Why is it important to reduce waste?
At Tufts, we recognize that while better than putting items in trash, recycling is not the answer. Instead, we like to follow the waste hierarchy:
The waste hierarchy recognizes that the first and most important step in waste stewardship is to rethink and redesign our structures, systems, and habits to reduce the amount of waste that we produce in the first place. This is followed by reusing or repurposing anything we can through donating or upcycling. If items that you have must be discarded, then it is preferable to recycle or compost them. Sending them to landfills and incinerators should be the last resort.
This means buying less, making purchasing decisions that involve less waste, reusing items creatively, knowing how to recycle, and choosing items that come with recyclable rather than non-recyclable packaging.
Waste Reduction at Tufts
Tufts has a goal to reduce the amount of waste that it produces across all four campuses by 3% a year on average. Here are some waste reduction initiatives we have in place to help us meet this goal:
Trash to Treasures: Each year, we facilitate a robust campus reuse economy through which we collect donations during student Move-Out and give them back to students when they return for the fall in our annual Back to School Sale. This salvages good-condition items that would have otherwise ended up in our waste stream, diverting up to 20 U.S. tons from the landfill and instead providing them to people who need it!
Education and Outreach: Throughout the year, we run various programs and campaigns educating the Tufts community on how they can reduce waste. Each year, the Eco-Reps host Zero Waste Week, which encourages students to save all their waste to see how much they produce and where they can cut-back. Eco-Ambassadors, meanwhile, spearhead waste reduction initiatives in their individual labs and offices.
Purchasing: We work with the Purchasing department to make sure that all the items we purchase, from Dining take-out packaging to equipment such as printers, are as zero waste as possible. We’ve made great strides in certain areas, such as with our 2020 switch from desk-top printers to all-purpose Canon printers, and look forward to expanding waste reducing procurement practices at Tufts.
Double-sided printing: Tufts incentivizes students, faculty, and staff to save paper and print double sided by charging more for single-sided print jobs.
Waste Reduction at Home
Here are some quick tips on how you can reduce waste:
- Go reusable! Have a reusable water bottle, utensil set, straws, beeswax wrap, and bags. Using reusable saves money in the long run.
- Instead of buying something new, make it! For example, you can wrap gifts in newspaper or nice magazine paper instead of new wrapping paper. After giving the newspaper new life, you can recycle it!
- Switch to plastic-free options, such as bar soap, shampoo bars, and bulk food items. You can also use your own reusable container to buy bulk food items.
The Circular Economy
“Closing the Loop” (also sometimes called “Cradle to Cradle”) is the idea of moving from a linear production system to a circular system. In the traditional linear economy, products are made, used, and then disposed of— often in landfills, which can be harmful sources of pollution to their local environments and communities. Products are born, and when they are disposed, they “die” (“Cradle to Grave”).
In a circular system, items are reused or transformed to be reborn again. So, rather than moving in a line from creation straight to a landfill, products complete a full circle of being made, used, and then used or remade again. When an item is reused, it finds new life with a new owner, a new purpose, or in a new form. Learn more about what happens to items when you recycle them at Tufts here.