WRRAP’s compost branch director Krissi Fiebig and coordinator Jerry Swider prepare for collections with their new compost-mobile on Oct. 2. | Photo by Dakota Cox

WRRAP’s fifth annual Zero Waste Conference goes virtual

HSU's eco awareness program continues providing support to campus during the pandemic

HSU’s eco awareness program continues providing support to campus during the pandemic

Humboldt State University’s Waste-Reduction and Resource Awareness Program team will be hosting seminars and workshops online, raising awareness of environmental justice, local resources, the zero-waste lifestyle and providing eco-friendly DIY techniques, like making your own deodorant.

This year Oct. 19-23, WRRAP will be holding its annual Zero Waste Conference virtually.

The virtual setting grants more accessibility for speakers to attend. Beyond the clothing swaps and physical demonstrations, WRRAP sacrificed the semester for the safety of students. The new policies come at the cost of student interaction.

Amanda McDonald, WRRAP’s program manager, said the biggest obstacle in their path this semester is reaching students.

“Typically, there’s multiple table events that we work throughout the semester that really get students engaged in waste reduction just by walking through the quad,” McDonald said. “That kind of interaction is so much harder with students being online.”

The WRRAP staff is smaller this semester, they are still provide students on campus with resources through the Reusable Office Supply Exchange program, the Bicycle Learning Center and the campus compost project.

The ROSE program simultaneously reduces waste and provides students with free access to school supplies donated by the community and former students.

Sam Kelly, director of ROSE, said the program is operating as usual with extra precautions and shorter hours of operation.

“We definitely have more stuff in here right now than past semesters,” Kelly said. “Just because we don’t have a lot of people coming in and taking it.”

The BLC, located on the eastern end of the Redwood Bowl, is offering free bike repairs to students, staff and faculty. Service differences include wearing masks and social distancing during repairs.

COVID-19 restrictions currently forbid the BLC from allowing volunteers, which has forced them to cut back their hours.

Justin Delgado, a BLC instructor, said it has also made the days a lot longer without someone else in the shop.

“Typically we get about one person, at least when I’m here, per day right now,” Delgado said. “It used to be prolly five or six.”

The compost team continues providing campus with their weekly services, however with a fraction of the employees present, their load is significantly lighter.

The team recently made the switch to an electric mountain bike this semester for compost collections. While much more energy efficient than the electric facilities vehicles they used in the past, in its current state, the trailer they’re hauling behind the E-bike can only hold a fraction of the buckets.

WRRAP’s compost collection process has switched over from electric facility vehicles to an electric mountain bike for energy efficiency. The downside to the switch, is the trailer the bike pulls behind it can only hold a fraction of the compost buckets.

Krissi Fiebig, the director of the compost branch of WRRAP, said they intend to team up with the BLC and modify the trailer possibly into a tower to fit more buckets.

“I don’t know how aerodynamic that would be,” Fiebig said. “But it would get the job done.”

The compost team is beginning a new partnership with the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, allowing students access to properly dispose of their food waste. Additionally, providing free fertilizer towards the end of the semester, to any students who show up.

McDonald expresses concern in the programs future with several of the student staff members expecting to graduate in the spring. Finding replacements will be challenging given the virtual format that’s currently planned for the rest of the academic year.

“I’m just nervous that it’s going to harm the integrity of the program,” McDonald said. “When we do hire new people, I want them to understand the history of this program and the legacy that they’re stepping into and carrying on.”

Though they can’t currently accept casual volunteers, the WRRAP team currently has intern positions available and leadership positions opening soon for students interested in the future of our planet.

“Being one of the people on the WRRAP branches really helps to remind me to reduce my own waste,” Fiebig said. “And just to be more conscious than I already was of the things I consume and what I do about my life.”

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