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The truth will set you green

ESF's Green Campus Initiative reveals the trash habits of its students.

When an environmentally conscious school has trouble recycling, what do you do? Tell people.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry is known for its green majors and earth-friendly reputation. But it’s not always easy to practice what you preach. ESF’s Green Campus Initiative organized its fourth annual Earth Day Waste Audit on April 22. And the results were surprising: About one-third of trash on campus that could have been recycled wasn't.

GCI sorted through garbage collected from three different ESF buildings on the same day into plastic, trash, paper, compost and aluminum/glass. Each category of waste was weighed and recorded. Sixty-six percent was trash and 34 percent was recyclables or compost, according to GCI's website.

The Waste Audit was held in the middle of the ESF quad so students could see what was happening.

“It’s really great because it’s right in the middle of the campus," said Sandra Ficula, a junior environmental studies major at ESF. "So, no one can miss it. It’s kind of in your face."

The piles of trash were hard to ignore, as passing students stopped to watch or ask what was going on. Some even joined in the audit. Overall, about a dozen ESF students participated in the event, armed with plastic gloves and snacks of carrots and crackers.

From a bag of wrapped Hershey kisses to an old ink cartridge, volunteers were awed by what they discovered in the trash — particularly the amount of it all.

“There’s, like, 300 pounds of food waste a day that’s thrown out in the garbage on campus,” said Hannah Morgan, a senior environmental science major and GCI member. “That’s the biggest thing that I’m most surprised at.”

GCI hosts a variety of activities throughout the year including clothing swaps, documentaries and zero-waste events. The club was also instrumental in starting ESF’s student-run composting system.  

“I think Earth Day should be every day, because, I mean, we live on earth, you know? I think that’s what we have to do," Ficula said, "just keep on doing something good for it everyday."

Trash by the numbers

The Waste Audit exposed the true recycling habits of ESF students. The visual below shows how many recyclables and how much compost were found in 292 pounds of campus trash.


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