Zero Waste Is a Challenge Faced

I am a member of the Zero Waste Team here at the Environmental Center and I am very excited about the project I’m working on this year! Emma Kurfis, another Zero Waste Team member, and I are working on a Zero Waste Event Service Guide specific to Fort Lewis College. This guide will be available to everyone on campus and hopefully used by all of the event coordinators. We can also directly get involved with event coordinators to tailor the service to their specific event. To gain experience in the event planning process, we are working on several pilot events in which we partner with event coordinators to reduce the amount of waste produced at event. Skyfest is our next big pilot event, taking place on April 7th.

Skyfest music festival at Fort Lewis College

Skyfest is the highlight of the spring semester for many students, with bands from all over the country visiting FLC campus. Skyfest was outdoors in previous years. Photo courtesy of

Skyfest is a big music festival put on by Student Union Productions at Fort Lewis each year, with headliner bands Gramatik and Radical Something making appearances at this year’s festival. Local bands will also play at the event. As part of the EC’s zero waste event service, Emma and I are working with the coordinators of Skyfest to reduce waste in as many aspects of the event as possible. This event is our first large pilot event to test out the service and in the organizing we have learned how challenging it can be to make an event less wasteful. There are so many areas to consider when planning a zero waste event, some of which are not in our control, as we are not the coordinators of the event. However, the coordinators are very open to our suggestions, which is awesome! Members of SUP have been supportive of our ideas and came up with a few ideas themselves. One of the main goals of our event servicing is to provide zero waste ideas and ingrain zero waste concepts in the minds of the coordinators, so that eventually event planners may attempt to make events less wasteful on their own.

There are several major aspects of Skyfest where we are working on to reduce the amount of waste produced. The first is trash. Ideally, we would like to have no trash produced at the event but this is highly unrealistic being that we can’t regulate what food or disposable items people bring into the event. However, we will be providing several recycling stations in the event to divert as as many recyclable items from landfills as possible. We are recruiting volunteers to help watch over the stations to ensure everything is recycled properly, as contamination is a huge problem with recycling here at Fort Lewis. This will also be a chance for us to spread some education on recycling to the campus community.

The second aspect of the event we are working with is water. When we first talked to the coordinators, they were going to provide bottled water for guests and the bands. We decided to set up water refilling stations instead. With the help of the Athletic Department, we secured several large water jugs for the event that we will refill throughout the event. Students are not allowed to bring full water bottles into the event but if they bring empty drink containers, they can fill them at the stations. There will also be a jug backstage for the bands. The coordinators of Skyfest are purchasing reusable plastic cups that they will hand out to anyone who does not have a water bottle. The cups can be taken home by guests and used or given back to the Skyfest coordinators to be washed and reused at different events.

At Skyfest, we will have an Environmental Center interactive table to teach people about zero waste, specifically recycling. There will be a game called the “Wheel of Recycling” that guests can take part in. After the event, we plan to measure our results by weighing how much trash and recycling were generated at the event. We can potentially take these statistics every year and compare results, aiming to reduce the amounts annually.

As you can imagine, the process of planning zero waste events can take a lot of time and can be very difficult. This process also involves lots of collaboration with other campus and sometimes community partners, and can also build great connections.

If you would like to volunteer to help with the waste reduction practices at Skyfest, please email one of us (below) or drop by the Environmental Center and sign up. The event is on Sunday, April 7th from noon to 9:30 p.m. in the Whalen Gymnasium. The event is free for students and $15 for community members, with tickets available in the SUP office in the Student Union. Come support Fort Lewis College and the environment!

For more information about the zero waste aspects of the event or the Zero Waste Event Servicing, you can email me ( or Emma Kurfis ( or stop by the Environmental Center! For more information about Skyfest, you can visit the SUP office in the Student Union.

By Jessica Smyke

Reflections on a Zero Waste New Year’s Resolution

I’ve recently been thinking about my New Year’s Resolution, which is to make as little harmful ecological impact as possible in the year 2013.The resolution is a promise to the world and to myself that I will live as a ‘No Impact Woman’ or at least, a ‘Least Impact Woman.’ For me, this means not buying anything new, not using electricity or other resources beyond my needs, and doing everything in my power to cancel out any negative impacts of my current lifestyle. My original inspiration to take on this resolution came from the book No Impact Man: The Reflections of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries he Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life Along the Way.In this book, author Colin Beaven embarks on a zero waste adventure that most would consider impossible. Yet, after reading this, I decided I would like to try and live as zero waste as possible to see what results would come about. While I do everything I can to reduce my carbon footprint through my daily actions, I have found that it is impossible to fully eliminate it. After all, I am a carbon-based life form and when I die, I will leave an even greater footprint. Still, every action we perform has effects; I will list some of my current lifestyle changes and maybe motivate some folks to take similar steps in their lives.

No Impact Man

In the book, No Impact Man, an ambitious man and his family try to live zero waste lifestyles in the heart of New York City. Photo used by Fair Use.

The first change I made was getting rid of my cell phone. Since this makes my mother concerned for my safety, I keep the phone for emergencies but turn it off at all times so it never needs to be plugged in and waste electricity. I also do not give out my phone number to anyone, even possible job requests and instead give out my email due to the fact that the school computers stay on 24/7, therefore reducing an ecological impact that I have very little control over (unless I was to go around and turn them all off). Also, my friend and I turn off the televisions in the Student Union when we can so that these do not waste energy.

As for food choices, I eat vegan unless food will otherwise be wasted (such as pasta with cheese on someone else’s plate) and, since I have a Sodexo meal plan, I always observe the food choices first so as to not choose food that is most likely packaged or from long distances (such as bananas and coffee). I refrain from drinking tea because of the bag and I bring my reusable water bottle everywhere. I have never tried soda so this is not a beverage I had to give up since I never drank it in the first place.

In addition, I do not buy any products at all and I certainly do not use non-reusable items such as paper coffee mugs and napkins. I also do not buy any clothes (all of my clothes are second hand or from free boxes… I currently put on the FLC Environmental Center Free Store every Thursday, from 9-11 a.m. in the Student Union) and I do not buy any appliances or items unless they are offered to me. I try not to keep lights on during the day and I like to spread environmental awareness to the as many people as I can. Additionally, I try to limit computer use and if there is anything I am doing that is not ecologically sustainable or beneficial, I do my best to stop the habit or action immediately. I do not own a car and when I can, I avoid flying home and try to hitch a ride with a friend. I do not watch any movies or television unless this action may help to make someone else more aware of environmental issues and thus counterbalances the effect of watching the television. I also do not wear makeup due to the terrible effect it has on the environment.

I don’t want people to feel jealous because it doesn’t feel good. When people feel jealous, I have often observed they consume more due to feelings of inadequacy that may come up for them and then they may (depending on the person) go out and consume and waste items more, thus contributing more to the global carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. I also wake up at five in the morning to meditate so as to begin the day with positive aspirations and thoughts. This mindfulness meditation helps keep me aware of how I am impacting others and the environment throughout the day. I also have made a promise to the world and myself that I will remain celibate so as to not have to use condoms (terribly unsustainable) and I don’t want to marry or have kids due to population growth.

In essence, I think anyone can implement any of these zero waste suggestions and make a positive impact on the state of the world.  As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and in fact, we can. Little by little, step-by-step, we can influence a society and culture and rise up as an ecologically aware population at Fort Lewis College through any or all of our efforts.

By Michaela Steiner

Throwing Away Energy

Confessions of a trash bin.

When you take out your trash, do you think about where it ends up? Most of the waste produced on the Fort Lewis College campus goes to a landfill 45 miles away in San Juan County, NM. Waste-related fees add up to $30,000-$35,000 annually, one of the many reasons why Fort Lewis aims to become a zero-waste campus in the future.

On a larger scale, the United States leads the world in both annual waste production and energy consumption. Combined, these factors present a serious issue for the U.S. What if there was some way to solve both problems in one stroke? What if the trash you put into the dumpster could turn into energy? In fact, it can and some places have been doing it since the 1980’s.

My hometown of Syracuse, NY, has been using waste resources to create energy for the city since 1995. The Waste-to-Energy facility takes in garbage from the surrounding area and burns it, using the heat to make electricity. The process dramatically reduces waste and simultaneously produces energy, conveniently solving both issues at once! Up to 990 tons of waste are burned each day, which generates around 35 megawatts (35,000,000 watts) of energy for the surrounding homes. This saves 7,330,000 barrels of oil annually- powering 380,000 homes throughout the year. This is just one of the reasons Syracuse is called the Emerald City.

So why doesn’t every city have one of these facilities? There are some questionable aspects, including, isn’t burning trash dirty and smelly? Actually, the Waste-to-Energy facility operates very cleanly. All of the fumes and smoke from the burning process are thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned before their release into the atmosphere. Air pollution from the plants is still a concern, however. The ashes leftover after burning still must be put into a landfill (but at a 90% smaller volume than the trash would have taken up previously). These ashes are sometimes considered hazardous waste. Lastly, the plants can consume not all waste products; most hazardous waste cannot be burned. However, the pollution concerns are very small and are greatly outweighed by the benefits.

Over one hundred similar facilities currently exist in the U.S., handling fourteen percent of the total waste produced. None exist in Colorado and Florida has the most, with 11 facilities spread throughout the state.

What if Durango had one of these plants? The FLC campus could produce some of its own energy and fulfill the goal of becoming a zero-waste campus. Although such a facility is a huge investment, it could one day create huge benefits for the city of Durango. With enough support, a Waste-to-Energy facility and a more sustainable community could be in Durango’s future.

Links for more information:



By Erica Gilrein

Putting the “Real” into Real Food

This past February, three members of the Environmental Center’s campus sustainability team traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to attend a Real Food Challenge Breaking Ground Summit. There, the team members met over 200 other like-minded students from over 70 universities, discussed ideas and tactics and ate delicious “real food.”

So what is real food? The Real Food Challenge is a nation-wide campaign that promotes the preparation of food that is produced locally with ethical, humane and environmentally sound practices in college campus dinning halls. The Real Food Challenge works to encourage college campuses across the nation to commit to serving 20% real food by 2020.

Switching to 20% local, ethical, humane and environmentally sound food is indeed a challenge. Adopting such a large percentage of new food requires stepping into uncharted territory—establishing new practices in food production (where we get the real food), purchasing (bringing it to the kitchens), and preparation (how it is cooked). At the three day conference, the Breaking Ground Summit provided students with helpful insights and tools through panel discussions and a series of workshops like Food System Working Groups: Building the Real Food System on CampusOrganizing & Strategic Campaign Planning and Food Justice: Privilege & Oppression in the Food System. Just as important as information, the summit provided an opportunity for networking. Our Fort Lewis students were able to make connections with nearby schools working on the Real Food Challenge such Denver University, who is in a similar stage. They were also able to swap ideas from other schools of similar size and dinning programs.

A photo from the Real Food Challenge Breaking-Ground Summit in Baltimore, MD.

A panel discussion including producers, consumers and distributors associated with a dinning service at an East coast school participating in the Real Food Challenge. Photo courtesy of Melanie Weber-Sauer.

Right now, Fort Lewis College is still just sprouting into the first stages of the Real Food Challenge. Stay tuned for our next steps and how we plan on moving our school towards a more sustainable dinning program!

For more information on the Real Food Challenge, check out their web site Or, feel free to email me at

By Melanie Weber-Sauer

FLC Common Reading Experience Exposes Nuclear Waste Issues Close to Home

Rocky Flats nuclear plant

Remnants of the Rocky Flats nuclear plant outside of Denver, CO. Photo used by Fair Use.

Recently, I learned that the 2013-2014 Common Reading Experience book for FLC would be Kristen Iversen’s Full Body Burden, a nonfictional narrative that focuses on Rocky Flats, a once secret site near Denver that manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. The author has a history with the plant, as she grew up in the area and her father worked at the plant. Rather than providing a dry, academic or scientific assessment of the issue, she includes both her own personal stories as well as the narratives of other workers and community members, exploring the plant’s impacts both on the environment and on families and individuals.

Rocky Flats is a topic of much interest for me for several reasons. First of all, it “hits close to home” for me, literally. I grew up about two miles southwest of the plant and I’ve always been curious about how well the area was cleaned up after its closure. Though the site was cleaned up and shut down in the early 2000’s, I’ve always wondered how thorough the clean-up process was and whether or not past production has health or environmental impacts today. The topic also relates to my fields of study, as I’m very interested in the intersectionality of social, environmental and political issues. The topic of nuclear weapons and production bring up numerous other issues that tie in to each of these fields: the political implications of nuclear proliferation, the power of the military-industrial complex, the environmental impact of nuclear waste and industrial manufacturing, the social impacts of weapons manufacturing and the health dangers caused by plutonium. Plutonium is a particularly dangerous radioactive material, deadly in even the most miniscule amounts. These are all issues that continue to be of major concern to the world today. Obviously, I’m interested in reading the book myself and I’m glad this book was chosen for FLC’s Common Reading Experience.

Although nuclear weapons manufacturing has been less of a concern in the US since the end of the Cold War, projects carried out in the past continue to impact us today.  The catastrophe at the Hanford nuclear facility in Washington is a powerful example.  Known as the most contaminated nuclear waste site in the US, the Hanford nuclear reservation houses 177 tanks full of radioactive sludge left over from plutonium production during the Cold War era. Tanks housing the waste have about a 20-year long lifespan and are quickly beginning to deteriorate. Just a few weeks ago, a single tank containing roughly 447,000 gallons of highly radioactive waste was revealed to be leaking materials. Over time, it was revealed that not just one but six tank were leaking. Cleanup of the site has been delayed over the years due to budgetary issues and the failure of politicians to take action on the issue. While the governor of Washington is pushing the Federal government to take action on the issue, further budget cuts and austerity measures pursued by Congress and the House of Representatives may make cleanup even more difficult and time-consuming.

Nuclear waste has vast long-term consequences for humans, animals and the environment, and is something we all need to learn more about. While our politicians may be more interested in furthering their own agendas, the health of the earth and humanity are in peril. These are issues we should all begin to look into and I strongly feel that it is time to take action on issues of this sort. Whether this means drafting petitions, writing letters to representatives and congress members or simply educating others, it will ultimately be up to the people to make change in these areas. First of all, we must be sure that we are aware of the situations we face and that we educate ourselves. By expanding our understanding and awareness of social, environmental and political issues, we can empower ourselves to become agents of change for the world and in our communities. For more information on this issue check out these excellent sources:

By Randy Newkirk

An Impactful Weekend With C2C Fellows

Applying to Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy’s C2C Fellow’s workshop was one of the greatest ideas I’ve had in a while. The conference was held in Boulder, CO for just three short days. Consisting of a mixture of students from Boulder, University of Wyoming, University of New Mexico, Denver University and others from schools all across the country, our conference group made up a great recipe of creativity, excitement and inspiration. We were lucky enough to be accompanied by the Director of Bards Center for Environmental Policy the entire weekend and two other associate directors. As stated on the C2C website: “C2C stands for Campus to Congress, to Capitol, to City Hall and also for Campus to Corporation. C2C stands for young people gaining control of their future. C2C Fellows is the power network for young people with the wisdom, ambition, talent, and grace to change the future.”

Initially, we heard a lecture on why the earth’s climate is changing and what needs to be done about it to ensure we were all on the same page. We then tried some fun speed dating and getting to know the other fifty C2C fellows. The workshops emphasized that the climate change issue isn’t an economic, technologic or political issue, but a lack of leadership. The director, Eban Goodstein, explained that this is the time for political and entrepreneurial opportunities. Being at the C2C fellow workshop taught me that in order to be a leader you need a vision, a sense to know where to go. More importantly, you must have courage and know that you will fail, so if you do, fail fast and often. Being part of the program also ensures receiving two $1,000 scholarships, career advising from Goodstein in addition to MBA and Bard CEP graduate school scholarships. On the first evening of the conference, Alice Madden, the chair of Sustainable Development at the University of Colorado; Chris Michael, marketing director at BRITE Agrotechnology; and Chris Jones, the transportation planner of Denver, all spoke. All were inspirational.

One thing I learned was that in order to have a vision come true, one must have a way to fund their vision. We learned, when asking for funding, to tell the person or corporation, that you are offering them an opportunity to be part of a new idea or vision. Believe in the vision. If you are told no, ask again. I also learned that in order to be persuasive, the story must be relatable and personable. It is important to repeat, repeat and repeat again while still being humorous and genuine. Finally, ask for what you need from the person, whether it is monetary or emotional support.

Over the weekend, I received a unique chance to network with other people who all care about the environment as much as I do. Some people were more interested in business while others politics and some, like myself, who still didn’t really know what they wanted to do. However, this weekend helped inspire and steer us towards leading in whatever it is we may do.

boulder, colorado

The C2C Fellowship conference was held in the city of Boulder, Colorado. Photo used by Fair Use.

There are still two conferences left this year one in Michigan (Mar 15-17) and one in Portland (April 12-14).  To find out more about Bard College, or C2C fellows workshops you can go to this link:

– Kala Hunter