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Campus Sustainability During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Since 2003, hundreds of green campuses have participated in Campus Sustainability Month and Campus Sustainability Day (historically held on the 4th Wednesday in October). With the move to virtual classes, Campus Sustainability Month will look different in 2020. University sustainability departments and student environmental groups need to push forward more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic is unleashing a tidal wave of plastic waste, says the Los Angeles Times.

Virtual classes mean limited events and fewer opportunities for student groups to attract new members and carry on their missions. Many campuses have student sustainability or green fees that are part of tuition. These fees typically range from $2-$10 per semester and help support green initiatives. Sustainability groups will need to think outside of the box for safe Campus Sustainability Day and Month events and giveaways. The Big 10 and Big 12 conferences have cancelled football seasons and more conference are expected to follow suit. That means no National GameDay Recycling Challenge at those schools.

While students may not be attending in-person classes on campus, they are still utilizing on-campus dining. The biggest names in on-campus dining have made great strides to reduce waste at schools across America. Chartwells, Aladdin Food Service and Aramark have all made many eco-friendly changes to reduce waste in both food and materials and make dining operations more energy efficient. On-Campus dining will look much different this school year. According to the New York Times, dining halls will not have condiment and coffee stations, replaced by single-serving ketchup and salad-dressing packets and paper cups that many schools were triumphantly phasing out in an effort to reduce waste.

Reusable takeout containers are a key component of many college dining sustainability programs. It is against health code to bring in your own container to dining halls, due to the possibility of food contamination. University dining services across the country have ditched disposable take out containers and now sell students reusable, eco-friendly take out containers. Students receive meals to-go and then return the container. Aladdin has a chip system so students don’t have to carry containers around all the time. Students can return their reusable container to be cleaned and sanitized and in return they will get a chip to turn in when they pick up their next meal. Aladdin is continuing the program this year. In the past, eco-friendly wooden chips were used. This year they switched to USA made plastic chips that can be sanitized after every use.

It is still possible for students to avoid unnecessary single-use plastic right now. The easiest ways to do this and encourage sustainability on campus is to encourage students to choose reusables. Items like reusable straws, reusable utensil sets, reusable coffee mugs and reusable containers can help reduce the amount of single-use plastics entering landfills. Eco Promotional Products can help you choose the best products for Campus Sustainability Month events.