Green Greeks Turns Trash into Cash… Savings!

During Winter Quarter 2017, the Green Greek Representative Program has seven exciting projects, many of which are primed for success! A few projects are continuations from Fall Quarter 2016, including the Waste Right Project which is working to reduce and divert waste in the Greek Community.

 

The Comprehensive “Waste Solutions Package”

But they’re not working alone! In fact, the Waste Project Team has been working with a team of experts from local companies and utilities to roll out a comprehensive, money-saving “Waste Solutions Package” for Chapters. The list of experts involved includes Commercial Recycling & Composting Program Manager Pat Kaufman, Director of Solid Waste Compliance at Seattle Public Utilities Sally Hulsman, Waste Zero Specialist at Recology Elizabeth Szorad, and Solid Waste Field Inspector Brenda King. So far, four chapters have acted as case studies for implementing and making the business case for waste solutions: Alpha Chi Omega, Chi Omega, Delta Chi, and Sigma Kappa. On Tuesday, January 24th, the Green Greek Representatives, led by the utility experts, did a waste audit of these chapters and four others to learn more about how to implement a Waste Solutions package within more chapters.

January 24th Waste Audit

Essentially, the waste management plan is a three-part approach to improving a chapter’s waste habits:

Phase One:

First, the Green Greek Representative will create a Waste Solutions Plan for their chapter. This entails creating a strategy for the implementation of recycling, composting, and waste disposal bins for all main areas, as well as acquiring the respective bags that will be needed for the new bins (i.e. green compostable bags and clear recycling bags), explanatory signage, and transitioning to sustainable materials (utensils, to-go containers, paper towels) so that most, if not all, household materials can be recycled or composted rather than thrown in the trash. In some cases, it might also include a plan for smaller recycling and composting containers for individual rooms to encourage sorting and stop chapter members from simply taking all the garbage they accumulate in their room and dumping it into a main trash bin. The plan will include the estimated costs and sourcing options for all necessary supplies, as well as a timeline.

Phase Two:

While the Waste Solutions Plan is being developed, the Representative will work with a Solid Waste Field Inspector from Seattle Public Utilities to set up the best pick-up schedule. For example, instead of getting the trash picked up Monday through Friday, the chapter may be able to have the trash picked up only two days a week by adding on two additional recycling pickups (which are free). This can reduce waste costs significantly. One fraternity’s current service levels was as follows: two 2-yd garbage dumpster pickups on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which cost $1848.48 per month (2 Dumpsters x 3 pick-ups per week x $308.08 monthly cost of 1x per week pick-up) and one 2-yd recycling dumpster with one pickup, which was free. The recommended version was one 2-yd dumpster with four pickups per week at a new cost of only $1232.32 per month (1 Dumpster x 4 pick-ups per week x $308.08) and the one -yd recycling dumpster picked up three times per week (still free). The total yearly savings would be more than $7,100. On top of that, the Chapter has the potential to eliminate enormous fines it has been receiving for not recycling/composting correctly and for having waste outside of the specified bins, which totaled more than $485 from September to December 2016.

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Phase Three:

As the Waste Solutions Plan and new pickup schedule is implemented, the Representative must focus on creating an educated and respectful culture around the waste reduction efforts. This includes educating the Chapter on best waste practices through one or more Chapter presentations, putting up signs and reminding people on Facebook, and making the business case for waste reduction and diversion very clear.

The Big Gr$$n Barrier: Getting Around Up-front Capital Costs

Trash to Cash: Innovative Finance Mechanisms to expedite Waste Solutions roll out
Trash Cash: Innovative Finance Mechanisms to expedite Waste Solutions roll out

One of the biggest impediments to implementing a Waste Solutions package is the cost of the bins (one recycling slim jim is about $30, multiply that by 10, and you’re looking at $300 for recycling bins alone). This is of special concern because many Representatives wanting to make the changes fear that their chapters might not even use the bins and the investment would be wasted. In order to help Representatives pay the upfront costs of implementing a waste solutions plan, the Green Greek Finance team is working to create a low-risk loan system in which Chapters would receive and implement a full waste solutions package (including bins, signage, bags, sustainable kitchen materials, and a chapter education presentation) at a subsidized price, which would then be paid out of the savings the chapter sees in their waste utility bill over a specified time period.

Given that one fraternity expects to save over $7,500 in one year from the implementation of their waste solution package, whose upfront cost was $830, the return on investment is unquestionable. In fact, the net present value of such an investment (assuming a relatively high discount rate of 10%) is over $27,000 within 5 years. Now, that’s real savings. 

 

Determining Best Recycling & Compost Practices in the UW Greek Community


For my UW senior capstone, I collaborated with Seattle Public Utilities and the Community-Based Social Marketing approach to promote composting practices within the UW Greek Community.
Seattle is currently focusing on citywide composting and has enacted a composting ordinance that prohibits compostable food and paper from being disposed of in waste bins. Fines are being issued to property owners who have 10% or more of food waste in garbage containers as a way to provide financial incentive. space-needle-1509141_1280However, this law does not directly impact tenants in multifamily housing because they don’t have personal accountability for what goes into the communal waste bins. The University of Washington Greek housing is a type of multifamily student housing that currently faces similar issues with creating collective participation to compost. Without financial incentive, both settings are facing various psychological barriers to transitioning to composting.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-2-05-27-pmI worked with Green Greek Representative Program Director Tali Haller to connect with different Greek chapters to gather information on composting barriers through surveys, interviews, and quantitative measurements. After investigating different psychological barriers to composting, I suggested sustainable interventions for each house in my report titled “The Psychological Barriers to Compost in UW Greek Housing.” My research shows that barriers to composting stem from a lack of knowledge, an absence of motivation, unsupportive attitudes, or general inconvenience.

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Barriers to Composting

I coordinated with multiple Greek Chapters, including Sigma Kappa, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Psi Upsilon. Each house I coordinated with had members that were incredibly passionate and dedicated to making their home more sustainable. Their compost bins were all easily accessible with prompts to help remind and educate house members. However, their Green Greek Representative experienced a lot of push back. While 90% of the Greek members I interviewed generally knew what went into compost bins, only 37% were aware of the Seattle composting ordinance or the fines that were being issued to their house. Among these 4 barrier types, 67% of members showed a high barrier in regards to motivation and attitude toward composting.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-3-08-25-pmTogether, Tali and I have been working to overcome the “attitude” and “motivation” barriers by establishing social norms and creating a positive environment around composting. We’re also looking into ways to display the high-level of local community support for composting practices to encourage action!

Check out the Final Presentation, the 55-page Full Report, or Mercedes Project Site.


unnamed-1Mercedes Stroeve recently received her Bachelors of Arts in Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) with a minor in Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington. Her education focus was around mitigating climate change and creating collective action to improve circumstances. She has worked previously with UW Transportation Services where she promoted sustainable commute options and helped reduce UW commuter’s emissions. Currently she is working with the Mass Transit Now campaign to help pass the Sound Transit 3 initiative to help expand our existing system of light rail, commuter rail, and bus services in the Puget Sound Region.

Husky Neighborhood & the Green Greek Representative Group: Let’s Clean ‘Er Up TOGETHER!

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-1-37-03-pmIt’s no secret that waste is a big problem in some areas of the UW Greek Community, as well as other areas north of campus. This problem turns from big to BIG in the month before school starts (late August and early September) and the month after school ends (June). Students are on the move, transitioning between houses, apartments, dorms, etc. and in the process a lot of waste gets left behind or abandoned on the street as somebody else’s problem. What’s more, waste also piles up in disposal containers throughout the quarter, and cans and other trash gets haphazardly tossed into bushes.

Luckily, there are groups within the community who care a lot.

TDXHusky Neighborhood Interns is a University of Washington program intended to create a stronger, safer, and more enriching community for residents. As the Deputy Director for Regional & Community Relations Aaron Hoard explains, this group of dedicated interns puts into action ideas generated from the North of 45th Effort, a platform for residents – students and non-students alike – to discuss neighborhood issues, including health, safety, sustainability, etc. In the past, the Husky Neighborhood Interns have organized Neighborhood Safety Walks, clean-up events (such as their “Touch Up Truck Hill” event last April), and even transformed a vacant lot at the intersection of NE 47nd and 22nd NE into an asset for the community, a park!

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-1-21-52-pmOn August 31, September 7th, 26th, and 27th, the Husky Neighborhood Group in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities and UW’s Office of Regional & Community Relations will host their Husky Neighborhood Cleanup! They offer FREE recycling, donation, and disposal of unwanted items. In 2008, when the event was first started, collected material from the Spring Husky Neighborhood Cleanup event totaled over 12 tons! In 2015, the Spring event generated almost 6 tons of donated items, such as books, household items, small furniture, electronics, and sporting goods, comprising over 50% of materials collected.

This year, a new player’s getting involved: the Green Greek Representative Program (GGRP), a 70+ group of representatives from almost all 50 campus chapters who are dedicated to making the Greek Community a more sustainable place. While the group will heavily promote the August & September event, they are actively planning and hoping to collaborate with the Husky Neighborhood Group on a mid-quarter Neighborhood Cleanup Event for late November.

Community Clean-Up

In November 2015, the GGRP was actively involved in the event and got 18+ chapters to participate. However, this year they want to take a bigger role in planning the event and have participation from all 50 chapters. “It’s so important to keep our community clean,” said Green Greek Director Talia Haller. “But it’s almost equally important to foster positive community interactions between the Greek Community, other students, and other residents.”

TaliGroupBoth groups are excited about the opportunity to work together. “We’re always looking for opportunities to work with students, especially Greek students because of the network, resources, and leadership their community can provide,” said Deputy Director Aaron Hoard, who manages the Husky Neighborhood Interns.

 

Originally Published on the UW Sustainability Blog, In Our Nature