Humber College’s sustainability team saved 100,000 single-used containers from landfill through their O2GO program and low-waste event spaces, driving the campus to a net zero future.
Sustainability is one of Humber’s six values as their goal is to be a national leader, in developing sustainable campuses. This is reflected through their efforts to decrease the amount of single-use plastic on campus.
The O2GO program and low-waste event spaces give students the opportunity to reduce the use of disposable containers by allowing them to purchase their meals in reusable containers and creating spaces where no single-use items can be used to serve food.
Members of Humber’s Office of Sustainability realized that one of the main items found in the waste bins on campus are single-use containers. Not only are these containers adding to the billions of plastics in landfill sites, they also raise the problem of improper recycling due to the food that remains stuck in them.
Environmentalist Sofia Chorniy says “one of the key challenges we face in Canada when it comes to waste separation is the fact that many of our recycling programs are single-stream, which means that different types of materials are collected together.”
Although this has benefits like simplicity for the users, it contributes to a higher level of contamination of collected materials, which leads them to be sent to landfills instead of being saved to be repurposed.
To reduce the amount of contamination in recycling, care needs to be taken to ensure the cleanliness of the items being disposed of in the recycling. Although this may be possible in our homes, it is not likely for students to wash out every food packaging item they use in order to recycle it properly, making OZZI containers and low-waste event spaces the perfect solution.
The O2GO program gives students the opportunity to purchase their meals in reusable containers without having to clean them after use.
To participate in the O2GO program, individuals pay a $10 deposit and then receive their meals in containers. After they’re done and return the container to the O2GO machine to be sanitized, they will receive a token that can be exchanged for a new one at their next meal.
The O2GO program is available in the Street Café and Residence.
It is estimated that if students use the O2GO machine for three meals every week, each individual can save 96 single-use containers from landfill every school year.
Chroniy says “over the last few years, human-induced climate change is the largest, most pervasive threat to the natural environment and societies the world has ever experienced. Plastic contributes to climate change through many different ways varying from deforestation to building refineries and emission of greenhouse gasses during production.”
Chroniy believes that the most efficient way for students to be a part of the solution is to bring their own reusable water bottles, and try to bring their lunch in containers!
“An important point to remember is that reducing waste can actually be good for your health too,” says Chroniy.
Not only does this benefit the environment but it’s healthy as well.
Food stored in plastic, as well as the plastic lining in coffee cups, can contribute to our exposure to harmful chemicals that interfere with the function of our bodies. So ideally by choosing glass or stainless steals over plastic ware, we can avoid these chemicals.
Abir Zaidi, a digital marketing student at the University of Guelph-Humber and environmental activist says she’s proud of the school’s efforts to help be a part of the change.
“The majority of the time, we think universities and colleges do everything for money but for once it feels like they are actually doing something selfless,” she says eating from her reusable container.
Zaidi says that she brings her reusable water bottle with her every day and hopes that the school’s café can stop using single-use plastic for baked goods such as brownies.
Associate Director of Sustainability, Lindsay Walker, says that the O2GO machines are used daily as the campus is almost 100 per cent reusable containers.
Now that the Office of Sustainability has a successful start to the O2GO machines and their low-waste event spaces, they are hoping to eventually phase out all plastic items on campus and target cups next. Walker says they plan to offer a reusable cup option or a better discount for individuals who bring their own mug.
The Office of Sustainability’s next step to drive the campus to a net zero future is their large campus heating and cooling retrofit which is going to reduce the carbon emission on campus by a really significant amount. Walker says “groundbreaking is in spring 2023.”
The future at Humber looks cleaner and healthier thanks to the Office of Sustainabilities efforts.