Leave no footprint behind.
That’s the lesson incoming University of Michigan students learned at a zero waste picnic following New Student Convocation on Sept. 2. More than 6,000 students filled the Angell Hall lawn to participate in the event that used only recyclable or compostable items, including food, napkins, plates, silverware, compostable plastics and featured the use of a mobile hydration station.
The event was sponsored by Planet Blue, the Office of Campus Sustainability, MDining, and Planet Blue Student Leaders.
“As students begin their academic career here at U of M, we want to educate them early that sustainability is an important issue, one that they can actively participate in to help make a difference. With their participation in a zero waste event, and getting a reusable water bottle on their first day on campus, we hope to establish a culture of sustainability,” explains Keith Soster, Director of Student Engagement.
The event supports the university’s 2025 sustainability goals, specifically to strengthen the campus sustainability culture and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40 percent.
U-M students are on board with this vision.
“We feel that it’s extremely important to encourage sustainable habits in student life by providing an environment that celebrates environmentally-friendly practices,” says Planet Blue Student Leader, Ryan Jay, who will graduate in 2018 with a major in applied arts and a minor in business.
One way to do this is the university’s four-year practice of giving the entire freshmen class Planet Blue reuseable water bottles. The students can use the innovative mobile hydration station, also called a Quench Buggy, at the event. Throughout the school year, they can also use the 300 refillable water stations on campus.
With 15 more water bottle refill stations and four more “gooseneck” attachments installed last June, the stations have met with positive support; more than 75 percent of staff and 74 percent of students reported using refillable water bottles, according to data collected by recent surveys by Planet Blue and the Sustainability Cultural Indicators Program.