Tips on Marketing Campus Sustainability

I ran across a recent blog post by Brad McAllister. Brad is a partner and managing director at WAP Sustainability. He is also an adjunct professor of Enterprise Sustainability at the Institute for Sustainable Practice at Lipscomb University and a member of the Climate Project. In his March 9th post, which appeared on the AASHE website, he offers some helpful ideas on how to communicate campus sustainability success stories.

You can find the full post at, but here is a summary of his key points:

Start with the basics and be positive.
Even if you have only taken small steps toward sustainability, celebrate and promote them.

Make your stories relevant your audience.
When speaking to audiences, don’t hesitate to use real-world examples, especially from your personal experience. People grasp concepts better when they are associated with true life stories.

Avoid “greenwashing.”
“Greenwashing” is the practice of exaggerating the eco-friendly benefits of a product or service. People who are committed to sustainability can spot eco spin marketing in an instant.

Don’t ignore social media
While some of us think email is still “really cool,” the fact is that the current student population has adopted new modes of receiving and accepting messages. Be sure these newer communication vehicles are a part of your marketing plan.

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You Can Be a (Sustainability) STAR!

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is an organization of colleges, universities, government and business partners. AASHE provides resources and training to help colleges incorporate sustainability in all areas of its operations.

One of the tools AASHE provides is The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System™ (STARS). STARS is a self-reporting structure to help schools measure their progress toward sustainability. STARS includes incentives for continual improvement and innovation. It also emphasizes collaboration over competition by encouraging schools to share best practices.

There are three primary categories of STARS credits: Education and Research, Operations, and Planning, and Administration & Engagement. Credits can be earned in the fourth category of Innovation as well.

Foodservice management falls under Category 2 – Operations. Credits can be earned for sustainable activities in food purchasing and waste reduction. Syracuse University, for example, won the AASHE 2009 Campus Sustainability Leadership Award. Use of Eco-Takeouts™ was cited as one of many factors in Syracuse’s selection.

Are you ready to be a STAR? Find out more about the AASHE STARS program at and about implementing reusable containers at

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Most likely you’ve heard about the three R’s; reduce, reuse, recycle. As children, this concept is drilled into our heads, yet as adults, these simple guidelines seem to go right out the window. Waste management is a serious issue in the United States. The EPA estimates that each year, we dispose of 232 million tons of trash, much of which can be avoided entirely.

Below is a graph displaying a solid waste management hierarchy. Source Reduction is the most preferred tier, followed by reuse, recycling, and finally incineration and the landfill. Often people focus on the recycling tier, forgetting that reuse and ultimately source reduction are where we should direct our attention.

The Solid Waste Management Hierarchy

Individuals who lived through the Great Depression understand the concept of reduction and reuse all too well. As our nation has become more affluent, our waste per capita has increased exponentially. This is due, in part, to the influx of single-use, disposable products. The other side of this coin is simply that we can afford to waste. Over time, our behavior and social systems have changed to match these trends.

A classic example of this shift is the demise of the reusable milk jug. Not so long in the past, milk was delivered to the home daily in a reusable bottle. The used bottles were collected, sanitized, and filled again. This process of reuse was a part of daily life.

Social systems are a moving target. Change is a constant, yet we are the creators of the systems and therefore, have the ability to control the direction. Just as we can steer away from reusable milk jugs, we can shift the other way and adopt new systems to combat our waste issues.

The Eco-Takeouts™ provide a great example of a reusable system that fits within the framework of modern life. These reusable containers operate in a closed loop system. Through either automation or exchange tokens, Eco-Takeouts™ can be checked out of the dining environment and then returned later for sanitization and refilling. This process of reuse not only keeps waste out of the landfills, but also reduces the total amount of resources used to produce single use containers.

As we continue to pursue sustainability concepts, we should remind ourselves that source reduction and reuse are where the maximum benefits can be obtained. Although we can engineer all sorts of solutions to manage our waste and environmental problems, the easier path is to change our behavior and design systems that promote sustainability.

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Eco-Takeouts Reach Qatar!

Eco-Takeouts™ in Qatar!

The Eco-Takeouts™, a series of reusable to-go containers, have now spread to the country of Qatar. In August of 2010, the Qatar Foundation adopted the Eco-Takeouts™ throughout Education City. Education City houses ten higher education institutions, eight of which are branch campuses of US-based universities. These include Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill-Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, and Northwestern University.

Christopher Silva, the Sustainability Education Coordinator for the Qatar Foundation, reported that approximately 700 of the 2,000 students at Education City use the Eco-Takeouts™. The reaction so far has been positive. “I have seen the container utilized in various events and some institutions have agreed to not offer Styrofoam containers in their cafeterias anymore,” Silva reports.

Although the initial launch was successful, Silva recognizes that it is “still a young initiative and logistically challenging, as we have eight higher education institutions in our campus, each one with its own operations.”

In today’s world, it is encouraging to see global solutions to common issues, such as waste. From the United States to Qatar, the Eco-Takeouts™ provide an effective, yet simple solution to reduce waste and develop new, eco-friendly habits.

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