Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Who needs to Lighten Up?

A: Us! Right now the average American generates four pounds of solid trash per day for a grand total of about 1500 pounds per year - that's per person. Less than one-quarter of it is recycled, leaving the rest for landfills and incinerators. Americans represent roughly 5% of the world's population but generate 40% of its waste.

Q: That's huge. Why don't we see much trash around here?

A: It's hidden. And fair enough: we don't like the sight of trash. But because it's hidden it is hard to recognize as a problem, and we just don't see what an immense load we are imposing on teh Earth and on future generations.

Q: Why should we care?

A: We have no right to treat the future, and the rest of the Earth, as our garbage dump. We need to clean up our act! For more explanation on our ethical philosophy, please visit our philosophy page.

Q: How can we learn what our environmental impacts really are?

A: See How Can my Community Reduce Waste? and the EPA's Municipal Solid Waste site. You can also calculate on-line your "ecological footprint"!

Q: How can I reduce my environmental impacts?

A: The rule is REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE.

  • REDUCE means taking more care with what you take and use in the first place. Don't leave extra lights on or appliances running; don't run needless water down teh drain. Avoid buying items with huge amounts of packaging - or any packaging at all. Avoid buying the items themselves when you really don't need them!
  • REUSE means to use things again - and buy things that can be used again - rather than throwingn them out after one use. Don't use "disposable" items at all, i fyou can help it -- because they don't really go away - they just go around. Bring your own to College Coffee. Pass on old clothes -- or better, get clothes that age gracefully - don't just toss them.
  • RECYCLE: when things can't be reused, cecylce them. Paper, most plastics, food, batteries, cell phones, and on and on - a great many things can be recycled.

Q: How much food is actually wasted on Elon's campus?

A: For some preliminary statistics, see the Campus Food Waste Audit. So far it looks like about half a pound of food per student per dinner at Harden. More data will be available soon.

  • According to the NYC Compost Project, nationally about two pounds of kitchen waste is thrown out per family per day. Some is waste after serving, and some is from preparation: vegetable peels, apple cores, and the like. Almost all of it can be composted.

Q: How can I help reduce Elon's food waste?

A: One very good way is to REDUCE your own food waste. In the dining halls, take only what you'll eat, and eat what you take. For total food waste, including prepartion wastes, Elon also needs food waste RECYCLING through composting.

Q: What is composting? Doesn't food decay eventually anyway?

A: Composting speeds up decomposition, using the natural heat of organic decomposers, so that we can quickly produce fertilizer and soil supplements from the food wastes.

Q: How can we compost campus food waste?

A: First, Aramark needs to separate out the food wastes from the rest of the campus waste stream. Then those wastes need to be composted. Origonally our class had the idea of getting a large institutional food waste composter on campus. Some other campuses use a system called the Earth Tub. However, we learned that a more workable system for Elon at the moment would be to have the food wastes hauled out by a local company that composts them and then sells the compost for yard and garden fertilizer. We hope to arrange for some of the compost we generate to be brought back on campus and used for fertilizer here, and to have signs explaining where the compost comes from.

Q: How can I help?

A: Come to the SGA meeting on Thursday, 19 April, in Moseley 215. Senator Josh Donde, a member of our class, has introduced a resolution calling for Aramark to purchase food pulpers, which will allow us to process all o four food wastes -- both before and after serving -- into compostable material.

Q: Why compostable cups and napkins, like those at College Coffee?

A: Standard hot cups are lined with plastic. Standard cold cups are plastic. Plastics like these are petroleum products, and take a very long time decompose. Compostable cups use a corn-based plastic that decomposes quickly and easily.

Q: Aren't compostable materials still a strain on the Earth?

A: Yes. It takes energy and produces pollution to create these cups and napkins, even though they are biodegradable. The best solution would be for everyone to bring their own, reusable cup. Meantime, we will directly compost the cups and napkins from this week's College Coffee and Zero-Waste Picnic - they will go right into gardens, and not into the waste stream at all.

Q: What is a Zero-Waste Event?

A: An event at which no waste is generated that goes into landfills, We try for no waste at all - all food eaten, few or no new cups used (bring your own), no plastic silverware or plates necessary, and so on. Leftover food will be donated to local shelters. If there are any by-products (a few cups, banana peels, etc.), these can and will be composted.

 

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