Dumpster diving proves success of zero-landfill W.I.L.D.

While some waste still made it into the landfills, this year’s “zero-landfill” W.I.L.D. concert diverted more waste than any W.I.L.D. before it.

According to junior Emily Kent, co-chair of the Green Events Commission, a zero-waste event is defined as one in which at least 90 percent of waste is diverted from landfills. Kent estimated that 95 percent of the waste from this W.I.L.D. was either recycled or composted.

The change was not necessarily obvious to all students who attended the event, but Student Union spent more than $2,000 making the event have as low an environmental impact as possible.

“We weren’t perfectly zero-landfill, but we did a really good job,” senior Jake Lyonfields, executive adviser of sustainability for Student Union, said. “Our composting was very robust, and our recycling was very robust as well. The latter was confirmed by some very inspirational Dumpster diving post-W.I.L.D. We tried to follow up to the end to make sure everything that could have been composted or recycled was.”

SU Treasury allocated Social Programming Board and the GEC $8,000 to make all Happy Hours and both Fall and Spring W.I.L.D. zero-landfill for the year, resulting in about $2,400 dedicated to each W.I.L.D.

To make the event as near to zero-landfill as possible, permanent trashcans in Brookings Quadrangle were covered with either plastic bags or boxes to make them inaccessible to students. Tents labeled “Waste Station” were set up with compost, recycling and landfill bins. Student volunteers manned these stations to ensure the proper disposal of waste during the event.

Lyonfields noted that last year’s Spring W.I.L.D., which was more of a test-run, had about 77 percent diversion from landfills. Prior to this year’s W.I.L.D., he said he expected that this year’s numbers would be much higher, but he and Kent agreed that no event could truly be zero-landfill simply due to unanticipated waste such as the spoons provided with the Chill frozen yogurt this year.

Several students stayed behind after W.I.L.D. to finish cleanup and check inside the landfill trash bins to dispose properly of any materials that could have been recycled or composted.

“Students care about being green, and they especially care about being green if it’s easy and it’s convenient,” Lyonfields said. “The worst possible thing we could do is make sustainability hard.”

Not all students were aware of the changes while others noted they appreciated the effort.

“I didn’t even notice that it was zero-landfill,” freshman Esteban Recht, who arrived at the event when the doors opened, said.

Freshman Jenny Zhang was surprised by how well-maintained the concert was.

“Most outdoor concerts are a mess with plastic bottles and trash everywhere,” Zhang said. “I would have expected the aftermath of W.I.L.D. to be disgusting.”

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