By Edith Pan and Zoe Brownwood
This post was originally posted on the blog Stanford Dumpsters--check it out for more about waste reclamation, waste reduction, and dumpster diving!
Hello, and welcome to the Waste Sorting and Reclamation Project! It’s basically a fancy way of saying that we dive into dumpsters, sort trash, and, more often than not, find treasure. We’re on a mission to rescue recyclables, reclaim compostables, and bring new life to salvageable goods once doomed to a dark fate in a landfill!
Our project started innocently. Zoe was taking out the trash and paused to toss some soda cans from the dumpster into the recycling just as I was biking back from class. I stopped at the dumpster to help Zoe bring back our room’s trash tubs, but fifteen minutes later, I was in the dumpster sorting out residential trash. What we found was disheartening— bags full of plastic bottles that had ended up in the dumpster, unopened and perfectly good food, items that could easily be repurposed or donated. Something had to be done, no matter how icky! Every few days, Zoe and I would make a trip down to our residential dumpster and do as much damage control as we could by ripping open trash bags, sorting out recyclables and compostables, and salvaging useable items.
A couple weeks later, Anthony joined us in what ended up being one of our most successful dumpster dive yet. We recovered a fully-functional baby crib (later sold of Craigslist!), several sets of dining hall silverware, children’s toys and hair accessories (donated to a happy mother after being sanitized), artwork, and a Kendall and Kylie brand bodysuit.
Now, we’re taking our initiative campus-wide. If one dumpster has hundreds of recyclable containers to be sorted out each week, we can only imagine how many bottles and cans could be rescued from all of Stanford’s dumpsters! By documenting our findings online, we hope that we can change how Stanford sorts waste. Thanks for joining us on this journey!
By Alice Wang and Chris Tan
SSS participated in the Pescadero Family Science Night on April 4th. The Education team prepared two interactive activities for the event: one centered around waste-sorting and one on endangered species in the local area. For the waste-sorting table, students engaged in a guessing game of the number of years needed for various materials to break down in the landfill, including plastic bags and foam cups. For the biodiversity station, we carved out shapes of various endangered species on boards. The pieces of animals were taken off the boards for students to paint over (we were all surprised by the extent of art creativity expressed by the kids!), and in the meantime, we would be presenting essential facts about the species to the students. While the students took the pieces of animals home, we kept the boards with black voids at the end, which served as a visual imagery of losing endangered species from our ecosystem. We are looking for opportunities to display this art piece on campus to raise further awareness on biodiversity issues.
by Charlie Hoffs, '22
Many people are aware that producing beef uses lots of water. But what does “lots of water” look like? When we eat a burger, we don’t see gallons of freshwater gushing down the drain. Water usage in animal agriculture is an abstract concept. How can we make this issue more tangible?
Those tags in the dorm bathroom showers are great example of successful visualization: “Reduce your shower to 5 minutes or less and save 2,500 gallons of water per year!”
You’re in the shower, you read that statistic, you see the water pouring down, and in that moment you realize that you have the power to make a tangible change.
The truth is that you can save just as much water by eating 6 fewer hamburgers a year.
2,500 gallons of water 1 quarter pound beef460 gallons of water1 hamburger1 quarter pound beef= 5.4 hamburgers per year.
If we put this statistic on shower tags, I believe that we could change minds and change habits.
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This is a forum for students to share their writing on intersectional environmental topics, curated by Students for a Sustainable Stanford. Writers of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives are welcome.