SFU’s Zero Waste Initiative has diverted 70 percent of all waste on campus from landfills just over 2 year after its launch, and people have noticed.
The program was given the Innovation Award from the National Association of College and University Business Officers, and the Quality & Productivity Award from the Canadian Association of University Business Officers.
Rachel Telling, the program manager for Zero Waste, has attributed the initiative’s key to success as cross-departmental collaboration. “The initiative is aided by SFU’s Zero Waste committee, which is a committee made up of different groups and departments in the university,” said Telling.
The project has been supported by students and staff through a wide range of volunteer programs and movements within the community. Telling emphasized the massive participation of many departments that has helped the project achieve great success.
She noted that “there is a general representation from all key departments like Dining Services, and Sustainability Services. Even student representatives from the SFSS and GSS are involved, [as well as] partners like UniverCity.”
Telling expressed pride in the solidarity that has bound all of these different groups together: “We have been working together from the initiative, [and] we can achieve more than we ever could if there were one or two departments.” The committee is now looking at reducing waste from resources purchased by SFU Food and Beverage Services, such as cooking oil and butter.
Executive director of Embark Josh Cairns noted that the project’s success is impressive given the high expectations that came with its launch: “The 70 percent diversion goal [set by the program] is quite lofty, and at the time that seemed so far away, but it only took a year for SFU to reach that goal.
“I would say that the Zero Waste program is definitely a highlight and a key milestone for SFU in regards to its sustainability commitment.”
Looking towards the future of the program, Cairns remarked, “I think the reality is that like any sustainability initiative, you’re getting decreasing return on your effort. So now, when the project has reached its 70 percent waste diversion threshold, every extra percentage [point] is gonna be much more difficult. It’s gonna be very challenging to ensure that there’s widespread compliance across the university and the students are well-versed in [the program].”
He added that the constant influx of new students to SFU each year is both “a blessing and a curse” for the program, given that each new student needs to be educated in how the Zero Waste Initiative works.
“You have to ensure that the new students entering SFU are educated on the Zero Waste program, and [that there are] changes in behaviour, for SFU to exceed the 70 percent goal,” Cairns said.