Thursday, August 3, 2017

California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC) Narrative

Written by Malina Long (Zero Waste Team Associate)

In general, it was enlightening to see how much effort other college campuses were putting into developing more sustainable systems, programs, and infrastructure. After talking to several vendors, it seemed like many schools, especially UCSB, UCSD, Sacramento State, and several other schools were partnered with multiple companies that had a booth on the Campus Green. Talking to the vendors gave me more insight about how those products differed from commercial products and how they were being used on campuses. I enjoyed the passport challenge they gave us as it gave us a great incentive to talk to and interact with vendors that we may not have spoken with. I think this could be implemented in some way to UCSC, not just focused on sustainability groups or companies, but perhaps utilized during inter-org or during campus orientations! In addition to talking to the vendors,

I attended 7 sessions which were all very insightful.
I learned several captivating things from the UCSB Waste Tour: Getting to Zero Waste such as why their compost bins are yellow, the psychology behind their signage, and their infrastructure as well as how they transported and hauled their waste. Unlike the compost bins at UCSC, the compost bins at UCSB are yellow because UCSB wanted to differentiate between compost and green waste so that when residents return home or go into the city, they don’t make the mistake of putting compost into the green waste bins and contaminating the city’s streams. Furthermore, UCSB sorts their green waste into subgrade dumpsters which are placed below ground rather than green bins. One significant difference between UCSC and UCSB is that UCSB’s dumpsters and are locked to prevent illegal dumping and only designated custodian and staff have the ability to unlock them. Also, a portion of their recycling and compost is hauled via students on bikes and electric vehicles! They have upgraded most of their bins to BigBelly bins which light up to indicate when full and feature a front facing door that allows the students who are hauling the trash to swing it open and not have to dive into it. The sides of their bins also feature space for signage which UCSB utilized in order to showcase their #MyLastTrash graphics and statistics.

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UCSB also has an aesthetically pleasing but concise and simple signage system. This is something that I wanted to work on during my time on the Zero Waste Team, but was unable to get around to doing because of my schedule. UCSB students took the time to study their signage and actually had someone sit and watch people throw away their items. They conducted a survey before and after they changed their signs and found that the rate of contamination decreased when they upgraded their signs. UCSB’s signs include a combination of pictures and words which is what the students wanted. They figured out the fine balance of not having too much or too little of either words or images. In addition, when they included pictures, they didn’t just throw a bunch on there, but organized the images and used circles to draw the viewer's attention to the items. Furthermore, the items were relevant to each area. For example, bins near food and dining commons had pictures that were related to the compost, recycling, and trash items that would be sold and disposed of there, not staplers, balloons, or uncommon items. They would typically feature one of that item rather than a picture that shows multiple or several of that item (1 can of soda versus 3 soda cans in the picture). The most important thing was limiting the number of words and choosing high quality, relevant photos, and putting them into circles. In another bin system, they had a clear glass case which had the physical item itself stuffed in there which was very unique.

From the Strategic and Sustainable: Food Sourcing and Burger Production session, I learned that the burgers they served at CHESC on Monday were Blended burgers which are burgers that have 70% beef and 30% mushroom. They contain much more nutrition and fiber than traditional burgers but still have the taste of the traditional burger. This Blended burger saves 2.5 million gallons of water at one campus alone and is a more sustainable option for those who still want to eat meat. The presenters briefly mentioned the Beyond Meat patty but emphasized the fact that most people are not going to go vegan and quit meat entirely, so in the meantime, it is better to have less meat, but high quality meat and to be more creative and conscious when it comes to purchasing meat. The presenters also focused on purchasing meat that is not green washed but looking for the certification sticker to indicate that they were certified humane. They also mentioned that in order to offset the costs of how expensive free-range meats can be, people can be creative and switch the portion and cut of the meat one would typically buy in order to offset the costs. So, rather than buying chicken breasts for $3.99 (hypothetical number), opt for chicken thighs at $2.99 (cheaper but equally tasty cut). One of the presenters also brought forth the idea of the flipped plate which is something I have not seen at UCSC or anywhere in Santa Cruz. The flipped plate was inspired by the protein flip challenge designed to find a way to feed 9-10 billion people sustainably. How it works is that instead of having meat be the center of a meal, meat becomes a side and greens, grains, and everything else becomes the focus. The flipped plate is something that restaurants, dining halls, and eateries in Santa Cruz could definitely implement! All in all, this was one of the most spectacular and empowering experiences that I am extremely honored to have been able to be a part of. This conference provided me with new connections and novel ways of envisioning the community’s role in achieving sustainability. It emphasized the importance of strengthening and educating peers, especially those who have less power or knowledge, in order to achieve sustainability that is fair not only to the planet, animals and critters, but also to humans. CHESC brings together people with similar goals but provided a place to engage with and exchange different approaches to achieve these goals.

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