Sustainability Interns bring big green initiatives to life

By on October 16, 2018

By Carly Williamson —

The University of Louisville Sustainability Council says free “pop-up” stores and food pantries will help U of L meet the council’s zero-waste initiative goals, while also meeting student needs.

These services will provide free clothing and food to students and encourage wasteless living.

By treating the campus as a “living lab” ripe for the opportunity to engage students, U of L’s Zero-Waste intern Erin Kurtz said the council can make complex and sometimes intimidating concepts a practical reality for students.

Kurtz said she wants to bring the established Free Store, located in Unitas Tower, to students by making parts of the store mobile. One rack, filled with hanging clothes, will be brought to different areas of campus on event days.

All of the Free Store’s items have been donated to be reused, instead of being trashed. Kurtz said the free, repurposed items help students and provide the opportunity for a conversation about green-living.

“Events like these allow me to engage with students one-on-one and explain what we are and why we do what we do,” Kurtz said.

Kurtz and Sustainability Communications Intern Henrietta Ransdell co-founded the University of Louisville chapter of the Food Recovery Network. The organization addresses food waste on campuses across America.

U of L’s chapter sprouted its roots when the interns started collecting uneaten bagels from Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Soon bigger projects followed. The group started collecting leftovers to be redistributed instead of thrown out, including all 2018 Summer Orientation sessions.

Kurtz said the group has collected “well over” 1,000 pounds of food so far in 2018.

The interns both said they are looking to expand the Food Recovery Network’s membership and are in the process of starting a recurring collection from the Starbucks’ on campus.

As food collection increases, the group’s distribution process needs to be upgraded to best put it to use. Thus, the interns turned their attention to the creation of Free Food Pantries.

The proposed pantries would continue the previous process of collecting leftover food from campus dining services at the end of business days and making it available for free to anyone on campus that needs it.

Kurtz said models of successful pantries can be seen at some other Kentucky schools: UK, EKU and WKU. She said it’s time for U of L to address a need within its student body.

“Since we’re rated as the most sustainable public university in Kentucky, it seems as though we really should be doing our part as well. We need to take care of our students,” Kurtz said.

The council aims to meet zero-waste goals through other programs as well, such as providing reusable to-go containers in the Ville Grille and ten-cent discounts for using reusable cups.

Ransdell said she hopes that these new programs, big and small, will get students thinking about sustainability in a new way.

“Students have great access to information and resources on sustainability here at U of L, but may not always pursue it or know where to start,” Ransdell said.

Kurtz said green-thinking can help toward a zero-waste campus, and it’s easiest to start small.

“Zero-waste is an ideal to strive for. It is an end goal. But there are so many small steps to take before getting to that place, and that’s okay. You can’t do everything, but you should do what you can,” Kurtz said.

Graphics By Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal 

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