Zero Waste, Here We Come!


Have you ever thrown away a perfectly good t-shirt, pair of jeans, old electronic, CD, or book?  Chances are you aren’t the only one, most of us have.  In the Story of Stuff (a wonderful short documentary I encourage everyone to watch), the cycle of the American consumerist lifestyle is examined and discussed.  The end solution they realize is, “what we really need to chuck is this old-school throw-away mindset. There’s a new school of thinking on this stuff and it’s based on sustainability and equity: Green Chemistry and Zero Waste.”  Here at the Environmental Center, we are working towards a zero waste mindset; by means of both a more sustainable campus, and an environmentally-conscious student body.

the free store logo

The purpose of the Zero Waste team is to work towards a zero waste campus by reducing consumption through education and by turning waste products into resources.  The Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College is working on some ambitious projects this year; one of which is the campus Free Store through the Zero Waste Team.  To help contribute to a zero waste lifestyle, the Free Store has been a critical project for our team for the last few years.  The Free Store is a place to find great recycled items, drop off things no longer needed/wanted, and learn about the environmental impact of many products.  As the “manager” of the Free Store this year, I have been amazed at how many products have been given a second life and at the support and excitement of the entire student body.  Many changes have been implemented at the Free Store this year to focus on education of “virtual water and energy” waste.  We are also keeping an inventory to see how many items have been through our store throughout the year.

Working at the Environmental Center has been very exciting so far and has taught me a lot about individual leadership, responsibility, and teamwork.  I know there are many more great projects coming your way from the Environmental Center, so stay tuned!

Other projects the Zero Waste Team is working on include recycling, composting, and recycling audits.  Our recycling coordinator, Josey, has been busy working on recycling education and on ways to make it easier to recycle on campus.  We are planning to hold a recycling audit and campus-wide survey in November to see what we need to do to increase recycling efforts and success for students living on campus.  Another important aspect of our team is maintaining and improving the composting of the food waste coming out of the San Juan Dining hall.  Evan and Zac have been working with Sodexo and the Student Union to run the composter, which produces a rich soil amendment that is used to help grow food in the Environmental Center’s campus garden.


Amaya McKenna

EC Volunteer, Free Store Coordinator – Zero Waste Team

One thought on “Zero Waste, Here We Come!

  1. Hi Amaya!

    I have certainly enjoyed reading your post and it has piqued my interest to learn more about what you do. I also have a bit of an ulterior motive… I work as a facilitator with high school sophomores and juniors in a leadership skill building and civic engagement program called High School Leadership in Montezuma and Dolores counties. The students come together once a month for a full day and work on a leadership skill while working through the steps of service learning w the end result of creating a group community service project to be implemented in the spring.

    This year’s topic is recycling/reduce/reuse & composting. Your organization came up in a conversation I had here w a gal from the Montezuma Farm to School program & so I would love to chat with you to see if you or someone from the Ft Lewis Environmental Center can come and share with our youth group the importance of the reduce/reuse and some of the other great programs you have kicked off there. We can certainly discuss in greater detail if it is something you’d like to participate in. The details:

    Date: Wednesday, Dec 9th
    Where: Mancos Community Center
    Time: 9:30 – 10:30am (ish)

    I can be reached by email or cell:

    I look forward to hearing back from you soon!
    Have a great Fall Break and holiday!

    Cindy Houston

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *