Here at NC State University, the strength of the wolf relies on the support of the pack. It will take the whole Wolfpack to push our campus towards a zero-waste, low-impact future. Campus Enterprises, our auxiliary services, is helping to change the culture on campus by integrating sustainable practices into everyday life. From reusable bags and composting at on-campus eateries to a non-profit bookstore, Campus Enterprises supplies students with options for a healthy planet and healthy lifestyle. Our relationship with Campus Enterprises has given us the tools and resources we need to impact sustainability on our campus and fully embody the NC State motto of “Think and Do”.
Who are we, you ask? We are the Waste Reduction Committee within the NC State Sustainability Stewards. The NC State Stewards are a group of passionate, focused student volunteers working to engender a brighter and more sustainable future for our university. As ambassadors for the University Sustainability Office, the Stewards strive to help our community move into a cleaner, healthier, and more inclusive environment through peer-to-peer education. The Waste Reduction Committee leads the movement to eliminate single-use plastics on campus. We have specifically focused on working to remove plastic bags from all University Dining locations. Campus Enterprises has collaborated with us on every step of the journey, most notably with the removal of plastic bags from our campus’ largest food court. The Stewards continue to meet with Campus Enterprises to form new marketing materials and discuss goals for the future.
Through our partnership, plastic bags were replaced with paper bags at The Atrium food court, the largest bag-using location on campus. Campus Enterprises has committed to doing the same in all of our campus convenience stores by Earth Day of this year. We also maintain plastic bag recycling bins in campus convenience stores, which are overseen by Campus Enterprises. The Campus Enterprises marketing team has supported us by placing signs in napkin holders stating the negative side effects of plastic bags and mass distributing a customer survey about the switch from plastic to paper bags. This has allowed us to gain a wider scale of visibility across campus, and has allowed students and faculty to show their support for our initiative.
In the realm of dining, Campus Enterprises has employed sustainable practices at every stage of the on-campus dining experience. Before the NC State community sees a morsel of food, Campus Enterprises is working on bringing it in from a sustainable source. Through the
“My Roots are at NC State” program, twenty eight percent of the ingredients coming into our dining halls are sourced locally. Part of that food comes from NC State’s own Agroecology Farm. Promoting local food is essential to improving sustainability in our Raleigh community as it cuts down on emissions from transportation and supplies consumers with organic nutrients, all while supporting local businesses and farmers. University Dining partners with student groups to hold educational events in the dining halls. During these events, students have the chance to interact with information at “Meatless Monday” and “Weigh the Waste” tables.
Additionally, through NC State’s Food Recovery Network (FRN), food waste is being reduced by giving the excess to those in need. The FRN is a student group that works to gather leftover food that goes untouched in dining halls and transport it directly from NC State to a shelter downtown, where it will not be wasted. The Food Recovery Network is very new, and much of their success can be attributed to the positive and encouraging relationship that has been formed with Campus Enterprises and University Dining. Their willingness and enthusiasm to partner with student organizations with goals to further their mission of sustainability is commendable.
Finally, scraps and compostable materials left over from a student’s dining experience can now be composted in Talley Student Union and in dining halls. With the new compost bins in Talley, students can produce much less waste because most of the dining ware is made from natural and biodegradable materials. Composting began behind the scenes in the dining halls in August 2010 and composting bins were placed in Talley Student Union in August 2015.
The NC State Bookstore promotes social and economic sustainability on campus by maintaining its status as a nonprofit. Aside from its own operating costs, the Bookstore gives all of its profits to student scholarships. This means that when students shop at the Bookstore, we donate to each other’s success rather than funneling our money into an outside organization. Our committee’s relationship with Campus Enterprises has also extended into the NC State Bookstores through a plastic bag recycling bin. While the Bookstore bags are much thicker than the typical plastic grocery store bags, they have also voiced interest in going bag free. This is a goal we hope we can also assist with, and have already initiated conversations regarding theft prevention, customer experience, and general education that would be necessary to achieve a bag-free Bookstore.
Looking into the future, we see many possibilities for Campus Enterprises to expand its current sustainability projects and venture into new territory. Our committee would like NC State to become a completely bag-free campus by April 2017. While this is no easy goal to tackle, Campus Enterprises would have full support from the NC State Stewards and other student environmental groups. There has been and will continue to be a large effort towards education to make the bag transition smooth and efficient. Furthermore, we hope that they can expand composting to new dining locations, such as The Atrium food court. With reusable bags as the only available bag option, students, staff, and faculty will create less waste with their meal choices. Placing compost bins in more than one location on campus will be a vital educational tool. First, the bright green bins will spread awareness about composting and what foods and containers are compostable. Additionally, greater participation in composting will get the NC State community involved in diverting waste from the landfill.
Enacting these changes would greatly improve the quality of student life at NC State. College is a time when young people form lifelong habits and we submit that these habits should be environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. Our generation should have the tools to create communities that use less energy, waste less resources, and look after each other’s well-being without compromising the health of our planet. By maintaining and growing our relationship with Campus Enterprises, we believe that we can achieve a waste-free campus. This goal is ambitious, but without single-use plastics, our campus has the potential to become a leader and role model for sustainability within college campuses. NC State has the opportunity to raise the standards of prospective students and gain positive attention from the general public eye. We have complete faith in Campus Enterprises at NC State to push forward sustainability initiatives and set an example for other colleges and organizations to follow.