Since 2013, the College of Natural Sciences has made its annual College Day Cookout a zero-waste event, providing the campus with a model for greening outdoor events. CNS students, faculty and staff gather to enjoy a picnic lunch to celebrate the start of the academic year, but they also demonstrate how to minimize the event’s impact on the environment.
“Zero waste” focuses on eliminating all or most material sent to landfills or incinerators, using a combination of reuse, recycling, and composting materials. Our catering staff works hard to minimize the impact of this event on the grounds through careful planning and thoughtful practice. The cookout serves locally sourced food and humanely raised meat (including a delicious, climate-friendly meatless burger), minimizes packaging, uses 100% compostable utensils, cups, and paper goods, and hosts a portable campus water station.
Cookout décor in the form of hay bales, corn stalks and fall plants are borrowed from the university’s Hadley Farm and campus Grounds Services and are returned or repurposed at the end of the event. Even the delightful acoustic music, provided by the Draper Annex Machine Shop Band, is sustainably 100% people-powered.
Waste stations are staffed by student Eco-Educators, who help attendees sort out recycling and compostable items. Student volunteers from the Food Recovery Network are at the ready to pack up and deliver any usable uneaten food to local hunger organizations. And Waste Management staff help sort and measure the collected waste to enable us to track progress toward our Zero Waste goal.
The progress report for the 2019 Cookout: of the 344 pounds of waste collected on site, 340 pounds were compostable, resulting in a 99% Waste-Free event! At the end of the day only a single, 4.2 lb bag of trash remained on site, and a round-up of all remaining litter on the ground yielded only 3 cups, 2 napkins and a single fork. Not bad for a crowd of nearly 5,000!