College hosts second Sustain-bite lunch talk

Courtesy Photo / wm.edu

Thursday, Oct. 21, sourcing analyst with the Procurement Services Office Dave Zoll, Associate Director of Marketing, Administration and Licensing at Auxiliary Services Eden Harris and Sustainability Director Calandra Waters Lake gave the second “Sustaina-bite” Lunch Session, a monthly presentation on sustainability at the College of William and Mary. The talk centered around single-use plastics, and Governor Northam’s recent Executive Order 77, which came into effect in March and aims to reduce waste sent to landfills. 

The presentation began with an overview by Lake on how, as a state agency, the College falls under the jurisdiction of Executive Order 77. Single-use plastics, which the order targets, are defined as plastic items that are rarely reused and thus often immediately discarded. Lake said the focus on single-use plastics is related to plastic’s complicated recycling process, which places limits on the types of acceptable recyclable plastic; plastic also ultimately has a limited recycling life. The order plans for single-use plastics to be phased out over the next four years. 

Lake mentioned, however, that already purchased single-use plastic items will be used by the College in the spirit of not creating more unnecessary waste; future items will adhere to the new guidelines. Some items, such as plastic bags and kitchenware, have already begun switching to sustainable alternatives, such as compostable silverware. 

Harris spoke on the abundance of water bottle refilling stations around campus and encouraged their frequent use. 

Harris additionally explained the role the order will play from an administrative perspective, as she touched on the new prevalence of recyclable aluminum water bottles not only in vending machines but also available for purchase in bulk, instead of their single-use plastic counterparts. On a similar note, she encouraged the purchase of recycled, give-back and sustainably-made promotional products, in addition to stressing conscientious, intentional purchasing.

Zoll stressed the importance of providing obvious alternatives to supplies now being phased out in order to make the transition as seamless as possible. The university’s Amazon Business account, for example, has preferences switched on for sustainable products. 

“What we’ve done is, globally, turned on preferences for sustainable products,” Zoll said. “And there’s a list of about twenty or so sustainability certifications that we’ve turned on.” 

The response to these changes has remained relatively positive, according to Lake, on both the student and administrative sides. Nevertheless, the push forward in sustainability has not been without its issues.

“The challenge that we collectively face as a campus is making sure those products end up in the proper receptacles to be disposed of,” Harris said. “So it’s not the change in the delivery, it’s the end place for those products, that they’re ending up in the correct composting bins or recycling bins… that continues to be a challenge across our community.”  

“The challenge that we collectively face as a campus is making sure those products end up in the proper receptacles to be disposed of,” Harris said. “So it’s not the change in the delivery, it’s the end place for those products, that they’re ending up in the correct composting bins or recycling bins… that continues to be a challenge across our community.” 

Both Lake and Harris sung the praises of the College’s Dining Services and how proactive they have been in sustainability efforts. According to Harris, many steps had been made long before Governor Northam’s Executive Order, often without the knowledge of the student body. The recycling of cooking oil and composting of food waste are both examples of this behind-the-scenes work. 

As it relates to the College’s community, Lake argues that the order builds off an already strong legacy of sustainable progress on campus.

“This Executive Order is really just adding to the direction and initiatives that William and Mary was already moving in,” Lake said. 

Past sustainability initiatives include a variety of programs. One of the earliest recognitions of sustainability on campus came in 2008 with the establishment of the Student Green Fee at students’ request, which has funded nearly $2 million in sustainability projects. 

Since then, the College established an official Office of Sustainability in 2014. Since its founding, the office has been awarded no. 1 RecycleMania Composter in the state in 2016, and the College’s dining halls more recently became Green Restaurant Association certified. 

With regard to future sustainability, a Climate Action Roadmap for the College is set to be released within the coming weeks. While its ambitious long-term goal looks to carbon neutrality for campus by 2030, that is, according to Lake, only a third of the complete plan. 

“Climate Action Roadmap is a third carbon neutrality but a third about academics and a third about community… It has all these connections to curriculum and research and academics and student engagement,” Lake said. 

“Climate Action Roadmap is a third carbon neutrality but a third about academics and a third about community… It has all these connections to curriculum and research and academics and student engagement,” Lake said. 

The next Sustaina-bite presentation will be held virtually on Nov. 11 and 12 at 1p.m. about religion’s role in climate change. 

 

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