Flagler College sophomore Rose Rossi is redefining her concept of waste, thanks to an Environmental Science course aimed at curbing the amount of debris that ends up in landfills.
â€œInstead of throwing away a really cute chipped ceramic jar that was no longer suitable for drinking,â€ she said, â€œI turned it into a makeup-brush holder. I saved about $40 too, which was a total win-win.â€
Rossi is one of 40 students participating in â€œZero Waste Week,â€ a project that challenges students to live more sustainably by practicing the four â€œRâ€™sâ€: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle. â€œRefuseâ€ refers to rejecting items that have superfluous packaging, and â€œreduceâ€ to minimizing unnecessary consumption.
â€œI can’t believe how much of an impact this project has had,â€ English major Rossi said. â€œOnce you become aware of exactly how much we throw away, your whole perspective changes. You begin to actively seek out ways to reduce waste altogether, so that essentially we can continue to live on this planet. It’s a scary concept, but very real. This process has really been eye-opening.â€
The initiative, organized by instructor Susan Risko, includes two phases. Between March 17 and 24, students recorded their waste, grouping it into categories such as â€œtrashedâ€ (waste taken to an area landfill), â€œrecycled,â€ â€œreusedâ€ and â€œcomposted.â€ During the second week, going on now until March 31, students continue to record waste items, but make a concerted effort to reduce their waste to zero â€” that is, zero waste going to a landfill.
Since many students do not have easy recycling pick up, some have been designated ambassadors, tasked with leading efforts to collect and recycle plastic, glass, cardboard and aluminum. The Lincolnville Community Garden is helping too, by offering its community compost pile for studentsâ€™ food scraps.
â€œIâ€™m really excited about how this project is reaching out to the community and engaging students in their environment,â€ Risko said.
The Flagler instructor, a proponent of sustainability, was inspired to launch the project after reading an article a couple of years ago about an individual that attempted the same mission, but for an entire year.
â€œI was amazed at the concept and started putting limits on my own trash habit,â€ she said. â€œIf I didnâ€™t trash it, I recycled, reused, or composted. Although my efforts were never as gallant as a â€˜zeroâ€™ trash year, I thought a weekâ€™s effort would be fun to try in the classroom.â€
Sophomore Sam Miller, another student in Riskoâ€™s class, said that heâ€™s gained a greater sense of his personal consumption.
â€œFrom paper towels to packaging of foods, there are many areas where waste is more prevalent than people are aware of,â€ he said. â€œI find that â€˜Zero Waste Weekâ€™ is a good way for students to find ways in their daily lives that they can better the environment without interfering with their normal activities. I’ve learned that you don’t have to go to extremes to make an effort in decreasing waste.â€
As part of the project, Risko gave students customized hand towels to use in place of paper towels.