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HSU’s 4th Annual Zero Waste Conference Recap

Waste Reduction & Resource Awareness Program hosts environmental event and educates community

The Humboldt State Zero Waste Conference, hosted by the campus’ Waste Reduction Resource Awareness Program, taught students and community members how to reduce the amount of waste they produce in their daily lives. The week ended in a city proclamation that Nov. 15 would forever be Zero Waste Day.

“WRAPP is all about serving students and providing students resources to make lifestyle changes,” Program Manager Amanda McDonald said. “It’s a slow and gradual process where it’s not like you can get rid of every plastic thing in your house at once, but you have to be committed to doing this over time.”

A week of influential guest speakers, engaging activities and exciting happenings kept students active and engaged in reducing waste. These included a moving speech by Tedd Ward, the authority on Del Norte solid waste, Tinkertime on the quad and the extravagant Green Campus Trashion Show.

The clothing industry is so detrimental. Fast fashion, in my opinion, is one of the worst industries for the environment. It not only deteriorates sense of commitment, but it also withholds your own sense of style. It’s good to upcycle clothes for a new purpose instead of sending them straight to the landfill.

The Zero Waste Conference began with a banquet which set the tone for the rest of the week. A keynote speech by Alec Cooley shared the story about the origins of the Humboldt Campus Recycling Program, following closely by the Trashion Show.

Eight students built magnificent costumes out of household waste. There was a Rob-box, sword wielding cardboard centurion, and the CD bikini-rocking Julian Palmisano. They each strut their stuff across the stage to show off what they made.

“I think my grandma would be proud,” Palmisano said. “I did it for fun. It’s kind of a joke, really, and it’s a way to bring attention to the unprecedented degree of waste that is in this world.”

In pursuit of constructive solutions, the following day was Tinker Time. WRRAP, CCAT and Green Campus showed students how to reduce their waste by upcycling recyclable items. Upcycling is the “reuse” part of the reduce, reuse, recycle phrase.

During Tinker Time, WRRAP showed students how to upcycle their clothes into mason jar coozies and grocery bags. The Campus Center for Appropriate Technologies upcycled wood waste and oyster shells into wind chimes. At the coozie table, WRAPP Compost Site Intern Krissi Fiebig taught students how to cut up old clothes and sew them together for a more beneficial use.

“The clothing industry is so detrimental,” Fiebig said. “Fast fashion, in my opinion, is one of the worst industries for the environment. It not only deteriorates sense of commitment, but it also withholds your own sense of style. It’s good to upcycle clothes for a new purpose instead of sending them straight to the landfill.”

In 1964 the first plastic bag was made, and it was the beginning of this. One half of all of all plastic produced has been produced in the last thirteen years. Recycling is ineffective… It was not our decision which led to this. It was fractional distillation and oil refining.

Finally, Ted Ward’s speech was a somber reminder of the modern state of the world. He said he felt as though he had failed as a waste manager. He reminisced about the day the first plastic bag was created and commented on how we ought to rename our modern era the “Plastocene,” cynically addressing the volume of plastic waste we produce.

“We should coin this era the Plastocene instead of the Holocene because that is our legacy,” Ward said. “In 1964 the first plastic bag was made, and it was the beginning of this. One half of all of all plastic produced has been produced in the last thirteen years. Recycling is ineffective… It was not our decision which led to this. It was fractional distillation and oil refining.”

The Zero Waste Conference finished up with Humboldt officially declaring Nov. 15 Zero Waste Day. The official proclamation reflects Humboldt County, the City of Arcata and our local community’s progress towards zero waste.

“Now be it resolved that the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors joins Humboldt cities and business groups to recognize November 15, 2019 as Zero Waste Day,” the proclamation said. “A day each year we acknowledge the County’s waste reduction progress and urge residents to recommit efforts toward Zero Waste.”

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