Students have taken the initiative to make March bring-your-own-mug month after a waste audit showed the amount of garbage collected on campus. With a minimalist trend on the rise thanks to author and TV host Marie Kondo, more people are looking for ways to live sustainably.
In January, the Office of Sustainability held a waste audit, which collected garbage from the main buildings on campus such as Lower Place Riel, the Education Building, Murray Library and the Health Sciences Building over a period of five days. The garbage collected was sorted by the volunteers into organic waste and recyclables.
The audit collected several large bags of Styrofoam containers with 75 per cent of the waste accounted for being divertable. The accumulation of disposable coffee cups on campus reflects a small part of the larger issue of pollution. The waste audit sparked a conversation with members of the USSU sustainability committee about how students can reduce waste. Now, it is an opportunity to act.
Recently, with author Marie Kondo going viral in mainstream media for her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as well as her Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, people have felt the urge to purge their closets and minimize their possessions. In the last few years, minimalism has gone viral, and students may be more open to incorporating waste reduction, reusing and recycling into their lives.
In a culture of instant gratification that includes fast food, fast fashion and consumerism, it is easy to be apathetic and give into what is convenient. Combating pollution is an overwhelming task, but with small steps, students can reduce their waste.
To begin a plan of action for individual waste reduction, one should follow the three Rs. The first R, which often gets overlooked, is reduce. Students can reduce their waste by bringing their own reusable coffee cup or thermos. Campus groups are advocating for reduction of waste by making March bring-your-own-mug month. It is a small action that will reduce the amount of paper cups used. Bringing a mug or thermos to campus is sustainable and incorporates the second R — reusing.
The third R is recycling, and if students forget to bring a mug in March, there is another alternative for reducing pollution — recycling. Confusion over the recyclability of coffee cups often leads to students throwing cups in the garbage. However, the Office of Sustainability gives students the goahead to recycle Tim Hortons coffee cups.
It is a confusing issue because the recyclability of cups will differ from place to place, often depending on who the local recycling companies are and what capabilities they have. In Saskatoon, Loraas is able to recycle paper coffee cups.
Coffee cups are “mixed paper,” meaning they are often combined with variablequality paper products. Mixed paper can have higher rates for contamination, and wax liners impede the process of recycling. The wax layer must be skimmed off during the pulping process.
However, the additional steps taken to recycle mixed paper do not make it unrecyclable. As long as the coffee cups don’t have an excess amount of liquid in them, they can be recycled — a few drops of coffee won’t contaminate the recycling.
Although recycling plays a significant role in combating pollution, there must be a focus on the first two Rs, which work to reduce waste. With the KonMari Method, the focus is on possessing less — only items that spark joy.
Kondo’s method can be used for more than keeping your room organized, and sustainability projects can be a great way to integrate the KonMari Method into your daily life. It might be time to ask yourself this: does that disposable paper cup really spark joy?
Students can take up the challenge and make March bring-your-own-mug month. See updates on the initiative using the hashtag #usaskmugmonth.
Photo: U of S Office of Sustainability / Supplied