Student government sparks sustainability on campus


Summer Chen ('20)

Sustainability cups make an appearance at Theme Nights and Caitlin Pender (’20) takes a sip.

As you throw away your trash and put away your plates, you notice something shocking in the compost bin: a whole uneaten sandwich. You are shocked and sad. Why would someone throw away a perfect sandwich? Why would someone waste food when we, as a school, are trying to be more sustainable? 

Some Webbies might have related with the post that Thomas Jurczak, Science Department faculty, sent to Student News in which he stated that he “was aghast at the state of the food waste bin.” When he was putting his plates away, there was a whole, uneaten sandwich in the compost bin.

Mr. Jurczak said, “We’re coming up on the centennial. We want there to be a Webb for a bicentennial. There will be days that I know that I am really excited about a meal and by the time I get there, one of the things is gone. And then if I see people throwing significant portions of food away, then I’m thinking, well that could have been the food that I would have eaten.” 

Student government aims to reduce Webb’s environmental impact and find ways to give back to the community. At convocation, executives Akira Hori (‘20) and Sydney Wuu (‘20) announced that this year’s theme would be Sustainability and introduced “sustainability cups.” The cups are plastic containers that turn green when they are filled with cold liquids. Students are asked to bring the cups to events like open dorms to earn perks like extra helpings of Sunday Snack and raffle tickets at Theme Nights. 

VWS Dean Sarah Lantz said, “One of the things I’ve wanted to do for a while is bringing a focus to the work the [student government] does on campus, and we thought the sustainability theme for the year would be a great way to involve the student body and make a difference. We want to find a way for student fundraising to give back to the community in a useful way. For example, a chunk of the proceeds from homecoming tickets might go towards something like compost and recycling bins around campus.” 

Armando Amezcua, Food Service Director, is optimistic about the sustainability actions in the Price Dining Hall. He believes that eliminating the use of paper and plastic products and continuing to use the compost bin are two good ways to begin protecting the environment.

Mr. Amezcua, “all dining hall staff have been trying to encourage everybody in the community to be more cautious… We are trying to teach everybody to be more helpful in protecting the environment.”

Señor Javier Valera, Head of WSC Dorms and Language department faculty, has been working to make Webb a more sustainable place for years now. In the dorms, his system includes rewards for recycling through rewards like competitions and extra snacks. 

He said, “It’s not a big effort to recycle and the benefit is all yours because you’re doing a big favor to the Earth.” 

However, he also described how Webb’s attempts at recycling throughout the entire campus has left him quite disappointed. He said, “We recycle cans, plastic bottles, and glass. But we don’t recycle plastic bags or paper. I think we can do a lot better as a school.” 

Ken Rosenfeld, Dean of Campus Life and Jameson dorm head, is pleased with the recent progress being made on campus. From his past 15 years at Webb, he has experienced conversations about “big ticket” items, such as the potential utilization of solar technology and wind technology to generate electricity at Webb, but he is glad that sustainability has become such a strong focus this year. He describes a friendly rivalry among different WSC dorms about their recycling figures and hopes this will continue under this year’s sustainability theme. 

Mr. Rosenfeld said, “It’s these little steps that we’re taking in the dorms and in the dining hall and in the student activities that are really starting to make a big difference.” 

While the dining hall has stopped providing paper plates and cups, there is a plausible solution for those who take food outside the dining hall.

Mr. Amezcua said “They can either bring their own container or we can provide them with containers and rewash those containers.” 

In addition, Mr. Rosenfeld believes that the newly implemented rule restricting food ordering will not only minimize food waste in the dining hall but also reduce the amount of plastic and cardboard food containers being thrown away. 

While Webb has created many sustainable solutions, we still have lots of room for improvement. Even small things like paper waste and shower times can make a difference. Hopefully, the sustainability campaign will create more opportunities for us to make a positive impact on our environment this year.