Bobcat Student Orientation takes on a Zero Waste experience

From staff reports
June 22, 2016

Incoming students and parents are in for a unique treat when they arrive at this year’s Bobcat Student Orientation: a Zero Waste experience.

Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and the Office of Sustainability have teamed up with Bobcat Student Orientation (BSO) in hopes of diverting 90 percent of waste from landfills during the orientation. To do this, Campus Recycling has distributed extra bins around various University buildings for recycling, and has placed bins for compostable materials in Baker University Center.

Zero Waste elements of this year’s BSO include education on composting and recycling on campus, as well as distributing reusable grocery bags to all incoming students. These bags were made possible by a Fulbright grant awarded to a graduate student in Environmental Studies to help make orientation the Zero Waste event it is today. The Voinovich School Zero Waste team conducted an informational session with BSO leaders before orientation began. Student orientation leaders are distributing these bags to each group of incoming students and using the opportunity to spread the Zero Waste message.

Kate Blyth, senior student zero waste coordinator at the Voinovich School, said she hopes students will use the reusable bags all across campus. 

“Plastic bags contribute significantly to issues in landfills and recycling centers and are difficult to reuse or recycle, and we hope the reusable bags provide an easy alternative,” Blyth said. 

Parents are also given recyclable bags to help them carry materials they receive throughout orientation. BSO Director Cimmeron O’Connor said she is excited about getting parents in on the experience. 

“This is a great reminder for students and parents to remember their orientation experience and to try to continue with sustainable practices,” O’Connor said. 

O’Connor also shared that the development of the BSO app has helped continue Zero Waste efforts. Rather than printing out daily schedules for orientation leaders and incoming students, attendees are urged to download the app so they can digitally stay up-to-date on the activities to come.  

Orientation leaders are also looking forward to the longer-term impact of this experience. Rising junior, Voinovich Scholar and orientation group leader Rachel Gaunce said sustainability becomes an immediate focus of the Bobcat experience with the integration of Zero Waste at BSO.  

“All of these zero waste initiatives that students are surrounded by really illustrate that becoming a zero waste institution is important to Ohio University, and students know that before they even schedule their classes,” Gaunce said. 

Blyth agrees that Zero Waste at BSO adds to the overall waste-conscience Bobcat education.

“Every incoming student's first experience as a Bobcat is a sustainable one, just like their final experience as a Bobcat – Commencement – will be,” Blyth said. “We hope this will help students and their families understand that sustainability and Zero Waste are important to Ohio University students, faculty and staff.”

To learn more about zero waste efforts at Ohio University, contact the Zero Waste Program at the Voinovich School at zerowaste@ohio.edu, the Office of Sustainability at sustainability@ohio.edu or Campus Recycling at recycle@ohio.edu. The sustainability table at orientation is staffed from 8-10 a.m. on the fifth floor of Baker University Center through June 25.