Tufts Sustainability Collective proposes new initiatives to reduce waste

Co-directors of the Tufts Sustainability Collective Izzy Fontein and MP Monks on Feb. 9. Maria Ferraz / The Tufts Daily

Members of the Tufts Sustainability Collective (TSC) met last night to discuss first steps on several campaigns the group is spearheading this semester. The umbrella-organization, which is comprised of sustainability-focused student groups including Tufts Climate Action, Tom Thumb’s Student Garden and Food for Thought, is focusing on improving the sustainability of dining options on campus.

The group laid out its agenda Tuesday night last week with the hope of addressing the wasteful practices of take-out options on campus including Hodgdon Grab and Go, the Pax et Lox Kosher Deli and The Commons Marketplace. In an attempt to decrease the amount of waste generated by take-out containers at these dining facilities, TSC is proposing the implementation of a system involving reusable containers, TSC co-directors Mary-Paule (MP) Monks and Izzy Fontein explained.

First-year Fontein said this system was inspired by the University of Vermont’s Eco-Ware program, which involves a one-time purchase of a re-usable container. She explained that through a similar program TSC hopes to implement at Tufts, customers would return their dirty containers to the food providers in exchange for a token that they would keep until they need clean containers upon their next purchases.

“A lot of other schools have actually instituted a similar program,” Monks, a first-year, said. “We [also] figured this would save [Hodgdon] money.”

Fontein said that members of the group have discussed this initiative with the Office of Sustainability, which has previously tried to work with Dining Services to implement a similar program but has not yet been successful in doing so.

Along with envisioning a container-return culture, TSC is also looking to decrease the amount of waste that comes from the water bottles sold at Pax et Lox and The Commons Marketplace. The Commons is a special area of interest because of the lack of recycling options during Late Night Dining hours, Monks said. Some of the solutions discussed at last week’s TSC meeting include integrating a water station in the area and switching water distribution from water bottles to cups.

“This would be something we would have to work on through the entire semester,” Monks said. “It’s a complicated process, but I think it’s a good goal.”

Fontein said that another key area of focus for the group is coordinating Earth Week, a program that is planned around Earth Day on April 22, and leads up to an EarthFest celebration featuring performances, information booths and the signing of a sustainability pledge. She said that TSC hopes to involve non-sustainability focused groups from within the university and the larger community in EarthFest.

Another idea discussed at last week’s meeting is an initiative to certify professors as “green teachers,” which would involve assigning ratings to professors based on their dedication to sustainability, determined by factors such as how often the professor requires papers to be submitted hard-copy rather than electronically, Fontein said.

By promoting these events and ideas, TSC hopes to engage and excite a broader student body, Monks said.

Maria Ferraz / The Tufts Daily

Co-director of the Tufts Sustainability Collective MP Monks hears opinions during a Tufts Sustainability Collective meeting on Feb. 9. (Maria Ferraz / The Tufts Daily)