Photo, from left to right: Annie Cheney and Allison Vlach place their dinner in containers brought from home.
By Abbey Klein
“This year we are going to forego single-use items such as paper plates and plastic silverware! Please bring your own dishware and silverware for the meal tomorrow night!”
This was an email received by the UNMC Student Senators. Thomas Schroeder, a student in the College of Medicine and the current Senate Treasurer, brought the idea forward and it quickly gained popularity. “It seemed like an easy first step after seeing so many lunch meetings that had trash cans filled to the brim. If we want to reduce our waste as an institution, we need to take individual steps,” Schroeder added.
“I think it is imperative that we take a step towards waste reduction and sustainability,” said UNMC Student Senate President, Keith Ozanne. “We are hoping that we can act as a model for other student organizations to think about sustainability and affect change on this campus.”
This change is part of a larger goal of UNMC: to be net-zero waste, water, and building emissions by 2030. Additional 2030 goals include increasing active transportation and campus engagement, as well as an overall campus space planning goal. “The environment directly impacts our health,” stated Tina Spencer who works in the Office of Sustainability at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine. “Our sustainability goals are aggressive, but very necessary to affect and improve healthier outcomes. We’re fortunate to have a student body that’s passionate to enact change.”
While bringing your own dishware and utensils may seem like a big ask to busy students, many are pleased with the change. “It’s a small thing we can do to make a big impact on decreasing the waste generated on campus,” said Sarah Hotovy, UNMC Student Senator about the innovative, yet simple ways to reduce waste.
The UNMC Student Senate is comprised of students from each college. While the UNMC Student Senate works primarily on issues affecting fellow students, they also seek opportunities to improve their current processes. By ditching single-use items, such as plates and plastic silverware, and using materials that can be washed and re-used, they are reducing the amount of waste produced. Student Senators hope this small change will inspire others to find ways to reduce waste, both on campus and at home.
What can you reuse in your office, on your floor, or at home to reduce waste?