Over midterm weekend, I had the great opportunity to present at and attend the 2012 AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) Conference in Los Angeles, CA. Even though it was in the 80s and sunny outside, I stayed inside the convention center learning about waste management, water conservation practices, and the implementation of procurement policies. It was exciting and inspiring to see the proactive initiatives that are being unrolled throughout the country: Big Ten zero waste stadiums, green roofs and water reclamation projects, and campus-wide procurement policies that address upstream waste production.
While at the AASHE conference, I spent the majority of my free time chatting with students from Macalester, the U of M, and St. Olaf about what successes and challenges we face on our campuses and how student organizations are structured. The overwhelming consensus was that we need to be talking and working together more, both among our Minnesotan contemporaries and within student groups on campus. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel for each initiative we want to undertake. We should be learning from and supporting one another, and this collaboration will ultimately take us much farther than our individual actions alone.
In my presentation and poster on Carleton’s Community Waste Program, I emphasized the successful collaboration between the Custodial and sustainability departments in designing and implementing the program. Compared to colleges and universities across the country, Carleton’s waste program is definitively at or ahead of the game with our centralized bins, campus-wide composting, limited individual waste bins, and collaboration between departments and offices across campus.
Carleton has taken some major green steps in the past several years with our new waste program and the installation of our second turbine (the envy of many students I talked with!), among other initiatives, but there is always more that can be done. Let’s push some boundaries on our campus… let’s set big goals, and then work together to achieve them!