Student Sustainability Board announces composting initiative to make WU events waste free

Andrew Celli | Contributing Reporter

The Student Sustainability Board, established this past fall semester, announced a new composting initiative that aims to make all campus events waste free.

The Student Sustainability Board (SSB), a Student Union entity, acts as an environmental consulting resource for Washington University. The SSB has focused its efforts on helping student groups host environmentally friendly events, namely by providing groups with compostable tableware and trash bags, all at no cost to the groups.

Since beginning the initiative, the SSB has overseen many events; however, awareness and possible funding restraints could make their goal of zero waste-producing campus events difficult to achieve.

President of SSB and senior Clayton Scott explained that while the free composting service is easily accessible through an online form, many student groups remain unaware of the service.

“I think awareness is definitely a big issue because I’m still meeting people around campus who one, don’t even know we exist, and two, don’t even realize that they have the ability to get free composting for their event; all they have to do is fill out a form,” Scott said. “That would both save their club money if they want to their funds for something else and just make their events more green overall.”

This past semester, SSB has supplied student groups with over 4,000 units of compostable plates, silverware and cups. SSB has covered both large and small events including Alpha Epsilon Phi’s 300-person philanthropy brunch; Catholic Student Association, Chabad and Hillel dinners; Kappa Delta’s Color Run; and the Chinese Student Association’s formal.

When a group decides to work with SSB for an upcoming event, it first meets with a volunteer SSB representative. The representative will arrange for appropriate composting materials to be brought to the event and will advise the group on other ways to lower its carbon footprint.

One way SSB does this is by encouraging groups to have many vegetarian options and to source food from local vendors. In addition, in order to keep the compost uncontaminated (a large issue at Washington University) the assigned SSB representative will often attend the events and assist with waste sorting.

SSB maintains a stockpile of compostable tableware for smaller events and orders additional supplies for larger gatherings. At its current rate, the Student Sustainability Board, with a budget of $10,000, will be able to supply compostable materials to any student group who requests it.

According to Emma Waltman, junior and vice president of public relations for SSB, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“There are so many events that happen on campus, every week, and there is so much waste, from plastic plates and food that people don’t even think about,” she said. “It really piles up.”

While requesting compost stations and tableware can easily be done at SSB’s website and only requires a brief meeting with an SSB representative, many campus organizations still host waste-producing events and are not aware of SSB’s initiative. According to Scott, SSB has plans to raise awareness through Student Union public relations next semester.

Most current requests for composting assistance come as a result of an event organizer having a direct relationship with a member of SSB or as a result of SSB’s outreach efforts, which include emailing organizations that have posted food-related events on Washington University Student Group Organizer.

“What we want is groups coming to us and asking for our resources,” Waltman said. “But, right now, it is us reaching out to groups.”