Just about everyone is familiar with the concept of recycling. But did you know that recycling is only one of the last steps you should take to minimize waste?
This pyramid shows how we should approach waste. The most preferable options are listed at the top, while the least preferable options are at the bottom. Notice that disposal, or throwing waste into a trash can, is the least desirable action and should be avoided at all costs.
According to the EPA, a 2009 study showed that “approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.” Not only this, but it takes resources to produce these goods. And when these precious resources are not reused, they sit in landfills. Aluminum, glass, and plastic take HUNDREDS of years to decompose… and some materials never decompose.
The average American produces about 4.4 pounds of waste per day, equivalent to throwing away 600 times his or her bodyweight over the course of a lifetime. Reducing waste is an important way you can reduce your environmental footprint. While recycling is extremely important, it is a process that requires resources and fossil fuels. This is why avoiding, reducing, and reusing are such crucial first steps!
To start thinking about how you can reduce waste, think about the products you throw away the most over the course of the day. Plastic bags, plastic bottles, cans, glass bottles, leftover food, food packaging, etc. Luckily, these items can all be avoided.
Step 1: AVOID
Do you really need that coffee lid? That plastic bag? Do you really need to buy bottled water, or will a drinking fountain suffice until you get home? Do you need a bag of chips or could you eat an apple instead? The best way to minimize waste is to avoid disposable products altogether.
Step 2: REDUCE
If you DO decide to use new products, try to reduce your usage of them. Try fitting more products into your plastic bag, buy plastic bottles only when you feel you really need them, don’t buy so many clothes and eat ALL of your food instead of throwing away leftovers.
Step 3: REUSE
Think of all the common disposable items we use: plastic bags and bottles, cans, glass bottles, and ziplock bags. You can either reuse all of these items more than once OR buy durable and reusable versions of them instead!
- Reusing disposables: If you decide to get disposable plastic bags at the store, keep them in your car or purse to use again the next time you go to the store. If you buy a soda or water bottle, rinse it out and refill it to use it again. Ziplock bags can also be rinsed and reused.
- There are also products specifically designed to be used more than once. These products are durable and often more aesthetically appealing than disposables! Opt for Tupperware instead of ziplock bags, reusable bags instead of disposable ones, reusable bottles, or a reusable cup for beverages instead of buying them in a bottle, can, or glass jar.
Our university sells reusable bags and reusable cups. We also have filtered water bottle refilling stations available at over 60 locations around campus so you can easily reuse your bottles!
We have filtered water stations at over 60 locations on campus. Choosing to refill a water bottle instead of buying a disposable one is much more environmentally friendly. As of the summer 2017, the hydration stations have saved OVER 2.7 MILLION bottles from being used and going to the landfill!
You can reduce your environmental footprint by buying a reusable bottle and committing to refilling it at the hydration station nearest you. We have compiled a list of the hydration stations located around campus by building. If you identify a location you think needs a hydration station, you can write a proposal!
Art Annex: First Floor
Blair: Lobby – by women’s bathroom
Carrington: First Floor
Carrington: Third floor
Carrington: Fourth floor
Cheek Hall: First floor bathrooms by computer lab
Cheek Hall: Second floor computer lab
Craig: First Floor Elevators
Craig: Third Floor Elevators
Ellis: First Floor
Ellis: Second Floor by restrooms
Forsythe: First Floor
Foster Recreation Center: First Floor by basketball court
Foster Recreation Center: Second Floor by bathrooms
Freddy: East – by laundry room
Freddy: West- by other laundry room
Glass: First Floor Hallway
Glass: Second floor hallways
Glass: First Floor between front left doors and business advising
Glass: Third Floor
Glass: Fourth Floor
Hammons: Lobby – by bathrooms
Hammons: Basement – by bathrooms
Hammons Student Center: First Floor at the end of the racquetball courts
Hammons Student Center: Pool area
Hammons Student Center: Third floor by elevator
Hill: Second Floor (205T/women's bathroom)
Hutchens: Lobby – by bathrooms
Hutchens: Basement – by bathrooms
Kemper: First Floor
Kemper: Second Floor
Kentwood: Lobby – downstairs by laundry room
McDonald: First Floor (Women's locker room)
McDonald: First Floor (Men's locker room)
Meyer Library: First Floor by Bear Claw
Morris: First Floor past the elevators
O'Reilly Clinical Health Sciences: First floor bathrooms
O'Reilly Clinical Health Sciences: Second floor bathrooms
O'Reilly Clinical Health Sciences: Third floor bathrooms
Professional Building: First Floor
Plaster Sports Complex: First Floor by racquetball courts
Plaster Stadium: Second floor
Plaster Student Union: Second floor bathrooms
Pummil Hall: First Floor
Pummil Hall: Second floor
Pummil Hall: Third floor
Pummil Hall: Fourth floor
Scholars: Lobby – by bathrooms
Shannon: Lobby – by men’s bathroom
Stores and Maintenance: Receiving area
Stores and Maintenance: Outside Facilities conference room
Sunvilla: Lobby – by vending machines
Temple: First Floor by the vending machines
Temple: First Floor by the Auditorium
University Hall: First Floor
Welcome Center: First floor bathrooms
Wells: Lobby – downstairs by bathrooms
Wells: East wing main level bathrooms
Woods: 1st – by desk
Woods: 10th – by bathroom