Students Test How Little Trash They Can Produce During Zero-Waste Week

NYU’s Office of Sustainability challenged students to go green for the week.


Tony Wu

People picking up recycled clothing at the Zero Waste Week Clothing Swap event hosted by [email protected] on Tuesday. The clothes are collected from the public during the past week. (Photo by Tony Wu)

Shanti Escalante, Contributing Writer

This week, the Office of Sustainability held its third annual Zero-Waste Week. During this week, students are invited to sign up for the Zero Waste Challenge, submit their art to a “Zero-Waste Art Exhibition” and attend different events geared toward making students think more about the amount of garbage they produce.

Students who sign up for the the Zero-Waste Challenge must put all of their non-recyclable trash in a plastic bag they have to carry for an entire week.

Assistant Manager of the Office of Sustainability Sophie Golomb said that when she curates events for Zero-Waste Week, the goal is to create awareness about an otherwise obscure subject. The Zero-Waste Challenge is one way in which students can learn more about the waste they produce, and how they can lessen their impact on the environment.

“The main point of the challenge … is to encourage participants to engage more intimately and talk more frequently about their waste, which is an otherwise taboo and hidden topic,” Golomb said. “The bags have stickers on them that say ‘Ask me: What’s in the Bag?,’ explicitly encouraging dialogue.”

Gallatin senior and Office of Sustainability employee Katherine Facchini both organizes and participates in the challenge.

“It’s my third time doing it so I’ve kind of figured it out,” Facchini said. “I’m pretty good about waste. I recycle most things.”

Facchini said that it’s her increased knowledge about recycling that allowed her to produce less waste in the challenge. She stressed that many NYU community members don’t know how to recycle correctly.

At the end of the week-long Zero-Waste Challenge, students will come together to weigh the trash they’ve produced in the last seven days, talk about what surprised them during this experience and discuss strategies for how to create less trash in the future. Facchini mentions that many students end up discovering how much they can actually recycle.

Some students worry, however, that Zero-Waste Week isn’t reaching a large portion of NYU’s student body. When asked, Tisch junior Cass Due said she didn’t know what Zero-Waste Week was.

“I’ve never seen anything about Zero-Waste [week] at Tisch, and I don’t really go to [the Kimmel Center for University Life], either,” Due said. “Maybe if they spread the events around campus more people would know about it.”

However, Golomb emphasized that the level of participation has increased substantially since the challenge’s inception three years ago.

“When we piloted [the Zero-Waste Challenge] two years ago, we had 30 participants,” Golomb said. “This year we have 190. That’s pretty exciting.”

Email Shanti Escalante at [email protected].