Interview with Natalia Koga
Through the Green Outlet Program, students and staff can recycle materials that cannot go into single-stream recycling, and would otherwise go to the landfill. The Program consists of six compartment waste collection systems that are placed in the reslife offices. Using the compartments we collect batteries, ink cartridges, air cushions, writing instruments, water filters, and electronic waste. Once the bins are full, the Econauts team in HDH will then collect the waste and source the waste properly for disposal.
When I was coming up with this project, I had done hours of research, looking at the factors that contribute to recycling. I had researched different processes and programs in other countries like Sweden, for example, and tried to understand what they have done to make it more compelling for people to mitigate their trash. I found that there were two major factors impacting an individual’s will to recycle–availability and time. If the resource isn’t there to collect or source items, it becomes very hard to even think to properly mitigate non-recyclable items. Those who are more aware and passionate about sustainability might look for outside sources, but most people aren’t aware so they won’t know to look.
The second issue is time. Time is precious, and if it requires a person to go “out of the way,” it’s inconvenient. UC San Diego, in fact, has many resources to collect these items already, but because they’re in specific locations spread around campus, it’s inconvenient for most students. More so, these locations are less known because they’re not the center of student involvement.
So that’s when I thought about making some sort of system that will be more convenient and more readily available at locations centered around student involvement. I was inspired by the Sustainability Resource Center‘s bin collection in their office, and I wanted to take what they did and apply it for HDH housing, the department that I worked for. Thereafter, it wasn’t long before I created a proposal, sorting out all the details and limitations that I then proposed to my manager.
After my proposal was accepted, it didn’t take long to get the project off the ground and into reslife offices. The program exists in two reslife offices so far, Revelle and the Village. We hope to be able to have the program bins in every reslife office, and maybe even one day spread to other departments. This waste does not have a place inside our landfills and cannot be easily diverted here on campus. This project’s objectives is to provide closer outlets to students for proper disposal of particular waste, to promote utilization of resources on campus, and to promote sustainable practices.
I actually have passed this project along to another team member of mine, as I decided to depart the Econaut‘s team to pursue other goals. With that said, I am so excited to see where the Econauts take the program and I hope students will get to hear more about what the Econauts at HDH do because they’re doing great things!
My message to students would be to stay aware of how their waste systems work and stay mindful about how their practices affect the community. Every person’s actions are a contribution to a bigger cause, in some way or another. A person’s trash doesn’t end when they toss it in a bin–it lives to another place, another landfill, another ocean. The initiative to be more sustainable and a waste-free campus starts with us, the people. And I hope with the Green Outlet Program, it will help others to change where their contribution leads.