Students at Cal Zero Waste received a $26,400 grant this fall to promote and study waste reducing practices in and around UC Berkeley.
The Zero Waste Reusables Advancement Research Project covers four different concentrations including stocking campus ReUSE stations, conducting surveys, educating students and implementing and maintaining reusable dishware in on-campus dining and restaurants around Berkeley.
“We’re ensuring that different eateries and the campus in general have enough resources and education to empower students,” said Anya Brink, project coordinator at Cal Zero Waste.
The project was funded this fall by a $26,400 grant from The Green Initiative Fund, or TGIF. According to Brink, student staff are responsible for education and outreach for decreasing the amount of landfill on campus.
According to Emma Centeno, ASUC representative for TGIF and senator of the Eco-Office, TGIF is dedicated to funding environmental projects on campus that promote sustainability.
“The work that these organizations are doing to reduce what we contribute to the global waste system is really important,” Centeno said. “Cal Zero Waste focuses on our waste at Berkeley and how that can be reduced.”
One area of focus is campus’ ReUSE stations, which are located around campus for students to drop off and pick up used binders, textbooks and office supplies, Brink added.
The project focuses on assessing sustainability practices in restaurants on Berkeley’s Southside and works closely with campus startup Foodware Reusables at Haas to implement reusable foodware in campus dining facilities.
The grant money has also gone toward surveying students on the subject of reusable foodware.
Yue Wa Topin, one of the project’s student researchers, noted that in a survey of 2,953 students, 61 percent of students reported a restaurant’s use of reusable foodware would influence their dining decisions, and 41 percent of students said they would pay a refundable deposit for a reusable alternative.
“These surveys were conducted during tabling and outreach events and showcase a demand for expanding reusable services and willingness from students to pay for a deposit for reusable takeouts,” Topin said in an email.
The team also conducted research on the capacity for washing reusable-ware at dining facilities on campus. Results showed a lack of dishwashing capacity due to a combination of structural habits and financial barriers, according to Topin.
Brink noted Cal Zero Waste will also apply to two additional grants this spring: one to advance the sustainability of campus ReUSE stations, and the other to purchase more dishwashing space on campus to promote reusable foodware.
“The Green Initiative Fund is what made these projects possible,” Brink said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to have these positions to assess the sustainability efforts of eateries on campus, write these new grants and take care of the dishwashing and ReUse stations.”