Zero Waste Panel: a belated takeaway

by Aryn Aiken

    Three weeks ago, NYU had a zero waste challenge sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, ECO Reps, Earth Matters, and us, Return Recycling. Students pledged to send no waste to landfill for a week and to kick it off hosted three influential, but vastly different, figures in the current zero waste movement: Samantha MacBride, Lauren Singer, and Colin Beavan. Each speaker’s idea of zero waste is different as a prior employee of the New York City Department of Education and a professor at Baruch College, a lifestyle blogger and small business owner, and as a writer and activist responsible for No Impact Man, respectively. Samantha MacBride claimed that zero waste is an “aspiration that shapes policy.” Lauren Singer’s lens is that of the individual making a conscious lifestyle choice by sending nothing to the landfill and not purchasing new products to decrease the demand for “brand new” and “built to break” items. Colin Beavan views a waste of resources as a waste of human happiness on superfluous things that we don’t really need. Throughout the panel problems within everything from waste infrastructure to capitalism were discussed. There seemed to be a divide between panelists, MacBride was more focused on improving the infrastructure of waste management to better accommodate our current society while Singer and Beavan felt more strongly about vast social change towards a world where no one eats wrapped granola bars and no one drives cars. Building things to last and holding companies accountable for their trash were two raised issues that relate to Return Recycling specifically. We’re working on promoting increased use of reusable products instead of their disposable counterparts that we find in our bins. We’ve also collected data on what companies are responsible for the trash sent to landfill from NYU and hope to promote companies who adopt or have already adopted zero waste efforts.

    Check back tomorrow for an update on our research findings from Davis.