Sustainability at Westridge:
One year later, how are we doing?
It’s been one year since the Commons began its sustainability efforts. In an attempt to become more environmentally aware, Westridge removed all plastic bottles, lids, and straws from the Commons and replaced them with greener alternatives. Spyglass decided to check back in with the community and ask, “How successful has Westridge been in maintaining a more sustainable campus?”
Brandon Worrell, Director of Dining Services, spoke positively about last year’s transition toward more environmentally-friendly products. “I think it was a good time to make a change [to the Commons], with me being a new staff member, alongside people that were very enthusiastic about making those changes.” Worrell joined the Westridge community in 2018.
Students have been especially proactive in regards to environmental awareness on campus, holding numerous assemblies last year in order to raise awareness on the topic. “I believe that students were the ones who really pushed us to make the change,” said Worrell.
After hosting an on-campus screening of A Plastic Ocean last year, the Commons took full initiative to switch to biodegradable and compostable utensils and kitchenware. “At first, I was a bit frustrated because I didn’t like bringing an open cup around school, but I understood that the environment is more important than my need to not spill iced coffee all over myself,” Lucy J. ’22 explained. For the first month, these changes were met with slight backlash from the students, but they eventually grew accustomed to them.
This year, new improvements in sustainability have been dramatic. Since May of last year, the Commons’ to-go supplies have been almost fully compostable, reducing overall waste production. “I would say [the trash reduction rate has] got to be close to half the amount of what we’ve been doing,” said Worrell.
Although these results have been proven effective, the cost has been a major pitfall. “We actually have to pay our trash company more money because they have a completely separate truck that picks up compost. It’s different trash cans, and all those cost money,” Worrell revealed.
Westridge’s Green Representative and head of the Green Guerillas club on campus, Monika L. ’20, still thinks the benefits outweigh the costs.“I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. ... I saw people go out of their way to find the green composting bins, which I think is the biggest part.”
The changes in the Commons have brought a new awareness to composting and reducing waste. “[They] have made me aware of how compost works. Before, I thought you could compost any fruit or vegetable, but the new system at Westridge has brought attention to what things we can compost,” Lola B. ’23 stated.
The improvements to Westridge’s sustainability also come from the efforts students are willing to provide to reduce waste. “It all depends on the person and whether or not you make the effort,” said Vivan L. ’20. “We’re so used to using these things that are not good for the environment, that it’s hard to make a change.”
Although the Commons has been making huge strides in order to reduce waste, some students are less concerned about using the correct bins. “It’s not on the way to my classes, so I’m just too lazy to throw it in the right bin,” Emma T. ’23 explained. “I try to compost, but there aren’t enough composting bins for convenience.”
Going forward, the Commons hopes to install a dishwasher for student use, in order to encourage them to bring their own reusable kitchenware from home. “If possible, I would like to see the Commons completely cutting out single-use plastic and paper products,” said Corina D. ’21.
Whether or not the Commons sustainability initiative goes as far as it can or should, one thing is clear: students are leading the charge on-campus sustainability, and the Commons has already begun to respond to their concerns and requests. In many ways, the Commons sustainability initiatives are evidence of students feeling empowered to push for change in their own communities, and from the looks of it, they’ll continue to do so. “I feel like from what I’ve seen, [the Commons] is doing about as good as they can with the resources that they have,” shared Julia S. ’21.