Have you ever heard of Dumpster Diving?

January 8, 2009 1:48 pm

by Dawn Quirk

Two friends decide to not buy any things for three months. They dumpster dive all of their clothes, food, electronics, art materials, etc.

Dumpster Dive, Reuse/DIY, Uncategorized

Trash Audit at Fletcher

December 17, 2008 1:52 pm


by Dawn Quirk

Two days before exams were scheduled to begin, Fletcher School’s trash was examined by Tufts Recycles and barely received an average grade. About 30% by weight of Fletcher’s trash was actually recyclable. This includes paper (18.5%) and commingled glass, metal, and plastic (10.7%). With all that paper in the trash, maybe students need to cut back on the studying and save some trees! The trash sort also revealed a serious eating problem. About 90% of the trash that was not recyclable was compostable! This includes cups, napkins, and some food waste from the numerous functions held in the building. Composting, which is done in dining halls on campus, could be a possibility in Fletcher as well. Until then, if you’re going to eat or study, please reduce and reuse, and especially recycle.

Trash Audits, Uncategorized

Rethinking Disposables: An Oceanic Wake Up Call

December 1, 2008 1:54 pm


by Dawn Quirk

Returning from Hawaii to California, Ocean Researcher Charles Moore came across a terrifying sight: everyday for one week he saw trash as far as the eye could see from the deck of his research vessel. He conjectures that this polluted area exists from just off the coast of China to within a few hundred miles of California’s edge, which would make it at least 5 million square miles, about one-and-a-half times the size of the United States! Most of the debris was plastic, and Moore and his associates believe that it was washed down rivers into the Pacific Ocean, carried by currents past Central America, by the Phillipines, and on to Japan, picking up more waste all along the way and finally getting stuck in the no man’s land between North America and Asia. Judith Selby Lang, an artist who has been collecting pounds of trash that have washed up on San Francisco beaches, astutely notes “We call things disposable, disposable lighters, disposable this, disposable that. But when we toss it away, it’s not really gone, and it’s not really gone for a long, long time. Everything ends up somewhere.” If the area is as big as Moore speculates, total clean-up seems nearly impossible. The U.S. government began a few research studies, and in the meantime had encouraged voluntary beach cleanup, but the funding has been moderate thus far. The solution to the heart of the problem begins, above all, with the first of the three R’s: reduce, then reuse, and, very importantly, recycle. Nothing is truly disposable.

Litter, Uncategorized

Paper Recycling IS A BIG Deal

November 17, 2008 1:57 pm

by Dawn Quirk

If you were one of the people standing around the big tree on the President’s Lawn trying to save it from the phantom saw, you’re probably feeling pretty irritated since finding out the whole event was a hoax. If you didn’t go, you’re laughing at the people who were there. Regardless, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it? (And no, we don’t mean the “organizer’s” thought of, “Hahaha, wouldn’t it be funny if we made a bunch of well-meaning students look gullible?”) There are real ways to save trees without this potential embarrassment.

While discussing this topic with a friend, I asked him what he thought of as the easiest way to save trees. Without a moment’s hesitation, he suggested mass murder of lumberjacks. (At this point, I made an excuse about having a lot of homework, and quickly exited.) While this method would certainly get conservation into the news, actually the easiest way to save trees is to recycle! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. You don’t even need to leave your dorm or commit manslaughter. Why should you make sure you recycle all of your paper? Think about this: one ton of non-recycled office paper uses twenty-four trees. This means that one package of five hundred sheets, which probably lasts the average Tufts student one month, uses 6% of a tree. This might not sound like much, but multiply that by five thousand students, and the undergraduate body is cutting down thirty trees per month just for printing in their dorms! Think about this next time you print out another picture of Sarah Palin to tape to the ceiling over your roommate’s bed. At least print it out on the back of a class handout you never read. Double-sided printing saves you money, saves trees, and points out to your professors that you’re environmentally responsible. Next time you’re buying paper, make sure to buy at least 30% recycled printer paper, and consider buying sketchbooks made from alternative materials, such as hemp. While we’re on the subject, remember to recycle the box board inserts in packaging, all cereal boxes, juice cartons, and envelopes (even those with plastic address windows.)


Here’s another statistic to consider: more than one hundred million trees are logged in America to produce junk mail. While we hope you will recycle the odd copy of Toscano (your number one source for bizarre lawn ornaments) that shows up in your Tufts mailbox, why not save yourself the trouble by taking a minute to get yourself off of their mailing list? Most magazines and other mailings have a number on the back that you can call to ask to be removed from the mailing list. Don’t stop with your Tufts mail; it’s nearly the holidays, and your family at home is probably being flooded with catalogs as you read this. While you’re home for Thanksgiving, take a break from the awkward conversations with your distant relatives to tackle that stack of magazines.

You might believe that paper recycling isn’t a big deal because of tree farming, which supposedly reduces pressure on natural forests. This idea itself is now being questioned because the trees produced by most tree farms are used for different purposes than those logged from forests. Further, forests have to fall or agricultural land must be taken over before a tree farm can be established. This is not only damaging to ecosystems around the world, but often disrupts rural communities. Paper mills usually aren’t built until several years after a tree farm is planted, so while companies can claim that they are creating jobs, often people are forced to abandon their communities before the new jobs arrive. By recycling, you’re not only saving trees, but you’re discouraging the destruction of rural communities around the world. Please support trees that can’t get a man in a banana suit to sit in their branches and advocate for them with a megaphone!



Paper, Uncategorized

Going Postal? Just “Read, Respond, Recycle.”

November 4, 2008 2:01 pm


by Dawn Quirk

A new twist on the three R’s, the U.S. Postal Service is making it easier for customers across the country to recycle their mail. The program places recycling bins in Post Office lobbies, requesting that customers read their mail, respond to it when necessary, and place the rest into recycling bin. Postmaster General John Potter explains the basic idea, without frills or gimmicks: “The message today is simple. Mail is recyclable…We are committed to helping consumers ‘go green’ through a comprehensive approach to mail production, delivery and recycling that helps create a sustainable future for generations to come.” Sounds like a bin-bin situation.



October 7, 2008 2:13 pm

by Dawn Quirk


Last month, Greenpeace released photos of a large stockpile of logs. It is an ugly picture, but hardly shocking for someone from Sweden, used to seeing logging trucks and trains whizz past. The logs’ origin and destiny is what makes the photos truly horrendous. Their origin is the Ogoki Forest, a region of the ancient Boreal Forest in Canada. Their destiny? The trash.According to Greenpeace, the stockpiles of ancient trees will be turned into pulp, and then turned into the paper products sold by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Kimberly-Clark owns many of the world’s most popular brands of disposable paper products intended for personal use, including Kleenex and Scott products.

In their July 2008 sustainability report, Kimberly-Clark claimed that most of their fiber comes from byproducts of the logging process, including chips and sawdust. These photos paint a different picture. Greenpeace gives further evidence of Kimberly-Clark’s forestry mismanagement with Canadian government data, which shows that Kimberly-Clark’s insatiable demand is causing logging to push even further into the virgin Ogoki region. This is especially devastating because the forest is the delicate habitat of the endangered woodland caribou.

However, the worst part of the trees’ story is its tragically abrupt end. From their pulp, Kimberly-Clark will make some paper products that are used less than a minute, and rarely more than a couple of seconds. Their tissues and toilet paper are designed to be thrown away directly after use. That such old, exceptional trees should have to meet such an end is undignified.

The question now becomes, what can you do about it? First of all, if this tragic tale has made you upset, don’t reach for that tissue box! The fact that people are buying these tissues is the key to a much larger problem. Therefore, first ask yourself if you really need to use disposable paper products, or if you can easily substitute reusable ones, like cloth handkerchiefs. If you decide to continue- an understandable choice in the case of toilet paper – insist on using only products made with recycled content and sustainable wood, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). You may chose to follow this simple advice on your own, or make your voice heard by supporting the campaign at

This leads me to wonder, does Tufts indirectly support Kimberly-Clark mismanagement by buying their products? What products do Tufts students really use? This deserves closer inspection…

Paper, Uncategorized

“My fork is made of corn?”

September 15, 2008 2:18 pm

by Kelsey Schur
Surprised statements like this peppered the hubbub of the largest orientation events this year, when Tufts Dining, Facilities, the Office of Sustainability and TuftsRecycles! introduced composting to the massive freshman feasts. New signs about composting decorated disposal stations that featured newly painted green composting barrels. Many students, parents, and faculty were impressed by Tufts’ admirable effort to be green, but this massive waste-reducing feat was by no means easy to pull off.Anyone pushing his way through the masses of new students, their parents, and Tufts staff snagging a free meal could see that people are generally uneducated about composting. The staff and volunteers helping diners compost predicted that people would be confused by the bio-degradable tableware most of all. They were surprisingly wrong. Many people were in fact confused about whether food or plastic bottles or both could be composted, despite the clearly labeled recycling bins meant to catch plastic bottles and brightly colored signs spelling out in pictures that paper, certain tableware, and food, including meat, could all be composted. After Matriculation Lunch, staff spent hours pulling plastic bottles and caps out of the bags of compost. At the Food Fair, many yellow-shirted compost staff and volunteers could be seen half-submerged in the trash and compost bins, sorting out waste that had been incorrectly disposed. They did their best to instruct the people who came to their waste stations, but as soon as a worker turned her back on the barrels to help someone, another would throw a bio-degradable plate heaped with compost-worthy food into the trash.

At the Freshman Banquet, an unforeseen obstacle disrupted what otherwise would have been a much less complicated composting effort. After all of the new students had filed away from the event chattering about that bizarre Jumbo video that seems to disturb first years at every orientation, volunteers cleared each table and composted as they’d been instructed. Tufts Dining had joined in by making an effort to ensure all of the food and materials it used could be composted, but somehow, butter wrapped in foil made its way onto the tables and generally wasn’t noticed by the compost staff. Foil wrappers cannot be composted, and these tiny intruders made their way into every bag of compost. TuftsRecycles!’s Dawn Quirk, and Tina Woolston, from the Office of Sustainability, spent the evening sorting through every bag of compost, knee-deep in the dumpster searching for these tiny pieces of foil. You might ask, “What’s the big deal over some tiny pieces of foil?” Save That Stuff, the composting company Tufts contracted to take away the orientation events’ compost, wants absolutely no contamination in what it picks up. The company needs to drop off the compost at clients such as Rocky Hill Farm in Saugus, MA, who, in turn sell the dirt made from the compost. Compost-buying customers don’t want to find little pieces of metal in what they’re using to grow their crops and landscape.

Of course, this was frustrating to the staff and interns who spent several weeks preparing to compost at the orientation events. Trash barrels were repainted green and labeled for compost; pickups were coordinated with Save That Stuff; staff were educated; this intern spent several sunny afternoons holed up in a windowless closet in Lewis making signs; an iScreen advertisement was even circulating throughout orientation week. While photographing the composting at the Food Fair, I remember threatening, out of exasperation, to put photos of anyone who erroneously disposed of their food on TuftsLife. I think they knew I was joking. I think.

So now the question is: Should Tufts try to compost at these events or others in the future? Everything discussed up to this point seems to say no. Students were frustrated by the complication of sorting their garbage and generally too distracted to try for more than five seconds; staff and volunteers pulled out their hair with hands covered in sauce and butter, and the involvement of outside vendors with their non-bio-degradable tableware complicated things even further. But on the other hand, orientation composted 1.725 tons of material which now won’t end up in a landfill. Also, even though some students were too impatient to spend time figuring out where to dispose their trash, those who paid attention to the signs and volunteers were educated about composting and enthusiastic that they had the opportunity.

Before making plans for next year, TuftsRecycles! and Facilities will balance the difficulties we experienced this year against the beneficial outcome. At least three-quarters of you reading this Op-Ed probably didn’t know anything about the composting effort because of the zealous way Tufts keeps most upperclassmen away from freshman events, but for those of you who were there (that’s you, first years), consider how your conduct could’ve influenced the outcome or continuation of this effort. If you made an honest effort to compost, good for you! But if you just tossed your plate in the trash while the volunteer wasn’t looking and scurried away with your friends, why did you do that? Were you just afraid of the awkwardness of asking the volunteers how to dispose of your food? Did you think your friends would judge you as stupid or ignorant for asking? Well, if your friends are really that quick to judge, you’ve got some other issues to work out, but is your blooming college social life really more important than the overall well-being of the planet? If the composting effort makes a comeback at future events, TuftsRecycles! will be trying hard to fix the problems we experienced this year and make composting friendlier to you and your fellow students. So in return, make an effort yourself to follow the guidelines and help out the environment.

Composting at Matriculation, Uncategorized

“Recycling Won’t Help the Environment”, Are you sure?

August 7, 2008 2:25 pm

by Dawn Quirk


Ever wonder where you can find real facts about Global Warming and the effects of greenhouse gases on our fragile climate? The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and Eco-Cycle have teamed up to author a comprehensive study that explores the effects of waste prevention and expanding reuse, recycling and composting. With great detail and analysis, the study provides statistics for the future as well as the present. The United States is at fault the most – we account for less than 5% of the world’s population, and at the same time we generate 22% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and consume 30% of the world’s resources, as well as create 30% of the world’s entire waste. It is stunning to think about how much waste is generated on a yearly basis, when compared to just a few decades ago. Single-use plastic products and packaging, which is basically non-recyclable, was a modest 120,000 tons in 1960. Based on the study today that number has grown exponentially with over 12.5 million tons generated per year.

Find out what today’s environmental leaders across the globe are striving towards and explore their plans for tomorrow’s generation. Be informed and grasp the facts. Check out Stop Trashing the Climate.


Recycling and Climate Change, Uncategorized

Greening Your Parents

July 17, 2008 2:27 pm


by Kelsey Schur
Going home after spending three quarters of the year at Tufts can be confusing. Your parents repainted your room “mauve” while you were gone (what the heck is that color supposed to be anyway?), your sister took up the bagpipes, and Mom began practicing Buddhism. This is a lot to deal with, but there’s a basic change from the Tufts lifestyle that I don’t think I was alone in encountering while visiting home. It’s a change that makes the first few days at home very confusing. I was standing in my parents’ kitchen when my brain stalled upon finishing a Coke. What do I do with this empty can? There’s no convenient recycling bin here! In fact, my parents don’t recycle at all! I brought it up my family’s lack of recycling at dinner, and what was their supportive response? Well, my mother said something like, “Oh, honey, we just don’t have time. You have to wash everything when you’re done, and you know how we’re always rushing around,” and my father mumbled something about how little difference it makes if one family recycles or not. Well, this would not do. How do you go about changing the attitudes and behaviors of your own parents? Depending on how your parents respond to being challenged by their kids, try a few of the things I came up with. A good attack is a mixture of information spreading and direct action. My parents are used to aggressive action by me when I’m dissatisfied, but yours may not be, so take care not to insult.

Information is the first and easiest thing to deal with. First of all, many of our parents’ generation think that recyclables need to be perfectly clean to be sent in. This is not true! Everything is broken down and separated at the facility. You don’t need to pull the spines out of your old notebooks, cut out plastic windows in cardboard packaging, rip labels off of cans, or in most cases, remove caps from bottles. As for leftover food, yes you should wash it a bit if it’s a can with bits of catfood or something else that might rot nastily (mostly for your own health), but metals and plastics are put into an incinerator or other process that has no problem dealing with food scraps or a few drops of sticky soda.

Many towns have recycling programs. You should be able to find out how recycling works in your town either through the town website, town hall, or the department of public works. Make sure to find out if your town provides outdoor recycling pick up bins, what day your town picks up, and if there are any special procedures, such as whether you need to bundle your cardboard. Recycling pick-up day is not necessarily the day your trash is hauled away. If you live in a rural area, as my parents do, you may need to drive your recyclables to another facility. The upside to this is that you often get a return for every bottle or unit of paper or cardboard you bring. It’s very easy to bring home $20 for a carload of recyclables!

So now your parents know how to recycle in your town, and they have the right bins. But sometimes information isn’t enough to motivate people. Maybe they’re just too lazy to take things outside to the recycling bins several times a day, or they dislike that landfill of cardboard and cans building up next to the kitchen trash can. Buy them two recycling bins, one for cans and bottles and one for paper and cardboard. Yes, this is money out of your own pocket. But honestly, a trash can from Bed Bath and Beyond is only $5: Mesh Metal Trash Cans Two of these makes $10, which is about the going rate for a pizza around Tufts. Can’t you spare one pizza for the environment? (Alternatively, if you are rolling in money, enjoy superfluous technology and consumerism, or are terrified of soiling your hands, you could invest in this “touchless” recycling wonder: iTouchless Sensor Recycle Center.



Another practical, unasked-for, and inexpensive gift for your parents is a set of reusable grocery bags. Stick a few in the family car or near the grocery list. (The author has found the Hannaford type to be superior – they fold up and snap into a compact 6″ by 4″ rectangle that neatly fits into a purse or glove compartment.)

By far, the best way you can encourage your family to recycle is by setting an example. This is also known as guilt-tripping. (You could also attempt to create a guilt trip by showing them sad pictures of birds with six-pack wrappers around their necks, but unfortunately for PETA, shock value doesn’t always translate into action.) If you bought those recycling bins and reusable grocery bags, make sure that you’re using them! Offer to take out or deliver the recyclables. And while you’re at it with the example-setting, how about biking to town? Okay, if you live in a rural area, fine, I understand if you don’t want to bike twenty miles to work everyday. But if you live in an urban or suburban area, at least try it! You’ll get in shape, work on your tan, and save a ton of money on gas. With this summer’s gas prices, you’ll more than make up for the money you spent on recycling bins and reusable bags (and maybe even afford that touchless recycling bin you’re lusting over…).

So how did it go with my family? Well, I’m not sure how the effects have lasted, that will have to wait until I visit again. Eventually, I was forced to don rubber gloves and go through the kitchen trash to pull out all of the recyclables. It was more than half of the trash! My parents were sufficiently embarrassed by this aggressive example-setting, so I believe they have started recycling. Even if they’re just doing bottles and cans, or just paper and cardboard, when I visit home again, it will mean we made progress. This can be a tough lifestyle change, so if you just tackle one aspect at a time, you will slowly reduce your family’s impact on the environment. Enjoy your time at home this summer, and good luck!

Recycling at Home, Uncategorized

Pack Rat Paradise

June 12, 2008 2:56 pm


by Kelsey Schur

A wall of printers and televisions that would rival the stockroom of Best Buy sits beside the door. Along the back wall are glass vases, wine glasses, and tea sets. Office supplies, at least three dozen Swiffer sweepers and brooms, several hundred plastic hangers, stacks of textbooks and paperbacks, and boxes upon boxes of Ethernet cords, cell phone chargers, and surge protectors crowd the center of the room. Is this an incredibly disorganized Target or Wal-Mart, or a K-mart post bankruptcy? No, this is the Jumbo Drop warehouse on Boston Avenue, where students have been working to sort through everything left behind by their comrades. At least three times a day, someone makes a comment that sounds like, “Jeeeeesh, how can people leave their (insert expensive piece of technology) behind?” or “Won’t this person need this stuff next year?” Anyone can be snide and quip that Tufts students get way too much easy money from their parents, and that’s why they are able to abandon so many expensive or still-useful things every year, but most Tufts students would retort that the majority of their friends are looking at very sparse bank accounts most of the year.

So what’s the real reason students leave so many valuable things behind? Many of my West Coast and Midwestern friends say that they simply can’t carry their things on the plane with them to take them home, and they either don’t want to do the work or pay the money to store their stuff. If one wanted to be positive about it, it could be claimed that Tufts students feel good about leaving their things behind because they know that they will be donated to a good cause. While I rather like that explanation, as a JumboDrop worker I find it hard to believe in all cases. At least half of what we collected this year did not come from the JumboDrop boxes, but from the dorms and apartments that we cleaned out. Most of these objects were not necessarily left with the intention of donation, and were fair game for the janitors to throw away if they cleaned the space before JumboDrop got there. This actually happened this year – JumboDrop was too late to go through one of the Sophia Gordon towers before it was cleaned. How much was wasted because of that?

It is impossible to narrow down the reason why Tufts students routinely leave behind elaborate printers, enormous televisions, and comfortable lounge chairs every year to a single explanation. Likely, it’s a combination of several of the factors mentioned above. However, we can find a way to reduce the amount left behind. Yes, JumboDrop is a great program and certainly helps reduce the waste of reusable things every year, but a lot of what we collect is damaged in the process and then becomes unusable, and there’s no reason that what happened to one of the Sophia Gordon towers this year won’t happen again. You can become an even more responsible recycler by finding other ways to reuse things before they go to the JumboDrop box. Think about what you’ll need next year. Are you sure that you can’t fit those binders into your suitcase? Total up how much you’d spend replacing all of your school supplies in the fall, then compare it with the cost to store them. You will certainly need those things next year. Yes, yes, it’s always thrilling to have new, crisp office supplies every school year (c’mon, we’re all academic nerds here…) but maybe it’s time to leave the exciting September trips to Wal-Mart to buy new folders covered with cute puppies and doe-eyed Barbies in elementary school. You’ll save money, and you’ll be really happy that you did when you’re dying for a pizza next weekend. What if you find out you can’t fit those last few things in your suitcase, and it’s too late to store something? Have an end-of-the-year swap meet with your friends to trade and give away the clothing and other things that you won’t keep. I know many of you would like any excuse to party, and there’s a great one right there. (When TUPD shows up to quiet you down, you can say that you’re saving the environment!)

Ultimately, the goal is to buy fewer new things by reusing what you have and what you can get from your friends. This summer, everyone is lamenting the state of the economy, so what better time to become more conscious of what you don’t need to buy? Before you go out to buy something, think hard about what you already have. Could you put something to a new and creative use? Not only will you save money, but you will help the environment. The majority of waste comes from the creation of an object, so if you don’t buy something new, you reduce that production waste. This is another reason why JumboDrop is a great source if you do need to buy something at the beginning of next year. So please, before you hit the campus bookstore, visit JumboDrop, and if you see a freshman about to get on that bus to Target during orientation, tell them that they can save a lot of money by investigating JumboDrop instead. Next year, think a bit harder about the options for the things you would otherwise donate or heaven forbid, throw away (?!), even and especially when it’s not JumboDrop season. You’ll be saving money and helping the environment at the same time. Sweet deal!

Move-out/R2ePack, Uncategorized
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Pack-A-Dorm is Back

Thursday, April, 13th, 2017, No Comments

Find out how to get free supplies for shipping or storage, and where to bring your donations, recyclables, and trash during move-out.