Interviews

New Sustainability Efforts at Menlo

Andrea Peeters

Photo by Andrey Poliakov

By Taylor Morrow–

Many of you know Andrea Peeters as the Director of Student Success. However, she has taken on another role at Menlo College as well. Andrea is the new Sustainability Task Force Chair, taking over from Angela Schmiede. That role, paired with the new California mandate AB 1826, allowed her to make large strides on the Menlo College campus and its reduction of waste. Andrea’s goal is to educate students not only about on-campus sustainability, but also on the importance of how sustainable practice on campus has a direct correlation to efforts and practices on a global scale. Andrea answered a couple questions about the new sustainability efforts and how everyone on campus can help.

  1. What are some of the new sustainability efforts happening on campus?

Some of the most immediate initiatives the Menlo Community will start to see is the installation of exterior three stream receptacles incorporating composting to our current recycling efforts. The integration of composting on campus is a proactive effort in response to AB 1826, a California mandate ordering businesses to recycle their organic waste. Currently, Menlo is producing 30 cubic yards per week. This must be cut back drastically.

Another great initiative is the Innovation Challenge being conducted by the MGT101 classes. The topic for this year’s challenge is sustainability. The work the students do in teams and the creativity that comes through during the project highlights the many resources we can tap into in our efforts to create a culture grounded by sustainable practice at Menlo.

Our Sustainability Task Force had its first monthly meeting this week.  This is a group of faculty, staff, students, and administration who serve as an advisory group to a larger student club effort. Great ideas are starting to surface about how we can further implement sustainability practices on campus. We hope to not only practice these efforts, but also create a cultural shift towards sustainability in the whole community. One such effort is spearheaded by Conner Todd, a Menlo College senior. He is working with Sodexo and Peninsula Food Runners to donate unused food from the dining hall to non-profit organizations in the area that feed the needy. He is also taking the lead on forming the student group that will help execute current and future initiatives as well as help drive behavioral change on campus.

  1. Why is this important?

Wow! I could go on for quite some time about this. The bottom line is that composted material  goes directly back into the earth through a 60-90 day decomposition process.  More than half of what we throw into the garbage (which contributes to the 26 million tons each year that go to our landfills) can be composted and turned into rich soil. In turn, this is used to feed our agricultural crops among many other things. It’s as simple as putting containers in the right bin.  Each of the new exterior systems have stickers on the top to help guide students on what items can be composted versus what can be recycled and what goes in the garbage. Menlo students are the key to successfully changing behavior on campus to be more mindful and sustainability centered.

  1.  What can students and faculty do to get involved and further help with sustainability?

One of the biggest things students can do is dispose of the to-go containers provided by the dining hall in the compost bins instead of the garbage containers. The new exterior systems will take some getting used to. However, it is as simple as students walking their containers outside of buildings to dispose of things correctly, as opposed to just throwing them in the interior garbage bins. We will be getting interior composting units in the near future. For now, we are asking students to take that extra step (literally) to help the Menlo community with this effort.

In terms of faculty and staff support, the dining hall offers the green, returnable containers that are available to employees. Employees can get them from the cafeteria and turn them back in (dirty) the next day and get a clean one in return. In addition, faculty can remind students during class to take their disposable items outside so they can be placed in the appropriate container.

Creating a culture around sustainability, and making a difference on a larger scale is going to entail the entire Menlo community being on board! A willingness to change behavior on everyone’s part is essential for not only Menlo’s future, but the future of our surrounding community as well.

 

*This article previously stated that Andrea Peeters is the Career Services Specialist. It has since been corrected to her promoted title of Director of Student Success.*