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CCU Atheneum:

Sustainability efforts at CCU have a growing impact on campus and community

by Caroline P. Rohr
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Effective Nov. 1, 2018, Coastal Carolina University’s dining services provider, Aramark, will no longer provide single-use, plastic straws for its dining locations, offering instead compostable straws upon request. “Sip Smarter: Skip the Straw” is just one of the ways the University continues to turn the tables toward sustainable lifestyles.

Aramark at CCU, also known as #CCUFoodCrew, partners regularly with Sustain Coastal, the sustainability initiative on campus, helping to divert food waste from landfills by composting, and those efforts have added up.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, Coastal diverted 544 tons of total waste from area landfills, including food and organic waste (200 tons diverted), electronics (5.5 tons diverted), commingled recyclables (287 tons diverted), cooking oil (14 tons diverted), scrap metal (16 tons diverted) and items sold or donated via the annual Campus Salvage sale (five tons diverted).

For Jeremy Monday, CCU’s sustainability coordinator, this achievement is just one checkmark on a long list of ways the Coastal Carolina population and surrounding community can help protect and improve the planet.

“Diverting waste is really just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “There’s a lot more that we do to help Coastal be sustainable.” For example, the Skip the Straw initiative will help reduce the number of plastic straws that are used each day in America – around 500 million.

Monday and the Sustain Coastal team work to correct campus behaviors that hinder sustainability and strive to encourage and support sustainable practices.

“During the college experience, students learn routines. They learn to do laundry and shop for groceries; we want them to learn to recycle,” said Monday. “We want that to be part of the routine.”

Sustain Coastal has taken steps over the years to build recycling habits throughout the community, including providing teal recycling bins to faculty, staff and incoming students. To help reduce the use of plastic bottles, 91 water bottle refill stations have been installed across campus, which have collectively eliminated more than 4.2 million disposable water bottles. Monday said that, ideally, single-use plastic water bottles will be replaced by a more sustainable option, such as reusable beverage containers or thermoses.

“We want students to think of their reusable containers like they do their books for class; their bottle is something that goes wherever they go during the day and is by their side or in their backpack,” he said.

Monday acknowledges that incorporating sustainable habits can be tedious and challenging at first.

“Our society is built on things being at your fingertips instantly, but sometimes getting used to sustainability, reusing and recycling isn’t an instant change.”

Monday hopes that Coastal setting the example for sustainable lifestyles inspires other community members in the county to make a change, citing CCU’s participation in the Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s composting program as an example.

“CCU diverted 102 tons of organic waste alone from going into a landfill, and we’re able to do that because there is an Horry County Solid Waste Authority facility located right on S.C. 90,” he said. “People in the community can take advantage of that, too.”

Monday said that Horry County Schools and CCU are among the major contributors to the composting facility, and they are able to make compost material by utilizing food waste. The Solid Waste Authority then sells the compost back to the community in two different grades: enhanced grade for use as soil and gardening, and a grade made from yard waste. Compost is a chemical-free, natural fertilizer that enhances soil.

Hicks Dining Hall, Chauncey’s Choice and the dining facility at University Place all send food waste to be composted. “Since CCU starting diverting organic waste in August 2015, we’ve diverted more than 250 tons,” said Monday. “CCU brings that compost back to campus to feed our soil as a natural fertilizer, which really brings it full circle, as it is intended to do.”

Some of Sustain Coastal’s other campaigns include the Zero Waste initiative at certain athletic events, which encourages members of the community to not only recycle their gameday materials, but to reflect on their personal impact on the environment. CCU participates in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Gameday Challenge to find out which participating university can divert the most waste during a single athletic event. For the past two years, Coastal Carolina University has finished in the top 10 among participating universities nationwide. The football game on Nov. 10 is scheduled as a Zero Waste game.

In addition to the EPA Gameday Challenge, Sustain Coastal holds a monthly “Weigh the Waste” event, in which student Eco-Reps weigh the food that remains on the trays at the dining halls on campus in front of the consumers as a visible example of how much food is thrown away instead of consumed or diverted. Monday said the event is meant to help the CCU community think about what they are doing individually that contributes to waste, and how they can help reduce waste.

“We are trying to set an example, but we also want to be part of the solution,” Monday said. “We want people to think: ‘What are you doing with your waste?’ People might be recycling, but they could be composting, as well.”

Sustain Coastal also founded Campus Salvage, which collects and donates items that students leave behind each year in University Housing to local charities, and sells other items in an annual public sale as a fundraiser for sustainability scholarships. The program began in 2008 to reduce waste and increase awareness for sustainability. None of the items donated to Campus Salvage end up in the landfill. The program has raised more than $25,000 for sustainability and diverted 70 tons from the landfill since its inception.

For more information on Sustain Coastal or CCU’s other sustainability efforts, contact Monday at jmonday1@coastal.edu or visit coastal.edu/sustain.

 

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