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The Daily Tar Heel

Student leads waste-free initiative on campus

After seeing overflowing trash cans around campus, a UNC student organized a weeklong initiative, called Trash-Free-UNC, to encourage students to not use disposable items for a week, from Nov. 14 to Nov. 21. 

Olivia Joyner, a sophomore, said she thought of this idea after watching the documentary No Impact Man in class which is about a couple who had a zero carbon footprint for a year.

“Also in the documentary, it mentioned that a group of two or three hundred students at NYU pledged to go footprint free for a whole week,” Joyner said. “From when they said that in the documentary, I thought ‘we could do that at UNC.’”

She said the overflowing trash cans outside of Davis Library and the Student Union every night have also inspired her.

“Some of it is just food packaging, some of it is bottles that can be recycled and other items are compostable packaging that just weren’t put into the compost bin,” Joyner said. “So I’m hoping to raise awareness about how many items you use throughout the day that can be replaced with reusable items, whether it is just bringing a coffee thermos to class with you or pledging not to use plastic water bottles.”

Joyner is teaming up with Epsilon Eta, the environmental honors fraternity on campus, along with several professors and organizations like EcoReps and Sustainability @ UNC.

Caroline Hall, a member of Epsilon Eta, said Trash-Free-UNC is trying to align with the Three Zeros Initiative.

“Greenhouse gas neutrality, water neutrality and zero waste are the three goals that the University has been trying to move toward so this is kind of an effort from the students' perspective to meet these goals,” Hall said.

Joyner said an interest meeting was held Monday in which she and her team informed students on what items are recyclable and compostable. She said they also handed out reusable water bottles to participants.

“Tuesday is America Recycles Day, so it’s a national holiday,” Joyner said. “There is going to be an event in the Union with tables from different organizations set up, so we will have a table and will talk to students who have questions and try to promote using reusable items.”

The following Monday will be a follow-up meeting to discuss the difficulties, successes and experiences with being waste free, Hall said.

Kristin Blank, the research and outreach manager at Sustainability @ UNC, said their office will also be participating in events throughout the week.

“Sustainability @ UNC is participating in America Recycles Day tomorrow, the Transportation Fair on Wednesday and then co-sponsoring a film screening of Just Eat It and panel discussion on Thursday evening,” Blank said.

Joyner said she wants to emphasize that Trash-Free-UNC isn’t a competition, it’s just taking the week and consciously thinking about and engaging with the idea of weeding out single usage.

“I don’t know if we will see a visual change on campus — I mean it would be great to see less trash — but I just want to see students inspired to think about their footprint and how applying these little things everyday can lead to a positive change,” Joyner said.

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