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Sustainability in sorting — CDS campaign promotes composting and recycling

The University of North Carolina’s new “Green Guides” directing people where to put their waste are pictured in Lenoir Dining Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.

Compost. Recycle. Landfill. 

Waste in Lenoir Dining Hall is divided into these three categories. This system intends to increase campus sustainability, though students and community members sometimes ignore or misunderstand it. To curb this issue, Carolina Dining Services is using social media and student volunteers to promote proper composting and recycling. 

CDS created the Eat Sort Win campaign to teach students and community members about their role in making UNC more sustainable.

CDS has partnered with Sustainable Carolina and the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling (OWRR) to make environmental friendly practices an ongoing focus. Eat Sort Win provides information on sustainability and waste diversion while incentivizing engagement with prizes.

The campaign is hosting a contest to win tickets to UNC basketball games against the University of Virginia, N.C. State University and Duke University. Students can enter by retweeting, reposting, or commenting with the hashtag #EatSortWinUNC and following CDS on social media.

“The primary purpose of the Eat Sort Win campaign is to educate the University community on how to properly compost and recycle, to ensure we are diverting as much waste from the landfill as possible while keeping contamination to a minimum,” Victoria Hill, the sustainability manager for CDS, said in an email statement.

The campaign runs from Oct. 3 through Nov. 30. CDS posts weekly information about composting and recycling on campus on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

“While we hope to reach similar levels of engagement on social media this year, our primary goal is to see a reduction in contamination levels in our front-of-house compost and recycling bins,” Hill said.

If contamination is too high in these bins, all materials have to go to the landfill. Although it seems counterintuitive, Hill said the best thing to do is throw waste in the trash if you are uncertain. 

To combat that uncertainty, CDS used student volunteers, called “Green Guides,” to assist with waste disposal during the first few weeks of the campaign.

These volunteers were stationed in the bottom floor of Lenoir Dining Hall at lunch, helping patrons differentiate their waste between compost, recycling and trash. 

“Even though we have signage on how to sort waste in our main dining locations, this face-to-face interaction is an even more effective way to spread the message,” Hill said.

CDS recruited students from Edible Campus UNC, CompostMates at Carolina and the Food Recovery Network at Chapel Hill to volunteer as guides. The Green Guides received training on best practices for sorting and common contaminants with help from the OWRR.

“I wasn't completely sure how to dispose of all of the waste with the Carolina Dining Services, Tatum Pryor, a UNC junior majoring in environmentalstudies, said. "And I think being able to volunteer for this position really does kind of make you an expert in waste disposal."

Pryor is familiar with environmentally-friendly practices as the chief sustainability officer for Meantime Coffee and the leader of the cooking team for Edible Campus. She was excited about a “hands-on” experience that teaches the specifics of waste disposal, like the Eat Sort Win campaign.

Employees of Sustainable Carolina, like Communications and Engagement Specialist Abigail Brewer, also stepped in to help out as Green Guides.

“Sustainable Carolina is not directly involved with the campaign, but over the past year, our team has worked hard to create strong relationships across campus with operations and on the research side,” she said.

CDS and Sustainable Carolina are eager to get back to more engagement opportunities in a post-pandemic world.

“I'm really interested to see how this one lifts up or exceeds the previous campaign," Pryor said. "I think it's really great that (Hill is) bringing it back, especially after stagnant COVID years."


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