Sustainability Committee’s plans for a more eco-friendly campus

Krystal Miller and Amanda Undari

After Quinnipiac University released its sustainability plan in October 2020, the Sustainability Committee worked to implement new ways to make the university environmentally friendly.

Quinnipiac inspected how the Café Q dining hall deals with food waste by conducting a food audit in the Carl Hansen Student Center on Nov. 12. Abbey Massaro, environmental specialist from the Center for EcoTechnology, attended to assess what ways the university can improve its use of food waste. 

“The biggest goal is to divert material from the trash to save natural resources and essentially take what is our waste and give it a higher and better use, and that will help save the university money,” Massaro said.

Quinnipiac hosts a meeting for a food waste audit of dining services in the Mount Carmel Campus dinning hall on November 12, 2021. (Photo contributed by Daniel Passapera/Quinnipiac University)

The food waste collected could go to multiple sources, such as feeding animals, creating nutrient rich soil or helping people in the Hamden community, as Massaro explained. 

“There’s other ways we can divert food from the trash by developing a food donation plan, feeding the local food insecure community with surplus food and ingredients and collecting our scraps separately from the trash,” Massaro said.

Massaro highlighted the ways in which the pandemic affected food waste and why it’s important to be aware of those effects.  

“I think customer ordering habits have really been sporadic around the pandemic,” Massaro said. “It’s hard to predict who is going to be at a meal or an event, so that leads to surplus food which is why we’re here today to have that plan in place when surplus food occurs.” 

The report for the audit will come out within early December, and the data collected will be used in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, evaluation of Quinnipiac’s sustainability.

STARS is a sustainability framework designed for universities that uses data to evaluate what practices need to be improved or altered on campuses. There’s a long list of categories, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to the universities’ curriculum, all of which can affect the sustainability rating.

Gillian Sawyer, member of the Quinnipiac Sustainability Committee and a Yale University graduate  environmental management student is working to implement the STARS method at Quinnipiac.

“My role has been collecting the data to get Quinnipiac formally certified by this national framework, which will give us legitimacy as a university working on sustainability, and it also helps us see where we’re missing initiatives,” Sawyer said. 

At the conclusion of the food waste audit, Sawyer said she was optimistic about Quinnipiac’s path to becoming sustainable.

“It’s sort of an obvious first step, and it seems to me like the food waste ties into recycling and composting, I think it’s really promising,” Sawyer said. “I think Quinnipiac has a lot of potential.” 

Currently, Quinnipiac is focused on ensuring sustainability in the upgrades to the recreation and wellness center, according to the university’s website

“It will be an environmentally responsible building designed to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council,” the website states. 

Sam Edwards, the co-chair of the Sustainability Committee and associate professor of legal studies, described how the renovations would help save energy in the building. 

The center will have a green roof, solar panels, a highly energy efficient design, designs around indoor air quality and electrical vehicle charging, Edwards said. 

The Sustainability Committee aims to teach students about sustainability while also accomplishing its initiatives. The food audit was a way to get students involved as well as faculty in the learning process. 

“This is an example of our ‘learning, living, leading’ approach to sustainability by the university,” Edwards said. “Students get to learn about ways to become more sustainable through improvements in our living environment helping the university become a leader in sustainability.”

Starting this fall, Quinnipiac began offering a bachelor of science in environmental science, a bachelor of arts in sustainability and environmental policy and a bachelor of arts — co-major, which is a double degree — in environmental studies

“Another example is the commitment to the education piece, so learning is a big part of our plan and the fact that the university created two new majors and a co-major started this year, that’s huge,” Edwards said. 

Massaro said being able to communicate, speak out about problems on campus and stay involved with online updates are key parts in improving the sustainability at Quinnipiac. 

“I’m hoping in the future, there will be better communication with facilities staff and around these other initiatives, I think right now you can be more mindful about your waste when you’re approaching a waste station,” Massaro said.