Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Picking Up After College Kids: Environmental Sustainability Efforts at Emerson

Illustration: Rachel Choi

From move-in to move-out, the average college student is going to produce over 600 pounds of waste and trash. 

At Emerson College, we have cut that number in half

There are many students and groups working on campus nonstop to reduce our carbon footprint on our city and world. 

If you’ve eaten in the Dining Hall this semester, you probably have noticed the green Ozzi To-Go boxes. These are reusable to-go boxes that every student with a dining plan has access to. As long as you return your Ozzi box to the dining hall, you can take another one.

Just one of these Ozzi boxes can replace up to 300 single-use takeout containers. 

As of Fall 2023, the Ozzi boxes are only available in Emerson’s main dining hall, but there are plans to expand their presence to the other dining halls on campus (the Max, P-Cafe, etc.) to replace the non-reusable containers presently available. 

The one-use to-go containers from the Max are, however, compostable. Jen Lamy, associate director of sustainability, said that one way students could reduce their environmental footprint is by being mindful where they put their trash. The Max to-go containers, and the food inside of them, are compostable. Plastic cans are recyclable and do not go in the main trash. Compostable items are placed in the green compost bins (available in the dining halls and some residential halls), not the trash, blue recycle bins, or the ground. If you are unsure about where something should go, look at the informative pamphlet on each bin! Do not just throw it out. 

Sam Shipman, an Emerson freshman, thinks that Emerson students are more environmentally conscious than most people because “Emerson makes things easier for students to compost.” 

Because recycling and composting is one of the easiest ways students can reduce our food waste, there are always areas to improve. Shipman thinks that while Emerson does a good job composting and recycling, more education about what food and waste items go in what colored bin could be beneficial to improving our environmental sustainability efforts even more. 

Aside from students’ and faculty’s food waste, Emerson’s sustainability also centers around the other disposable items that come from living in Boston from Sept. to May. 

College living expenses extend beyond tuition, room and board, and textbooks. Moving to Boston from outside of the Northeast often means investing in new winter clothes to survive the Boston cold. You also might have bought a mini fridge, microwave, pots and pans, or any other “essentials” for college. A lot of students, however, cannot bring all of this back home with them after they move out, so they end up discarding it. 

But for every problem there is a solution. For Emerson, Griff Gives was the solution. Griff Gives was launched last May to help counteract the waste produced during move-out. Housewares, clothing, unopened nonperishable food, mini fridges, and microwaves were collected to donate to various partners in the Boston area. Some partners, like Goodwill Massachusetts, give back to the greater community, while others like Grad Bag and Student Success Pantry go back to help college students. 

Grad Bag is an organization that partners with colleges in New York and Boston to both reduce the environmental impact of colleges and help underserved college-bound students transition to college in an economically friendly way. Donations from college campuses get clothes, rugs, and kitchen appliances out of the trash and into students’ dorms for a new life.

Student Success Pantry is an Emerson initiative to help students that are struggling to find food to sustain them. They are accessible throughout the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Walker Building, Suite 211. If you have extra shelf-stable food, they rely on donations to continue their services. 

Aside from the big ways of reducing environmental footprint through Ozzi boxes and Griff Gives, Jen Lamy says there are so many small things that add up. “We are an academic institution, not just a bunch of buildings,” Lamy said.

To her, this means that Emerson students and faculty have a certain level of moral responsibility to improve our sustainability as a campus. Simple examples of this include bringing a reusable shopping bag to avoid purchasing a disposable one. Reusable plates and cups are better than the single-use plastic version. 

To minimize the issues and waste associated with college life, it’s essential to be mindful of what you purchase specifically for campus living. Ask yourself whether items like a minifridge can be kept over the summer, or will it end up on the curb of Boylston Street? If it’s the latter, consider renting through the school. Do you really need to buy 10 cans of soup right before move-out? If you do, donate your unopened food. 

There are so many ways that Emerson students can become involved in our campus’ efforts towards environmental sustainability. Check your school email for ways to engage or follow Emerson’s sustainability Instagram pages for more information at @emersonsustainability & @emgreencollective.

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About the Contributor
Merritt Hughes
Merritt Hughes, Opinion Co-Editor

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