December 2014

A Campus Waste-Awareness Campaign at Santa Fe Community College


Matt Sherman


In an effort to make at least a small impact in response to climate change, raising awareness about sustainable concepts is crucial and urgent. Like the plastic bag ban in Santa Fe or the sortable waste stations seen in proactive places, trying to do this effectively at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) and other schools means reaching out to youth and the community to get them to think about the impacts of their purchases.


The Solid Waste Act of New Mexico (SWANM) calls for recycling, composting and educational materials and sets a standard of goals for post-secondary institutions. Taking SWANA’s cue, the proposed sortable waste station and an awareness campaign at SFCC would help students understand what the college is doing in this area and set an example of best practices for a better future. Locations such as waste stations, water stations and vending areas are ideal sites to include in this campaign because they are point-of-purchase and distribution into the waste stream areas.


The waste station prototype (see illustration), which was inexpensive to build, allows resources to be sorted, recycled, composted and sent to the landfill. I developed this design as part of a community effort, with support from the student government, student ambassadors, faculty and the Staff Senate, as well as Dean Camilla Bustamante of the Trades and Advanced Technologies Center (TATC), Brenden Crumm, the Tutoring Center and the entire Plant Operations Department. The YouthBuild Group, led by Paul Motsinger, constructed the prototype. Unfortunately, plans for sortable waste stations at SFCC are currently on the shelf, due to financial issues.


A large portion of what goes to the landfill at SFCC is compostable post-consumer waste and waste from the cafeteria. (The Culinary Program already composts.) This can change with some additions to infrastructure, new employees in Plant Operations and getting state certifications for recycling and composting. Establishing campus plans to increase composting would show compliance with the SWANM. Although that statute is not currently enforced, it is a reasonable goal and could become SFCC policy.


Last semester, when the Plastic Bottle Reduction Initiative was passed by the governing board, SFCC President Randy Grissom said that a recycling awareness campaign will start in January. It is essential that policies be established to make the Plastic Bottle Reduction Initiative and the Zero-Waste Resolution effective. Beverages in plastic containers should be replaced with beverages in aluminum cans. Recycling aluminum cans has environmental benefits over plastic and returns more money that could go towards beneficial investments such as scholarships for students studying sustainability. Incentives to walk-the-talk at SFCC would help, such as competing in Recyclemania. Hopefully the new administration under President Grissom will establish some progressive policies.



Matt Sherman, former president of the Biofuels Club, has taken SFCC classes on biofuels, solar-photovoltaics and solar hot water, greenhouse management and computer-assisted design.


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