UC Berkeley Zero Waste by 2020 initiative aims to increase student engagement

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The UC system is implementing a new sustainability campaign called My Last Trash in an attempt to increase students’ excitement for the university’s Zero Waste by 2020 program.

My Last Trash is a social media campaign that aims to change the way students think about waste by encouraging students to tweet using the hashtag #mylasttrash. The campaign originated at UC Davis and has already launched on most UC campuses. It will soon arrive at UC Berkeley.

“(My Last Trash is a) major push to implement social habits and behaviors regarding waste management on all of our campuses to bring us closer to the Zero Waste in 2020 goal,” said ASUC Senator Rigel Robinson.

Hilary Bekmann, associate director of sustainability at the UC Office of the President, said this campaign centers on “communication and engagement, not infrastructure” because different campuses have different ways of dealing with waste and recyclables.

In comparison to other campuses, UC Berkeley — which currently diverts 63 percent of trash — is behind in terms of the initiative’s goals. UC Davis is ahead of UC Berkeley by 10 percent, and UC Irvine is leading all of the UC campuses at 81 percent diversion. Regardless, Bekmann remains hopeful about the campus’s engagement.

“There is enormous activity right now across the system to try to achieve the goal,” Bekmann said.

The biggest obstacle facing the implementation of the Zero Waste by 2020 initiative is funding. With so many other services the university has to support, the initiative tends to take the backseat in terms of funding, said Robinson.

Campus spokesperson Christine Shaff said the same funding issues that burdened the program in the past still remain. As the campus drafts next year’s budget, Shaff said she remains unsure if any funds will be specifically allocated to the Zero Waste 2020 initiative.

Additionally, increased enrollment at the university has caused funds to be spread even thinner, making it “very difficult” to adequately fund for campus initiatives, Robinson said.

Shaff said proponents of the initiative also hope to reduce waste by better preparing for move-out at the end of the semester, when students tend to empty out their dorms and apartments and leave waste on the sidewalks.

The campus has partnered with student groups in order to fight the funding obstacles it faces. According to Robinson, the more students that get involved in the project, the more campus can achieve without increasing the funding allocated to the initiative.

The ASUC Senate also passed a resolution in November 2016 supporting the construction of the North Academic Building, which will be the first building on a college campus to receive a zero-waste certification from U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. The building is expected to be completed in 2017.

“Communication and collaboration between student groups who want to work on this allow us to get more done in a cost-effective way,” Robinson said.

Amber Tang and Francesca Munsayac at [email protected].