Filed under: Event Planning, Green education, Waste diversion | Tags: berkeley model united nations, BMUN 57, recycling, sustainability, Waste diversion
I’m very pleased to report that the sustainability measures taken at BMUN 57 were a success! While it took a lot of planning and behind-the-scenes work by BMUN staff to keep things running smoothly, I can definitively say that this year’s conference was the most sustainable in the history of BMUN.
We diverted 8 bins of food waste, dozens of bags full of note-paper, and plenty of soda cans and bottles during committee sessions. We also made use of sustainable non-plastic materials like the compostable cups that most of you may have encountered at the delegate dance and in the hallways of MLK. We nixed the waste of virtually thousands of pieces of paper that would have been used for printing proposed resolutions by projecting them all electronically, and we eliminated the paper and shipping necessary to send in position papers by allowing electronic submissions. All of this adds up!
Did you know that in the United States we recycle enough paper to supply about 38% of the total fiber needed for our paper products? That’s a pretty big number. And for every ton of paper that’s recycled, we save 3 cubic yards of landfill space! Also, every aluminum can that is recycled saves enough energy to power a TV for 3 hours! These things are worth it when you consider the energy savings and the future benefit to our planet.
But I think the biggest positive outcome of this year’s sustainable conference was the increased awareness that we’ve brought to the issue of global sustainability. Those of you that have been following this blog all year have learned many ways to reduce your impact on the world – and it can be doing something as small as recycling an aluminum can, or keeping the plastic fruit labels out of our drains. There are plenty of important ways to introduce sustainability to your own life.
For those of you at the opening ceremonies, we were lucky to hear from Professor Kate O’Neill, who talked a bit about the role of the United Nations in addressing environmental issues as diverse as climate change and electronic waste. I hope that you will all continue learning about international environmental politics, because these issues are becoming increasingly important in our modern world.
I’ll be maintaining the blog less frequently in the next few months as the semester wraps up and I’ll be graduating in May. But look for an update soon on our Kiva donation recipients. And thanks to everyone who donated – we raised about $1,400 for the cause!
I welcome any questions, comments, or thoughts on this year’s sustainability endeavors. They will certainly be carried on at next year’s conference – BMUN 58 – with Brian Huang leading as the club’s new Secretary General.
Thanks for reading, everyone, and good luck pursuing sustainability in your own lives!
Filed under: Event Planning, General, Waste diversion, Water | Tags: berkeley model united nations, BMUN 57 conference, BMUN canteen, BMUN Sustainability, stainless steel canteen
We are so excited to see you in just a few days! All of us here in BMUN have been busily preparing for your arrival. Like I mentioned last week, the sustainability staff has been preparing in lots of ways for this conference, too, and I wanted to take a moment just to remind you to bring your reusable canteen, or alternatively to bring $10 to buy one of BMUN’s stylish blue stainless steel bottles! There’s me on the left holding one.
There will be signs directing you to water fountains on campus where you can fill up during the conference weekend. We will not be selling water bottles at the dance, and we encourage all of you to participate in our greening activities by avoiding the use of individual plastic bottles over the weekend if you can help it. We’re hoping to achieve a 75% waste diversion rate – help us reach our target! We’ll be dividing our trash into recyclables, compost and waste, and you’ll learn how to sort these things if you’re not sure.
Can’t wait for BMUN 57!
Filed under: Green education, Sustainable purchases, Waste diversion, Water | Tags: electronic device recycling, energy saving advice, green laundry, green laundry detergent, green lifestyle tips
Hello, my name is Stephanie Chen, and I’m on the sustainability staff for Berkeley Model United Nations’ 57th session. I’m writing today to share with you some easy ways to green your lifestyle!
As the conference approaches and you are packing clean clothing for committee, I wanted to let you know there are ways that you can green your laundry routine! Why not try out the following:
o Wash clothes in warm or cold water, rather than hot water, to save energy
o Air dry your clothes the old-fashioned way, either on a line or directly on hangers that you can set out to dry (Air drying your clothes saves you and your family money AND reduces your annual carbon output by “as much as recycling your paper, plastic and metal for an entire year” – can you believe it?!)
o Buy laundry detergents from brands such as Seventh Generation that are “free and clear” of dyes and perfumes, which are potential skin irritants and allergens (Buying “green” detergents is also doing your part to make sure fewer contaminants such as alkylphenol ethoxylates and chlorine bleach pass from our waterways and sewers to rivers and oceans!)
Here are some helpful websites where you can read more about being sustainable around the home:
Lastly, if you’ve ever wondered where you can take that random old TV set or cell phone or car tire to recycle (because these things can’t just be tossed into the regular garbage!), visit www.earth911.com to find out where the recycling centers are in your neighborhood!
Less than a week till the conference – see you soon!
Filed under: Event Planning, Sustainable purchases, Waste diversion | Tags: berkeley model united nations, BMUN 57, composting, sustainability, Waste diversion
As the conference quickly approaches, we on the sustainability staff have been doing lots of things to prepare. We’re expecting record numbers of delegates this year – our current numbers stand around 1,600! Some of the big things we’ve been working on include:
*placing orders through the university for recycling and compost bins at each building on campus that we’ll be occupying
*obtaining discounts for sustainable restaurants located around the Berkeley campus
*making signs that will direct attendees to the nearest water fountains and recycling bins, as we’re making a big push to eliminate bottled water from the conference and improve our waste diversion efforts
*renting out projectors for resolutions (rather than mass-copying multiple resolutions for each committee)
*purchasing additional compostable materials for the advisor and secretariat lounges so that all of our food waste can be composted
World Centric is the local source of our biocompostable products – check out my previous blog on their services here. You’ll surely notice them next to the water stations in Pauley Ballroom, the big room in MLK where opening and closing ceremonies are held. Usually, compostable products are marked with a recycling symbol that has a zero on the inside, since the product is made to break down within 180 days of use in a composting facility. There’s also a newer symbol that’s been introduced in European products and may make its way to the US soon, which looks like a ribbon-loop with a leaf growing out of it (see the image to the left)
We’re working hard to make the 57th year of this conference BMUN’s most sustainable yet!
Filed under: Green education, Recent news, Waste diversion, Water | Tags: bay, drains, fruit labels, ocean, plastic
Here’s an interesting story I learned about just recently. You know those little fruit labels stuck on bananas and the other small labels stuck on other packaged foods? Apparently they get washed down home sink drains pretty frequently. Small bits of plastic from the corners of packaged goods also sometimes get washed down. When this happens, they are really hard to filter out of the wastewater system: they get attached to screens and filters, block up pipes, and sometimes, they make it through all the filtration and end up in your local bay. They pollute the ocean and can even kill fish! One thing that makes small bits of plastic more problematic than other things that are rinsed down the drain, for example, is that some plastic neither sinks nor floats, making it hard to capture. Small stickers, big problem.
This is one environmental issue that has a pretty easy solution on our end as consumers. Try to make a conscious effort to remove these stickers from your fruits and veggies before you peel or rinse them in the kitchen sink, and make sure to dispose of all plastics before putting food waste in the sink. Thanks to the UC Berkeley Office of Sustainability for this tip!
Filed under: General, Green education, Waste diversion | Tags: annie leonard, the story of stuff, trash, video, waste, waste reduction
I stumbled across a pretty cool video today called “The Story of Stuff.” It’s a pretty brief video at 20 minutes long, and you can watch it online instantly at this website. It’s gives a super-informative look at all the ways we consume in today’s society, and especially here in America. Tracing the path from extraction (of natural resources) to production (of stuff) to distribution throughout the world to consumption and ending in disposal, it provides a pretty strong critique of the consumerism that has come to define us, and ends by suggesting some alternative models to consumption. If you feel like you already know a lot about, say, extraction of natural resources, you can skip around to the parts of the consumer cycle that interest you, or that you might not know that much about. While some parts might seem outside of the mainstream to the average viewer (especially the consumption section!), the narrator makes some great points, and I definitely recommend you check it out.
This video emphasizes a really important aspect of BMUN’s sustainability measures that we’ve been working on: waste diversion and a reduction in our overall consumption. By reducing the amount of paper printed for position papers that are read a few times and then trashed, and by diverting recyclables from landfills, we are cutting down on our overall consumption. It’s something that you might not think is all that big of a deal in our personal lives, but consider this one statistic I picked up in the video: the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash a day. That’s 1642.5 pounds a year! Per person! I don’t even want to think about multiplying that number by 300 million, the approximate number of American citizens. If we can work to divert or reduce that number at a personal level, imagine the savings!
It’s the little things we do that count, but working to consider the bigger issues can’t hurt either. When you see a business that you think could be doing something to improve its sustainability, don’t be shy! You can talk to a manager, or write a letter to the company. Oftentimes they appreciate the recommendation, and if you emphasize your concern about sustainability in terms of your patronage, they will surely take note. Think about what you can do to improve your own sustainability, and work in increasing concentric circles to spread the word to family, friends and the businesses you visit regularly. These are just a few ways to consider sustainability in your own life!
Filed under: Event Planning, General, Waste diversion | Tags: berkeley model united nations, compost, recycle, reduce reuse recycle, sustainability, waste reduction
Hello, readers! I apologize for the lack of posting over the last few weeks – the internet at my house has been out for about two weeks and I have nearly been driven mad without regular access! In any case, I have much news to share with you pertaining to sustainability. Look for many more updates from me in the next few weeks as school comes back into session and the conference date is fast approaching.
I want to take this post to share with everyone just a few of the measures BMUN 57 will be taking during the conference that I am spearheading as the club’s sustainability coordinator. Most of these measures fall under the sustainability mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” that you may be familiar with.
I’d also like to open the floor to anyone who has other suggestions about how we can incorporate a more sustainable lifestyle into the conference itself. Please post a reply if you’ve got any ideas of your own! Or email me at
1) Projecting MUN resolutions instead of printing them – to conserve printing loads of paper that would be used once or twice and then scrapped
2) Requiring online submission of position papers – for the same reason as listed above
3) Making available compost and recycling bins at major points of access throughout the conference weekend
4) Encouraging the use of tap water: with our customized BMUN canteens and with signs letting delegates know where the nearest water fountain can be found
5) Supporting local, eco-friendly restaurants
To read more, check out the full explanations on BMUN’s page here.
Filed under: Event Planning, Food, Waste diversion | Tags: campus services, Delegate Workshop, Event Planning
I’m happy to report that I think the sustainability measures we implemented at the Delegate Workshop went very well yesterday! Some things went very well, and others I think can be improved on, but overall this was a great learning experience for me as someone new to the whole business of “green event-planning.”
Not everything ran perfectly smoothly, of course. I spent hours dealing with different on-campus departments to place an order for waste diversion bins. There was some confusion with the UC Berkeley campus recycling service over when I had placed the order – over two weeks before the date of the workshop! - and how many bins of each type I’d ordered - four recycling bins and one composting bin -, and how much it was going to cost – originally free, then later almost $100, then down to $12. But everything got taken care of in the end, when a very helpful head supervisor of the campus service promised me the night before the workshop that, despite some bureaucratic interdepartmental confusion, the bins would be in place the next morning. And they showed up! After worrying that all my hours of haggling might have proven worthless, I was pleasantly surprised.
In order to make best use of the bins, my staff and I also posted up lots of signs the morning of the workshop, instructing everyone on what could be deposited into each type of bin. We made signs directing visitors to the working water fountains (see my earlier blog on this subject here), but not all the signs made it up, unfortunately. Still, a good practice session for the much bigger conference.
In addition to the bins, both the advisors’ lounge and the secretariat lounge had breakfast foods available, with many thanks to USG of Special Events, Erin. We got to use some of our new compostable utensils and materials here. We are still using up some of the leftover plates and cups and things from last year’s conference stash, though, so our conversion to sustainable silverware is not yet complete.
Using the Delegate Workshop of about 200 attendees as a “practice run” for the Conference in February, I think I have some new ideas on what will work best next semester. I’m excited to keep learning and planning. If you attended the Workshop and have any questions, comments or suggestions for me about how to improve any aspect of the sustainability of BMUN’s conference, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below!
Filed under: Food, Sustainable purchases, Waste diversion | Tags: compost, recycling, waste, WorldCentric
Here at BMUN, we hold weekly meetings to prepare for the big events we put on: the Delegate Workshop in the fall, and the Conference in the Spring. Dinner is served at most meetings, and 60 people can easily generate a lot of waste – like soda bottles, leftover food scraps, and one-time-use utensils and plates. So in order to adhere with our newly adopted goal of waste diversion, we’ve begun putting out collection bags for recyclables and compostables, next to the trash can. At the end of each of our weekly meetings, we deposit our collected compost waste and recyclables in an on-campus bin.
What exactly is composting, you might ask? Once relegated to the backyards of tree-hugging environmentalists, it’s become increasingly common in areas throughout California in the last decade. The Bay Area has been at the forefront of this trend, distributing green bins to the residents of Berkeley to collect food wastes ranging from wilting vegetables to egg shells to leftover sandwich crusts – stuff you’d normally toss in the trash but which can actually be diverted to composting facilities to be processed into rich organic fertilizer. Food-soiled paper products (like napkins and paper plates) can also be composted easily. UC Berkeley has embraced this practice, and there are now big green composting bins available outside of every dining hall on campus.
But we at BMUN also decided to take it one step further. In addition to collecting and separating our trash into food leftovers, metal and glass recyclables, and plastic trash, we opted to place an order through WorldCentric for compostable utensils and eating materials – everything from plates and bowls to cups, spoons and coffee lids. The difference about these compostable materials is that they are made out of organic materials – things like corn and potato starch, or bagasse which is derived from sugar cane. This way, we’re avoiding the use of paper plates (often made of virgin materials), styrofoam cups and plastic disposable utensils, which can take hundreds to thousands of years to biodegrade, often leaving behind harmful leached chemicals in the earth. For more information on compostable materials, check out WorldCentric’s FAQs.
Our order from WorldCentric came in this week, and we’ll be using the materials at the Delegate Workshop in just a few days. Be sure to check it out, and ask me on the day of the workshop if you have any questions! We’ll have some signs up about what can be composted. That’s all for now! See you on Saturday.
Filed under: Event Planning, Waste diversion, Water | Tags: compost, Delegate Workshop, recycling, UC Berkeley, water fountains
So BMUN’s Delegate Workshop is coming up in just one week – on October 18th, 2008. I have been busily running around trying to make preparations, since we are expecting around 200 attendees! Our lovely Undersecretary General of Logistics, Taumoha, has secured Wheeler Hall as the location for the workshop, so my first order of business was to check out the venue. I’ve been in this building countless times in my undergraduate years – it is the location of the largest lecture hall on campus, after all – but inspecting it as sustainability coordinator meant I had to see the building in a new light.
First, I checked out the water fountains in each of the four halls where participants would be located. Would they work? It turns out that about 80% of them were functional, and at least one worked in each hall, which is better than I had expected. I wanted to make sure that attendees of the workshop had an alternative to buying packaged water. Generally speaking, it’s common in university lecture halls to see vending machines stocked with dozens of plastic water bottles, and as a result, students often seem to forget it’s an option to drink from the tap. Faucets come into disrepair, and the university doesn’t see an urgent need to fix the problem since so few students rely on them for drinking water anyways. (I’m not swayed by the marketing schemes of the water bottles companies though, especially since I now carry my BMUN canteen around with me when I’m on campus!)
UC Berkeley is notably ahead of the curve in this regard. They just launched their I Heart Tap Water campus campaign that is working to raise students’ consciousness about Berkeley tap water. There is actually a Community Nutrition class that is assessing all of the campus’s broken fountains this semester! So cool.
Anyways, back to my inspection. I also wanted to see where the best places would be to locate waste facilities. Through the campus’s Recycling and Refuse Services we are planning to have recycling and compost bins delivered to the building on Saturday morning so that we can achieve greater waste diversion. Both the advisor and secretariat lounges will have food available, and I want to make sure that they know where, how, and what to compost and recycle.
Greening these type of events is really important to the overall long-term sustainability of BMUN in our community. I just learned recently that event-planning is considered the second-most polluting sector of industry, coming after only waste-and-demolition (!) I know, shocking, right? So I feel now more than ever that these steps will be necessary to keeping BMUN’s impact on the community minimal. I will be sure to let you all know how the event goes next weekend!