Stepping up to the challenge of becoming zero-waste

Jaydin Johnson helps with the AQ Community Garden. Photo courtesy of the Center for Sustainability.

Story by Lindsay Hillstrom, News Editor

Photos courtesy of AQ Center for Sustainability

In the month of February, Aquinas College students and staff will have the opportunity to participate in the annual “Tip the Scale” Waste Competition hosted by the Center for Sustainability. Each year, residence halls and administrative buildings across campus face off to see who can most significantly improve their waste diversion rate and reduce their environmental footprint. The two winning buildings, one representing students and the other representing faculty and staff, will each be awarded a sustainability trophy to acknowledge their performance.

This competition is part of a broader campus-wide mission to make Aquinas a certified zero-waste school. Aquinas currently ranks fifth in the country for waste diversion.

“Our zero-waste performance is something I’m incredibly proud of,” said Jessica Bowen, the director of Sustainability at Aquinas. “We’re doing so much better than many other schools and it’s because of the community. It takes students, faculty, and other Aquinas personnel knowing how to sort, being motivated, and taking the time out of their day to make sure that they are disposing of their waste properly for us to be fifth in the nation.”

However, Bowen acknowledges that there is still room for improvement. 

Students sort waste for terracycling. Photo courtesy of the Center for Sustainability.

“The purpose of this program is to motivate people to develop new habits,” Bowen said. “We get stuck in habits, and sometimes they are not the most sustainable habits. It doesn’t take very long to break a habit, but it also doesn’t take very long to form a new habit. It just takes some effort, so the hope is that the competition will inspire and motivate people to get out of their comfort zone and develop new, sustainable habits.”

According to Sustainability intern Jaydin Johnson, Aquinas averages a waste diversion rate of 65%. This year, that rate has been closer to 50% across campus. 

“Our main goal is always to get to 90%, which would make us the first school to be certified zero waste as a campus,” Johnson said. “Hopefully in the next couple of years, we can get that to happen.” 

The Tip the Scale Waste Competition runs between January 31 and February 27. The Center for Sustainability hopes the event inspires staff and students to step up to the challenge of making Aquinas a zero-waste school.

Categories: News, The Saint