UMass celebrates Campus Sustainability Day

By David McLellan

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Students congregated in the University of Massachusetts Campus Center to talk about the environment, recycling and sustainability for this year’s Campus Sustainability Day on Wednesday. This year’s theme was “empowering change on campus and in the community.”

The day began at 12 p.m. with the Student Sustainability Fair in the Campus Center’s main lobby. Representatives from UMass’ Eco-Rep Program, Gardenshare, Protect our Breasts, Sustainable UMass, Net Impact and many other student organizations hosted informational tables, pointing out the latest innovations regarding sustainability.

Erin Shaughnessey, Net Impact’s sustainability chair, commented on the program’s goal of having upcycling in the Campus Center’s Blue Wall.

“Upcycling is a type of alternative recycling,” she said. “Normally those wouldn’t be recycled, but our goal is to have volunteer collectors recycle anything possible.”

Shaughnessey said an Upcycling station could be coming to Blue Wall very soon.

Outside, the theme of sustainability continued with MASSPIRG encouraging students to vote yes on ballot question 2, in order to support recycling in this year’s state elections.

“Right now 80% of bottles with a deposit on them are recycled but only 23% of non-deposit bottles are recycled,” said Shawna Upton, President of UMass’ MASSPIRG program. “There’s a huge discrepancy there. We are working to update the Bottle Bill to increase recycling and get rid of litter, but big beverage companies have lobbied against us.”

The Bottle Bill is a 30-year-old law that requires five cent deposits containers with alcohol and carbonated beverages, updating it would require five cent deposits on bottles of water and juice that litter parks and sidewalks.

“Big beverage companies have spent 8 million dollars to make sure we don’t get this passed, but we got over 6,000 signatures last year in support of this. It’s people versus money at this point,” said Upton.

The Student Sustainability Fair also featured a bulletin board on which students could write what “sustainability” meant to them. Phrases like “less waste,” “long term resources,” and “healthy” were boldly displayed.

At 3:30 p.m. the “Empowering Change” open forum began on the 10th floor of the Campus Center. Speakers included Kevin Hollerbach, Eco-Rep program manager, who detailed efforts by his program to make campus greener.

“Yesterday we hosted a trash sort. We came up with 217.8 pounds of recyclable goods that would have been thrown away,” Hollerbach said. “If every student pulls one can out of a trashcan each day and recycles it, that will drastically reduce that number.”

Other topics at the open forum were the use of hybrid and electric PVTA busses, the Green Office Program’s goal of eliminating waste in campus buildings and the SGA Bike Share program, which will rent out bikes to students for 24 hours in an effort to reduce pollution.

The day concluded at 5 p.m. with the showing of “Oil & Water, a film by Amherst native David Poritz. The film chronicles the life of Hugo, an Ecuadorian whose tribe has been threatened by oil companies drilling in his homeland.

The film also explained Poritz’s founding of Equitable Origin, a company that gives certifications to oil companies that work to eliminate pollution in their industry.

The discussion about sustainability continues Thursday with the 30th Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water, and Energy hosting an exhibit from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Campus Center.

David McLellan can be reached at [email protected]