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: 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.