Our group successfully developed an action plan to increase awareness of waste and consumption through a university-wide zero waste challenge. The invitations to our challenge were well received and enough people participated to the point where we reached our maximum capacity for gift handouts. We were granted a BLI small grant to order custom water bottles as both an incentive and a reward for participants. We had at least 34 daily survey responses out of the 40 participants and we were able to analyze this data to determine whether the challenge was impacting their lifestyles. Although there wasn’t any discernable trend in consumption over the course of a week, we’re hopeful and confident participants were conscious of their waste since the consumption numbers were very low, to begin with.
There are four leadership habits that were key aspects of how our team worked well together. The first is “Start Small.” We knew we wanted to create real change in these short seven weeks in regards to waste management on campus, so we chose to do a project that was realistic. The second leadership habit is “Engage the World.” We reached out to several different environmentally minded organizations and tried to gain as many participants as possible for our competition. Having the most possible people involved was hugely important to how we were measuring the success of our project. The third leadership habit is “Expect Challenges.” We were able to effectively plan our project around the idea of welcoming challenge but avoiding issues too difficult for us to handle in the short span of the project. The fourth leadership habit is “Work to Learn.” Our work was a learning experience in both the process and the results. By using surveys to facilitate our event, we collected a lot of data about student waste habits.
Throughout the semester, our team faced a variety of challenges. One of the challenges we faced was an issue with communication. First, we had some difficulty recruiting participants for the event after trying a variety of marketing methods. We designed, printed, and posted flyers, but found that they were not successful in recruiting participants as we received zero emails to our group email. We answered to the lack of response by creating a Facebook event, which was how we garnered much of our attention. Our issues with communication continued when we started the challenge, as many of our surveys were having issues and our emails were sending multiple times. As a result, we sent out apology emails and started communicating mostly through a texting notification application.
Our group dynamic throughout the process of our project has maintained relatively strong. We have met consistently every week to ensure our deliverables were prepared to be turned in and that our progress was on track. When we first began the project, we all had many valuable ideas to contribute, it was difficult to agree on the specifics. However, once we managed to agree on how to conduct our challenge, decisions were easier to make. Our common passion for sustainability and similar end goals allowed us to come up with a broad idea for our project. Yet, we struggled on deciding what specifics our surveys and emails should include. However, after much discussion and feedback from our peers, we were able to deliver an optimized product within the limited timespan.
Although there was no significant or apparent trend from the quantitative data that we gathered, which included the instances of recycling, the number of paper towel use, the number of times ordering takeout, etc. We believe that we have gathered very useful data to supplement future or ongoing sustainability programs and projects. From the analysis of our data, a movement towards individual zero-waste is almost impossible. Instead, there should be more work going on in the background that forces people to become more aware and do certain things that move towards zero-waste, like getting rid of paper towels completely in bathrooms. We believe our project was successful due to the high turnout of participants and high retention rate of participants throughout the course of last week. We’ve seen and encountered some flaws in the process of our execution plan, but due to the time constraint and workload, it was inevitable. The outcome isn’t exactly what we hoped, but overall, we are really satisfied with the turnout and amount of data we were able to capture.
- Julia Atayde, Orion Cleaver, Kevin Liu, Rachel Levine, and David Talbot