Loyola Hosts Waste Week to Bring Awareness to Sustainability Efforts

Loyola’s Office of Sustainability hosted Waste Week Feb. 19 to Feb. 23.

Loyola’s Office of Sustainability hosted Waste Week Feb. 19 to Feb. 23. The week was dedicated to raising awareness to waste consumption and sustainability through various events on campus. 

Waste production is one of the most pressing environmental issues, according to the School of Environmental Sustainability website. With activities ranging from composting challenges to informational panels, the week of events aimed to address the problem of waste management and inform students about how to have more sustainable practices. 

Waste Week has been a recurring event at Loyola for over 10 years and the SES intends to continue using themed weeks such as this one to advance Loyola’s environmental mission and continue to teach more sustainable efforts, according to founding dean of the SES, Nancy Tuchman. 

“Everybody innately has a relationship with nature that we can try to connect with,” Tuchman said. “You may not be studying this, and it may not be your primary interest but just as a human being living on the planet, everybody can have a connection.” 

All of the dining halls hosted a “Wipe Out Waste Challenge” Feb. 19 which Anna Ries-Roncalli, an intern in the Office of Sustainability who was working the event, said helps to visualize the amount of food waste the dining halls accumulate. 

The event had students place their food waste into a bucket to physically show how much waste the dining hall accumulates. Ries-Roncalli said events like this are helpful in advising students to be mindful of their consumption and inform decisions such as possible adjustments to serving sizes in the dining halls to reduce waste. 

All of the food waste from the dining halls was composted and any surplus of food was donated to local charitable food agencies such as A Just Harvest, according to Loyola Dining

Tuchman said she recalls little-to-no sustainability efforts when she first began at Loyola in 2002. Today, Loyola falls into the top 5% of green campuses in the country, according to the School of Environmental Sustainability website

Tuchman said Waste Week allows students to enrich their education and help with the transformation of Loyola’s waste consumption. She also said the Office of Sustainability relies on students to assist with Waste Week events to motivate other students to get involved.

“Students want to be a part of the solution,” Tuchman said “For us, it’s always better to have students meeting directly with other students to inspire one another to make change.” 

Ixchel Barraza Zapata, a fourth-year communications and engagement intern in the Office of Sustainability, helped to plan and organize the week’s events. Barraza Zapata said everyone should be aware of how to dispose of waste in order to curtail contributions to landfills. 

“Everyone produces waste,” Barraza Zapata said. “This whole mission of Waste Week is that when you throw things away without a single thought, you don’t realize that a lot of the things you’re throwing away could be used for a greater purpose.” 

Barraza Zapata said she hopes Waste Week and similar events like the Water and Transportation weeks help to motivate more mindful and sustainable practices from the student body.

The Student Environmental Alliance partnered with the Department of Programming to celebrate Waste Week with their “Who Among Us is the Most SUStainable” event which taught students how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. The event was held in Damen Cinema Feb. 19 and taught practical ways to be more environmentally conscious in everyday life. 

The Office of Sustainability also used Waste Week as an opportunity to spread awareness for Loyola’s zero waste initiative. Sustainability Manager Megan Conway said she has been pushing for this initiative during her time at Loyola.

Conway’s office is leading the zero waste plan which she said has a goal of reducing the amount of waste Loyola contributes to landfills through new and innovative ideas. Conway said she expects the initiative to be finalized in the fall.

In honor of this initiative, a training session was held on Zoom Feb. 20 for attendees to help shape the plan. For those who couldn’t attend, Conway said the Office of Sustainability is also circulating a survey to gather new ideas from the university community to improve waste management. 

“We want to make things as easily accessible and understandable for people who want to recycle and compost,” Conway said. “There is a desire to divert as much waste as possible and reduce that environmental footprint here.” 

The Restoration Club, Students for Sustainable Energy through Anaerobic Digestion and the Office of Sustainability also held a clothing swap event during Waste Week. The event allowed students to trade clothes to motivate revamping your wardrobe and reducing clothing waste simultaneously. 

The Office of Sustainability’s next week-long event will be Water Week March 18 to March 22 to bring awareness to water scarcity and the importance water holds in the world.

Featured image by Rachael Wexler / The Phoenix

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