the idea of having a themed year,” said Jeanette Pope, faculty sustainability coordinator and chair of the campus sustainability committee.

This committee comprises faculty and staff across the university and aims to “institutionalize sustainability and make connections between it and the academic mission of the university.”

Pope and the rest of her committee plan to conduct a campus sustainability study.

“The Office of Sustainability was created in 2008 when President Casey signed the American College and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment,” Barratta said. The goal of this commitment is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.  One major and well-known effort that adds to the progress of this goal is recycling.

“We want to revamp our recycling programs so that everyone knows what’s recycled and have the bins in optimal places,” Barratta said. “They aren’t properly labeled right now.”

“Recycling is an awesome gateway. It’s easy to do, and it invites us to think about critical questions,” said Pope.

The Eco-Reps program serves as a powerful arm of sustainability’s strategic attack. Barratta explained that the Office of Sustainability recruits these volunteers “to advance different sustainability initiatives on campus.” This year, Eco-Reps expanded from eight students to 20.

Kojo Addaquay, a junior Environmental Fellow and two-year member of the Eco-Reps program, is making a dedication to aid in the elimination of waste.

Speaking about Eco-Reps, Addaquay said, “We organize the major sustainability efforts on campus, like Energy Wars and Recyclemania.” Beyond such events, Eco-Reps organize speaker events and recycling efforts. According to Addaquay, the program addresses “the ins and outs of recycling and waste management” in order to make campus recycling more effective.

“Climate change is a big concern for our students and our university, and all these other environmental issues that are related to climate change as well,” Barratta said. “If we are teaching students to go out into the world to be leaders, we want them to be able to lead on these issues.

“The biggest challenge,” said Pope, “is how do we create the vision for the society we want to have.”

“I don’t think the impact we make [this year] matters as much as the change in mindsets and attitudes toward sustainability,” said Addaquay.

His statement echoes the fourth and final goal of this year’s sustainability initiative: “Rethink: build campus culture around zero waste strategies.”

“What would it [mean] if, on this campus, nothing went to a landfill, nothing went to an incinerator?” asked Pope. “What kind of powerful statement would DePauw be able to make if we could do that?”