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Group aims to expand ‘Zero Waste’ initiative in Ohio State’s off-campus area


Ohio State has been recognized for its environmentally friendly program at Ohio Stadium, but one Office of Energy and Environment student assistant said the litter in OSU’s off-campus areas does not reflect a commitment to recycling.

“We have ‘Zero Waste’ at the stadium on gamedays, and then we have people throwing cans in their yards just blocks away,” said Kara Federico, a fourth-year in political science. “I feel like it’s a bad reflection on being a Buckeye.”

The Zero Waste initiative is a recycling program that has been in place at the stadium since the fall of 2011. Zero waste means at least 90 percent of waste is diverted from landfills by being recycled or composted.

To combat litter in the residential areas surrounding OSU, Federico helped form a off-campus recycling task force recently, which is comprised of multiple student and outside organizations.

“Our long-term goal is a shifting of the campus culture,” she said. “So creating an off-campus community that’s concerned about the environment as well as their community in general.”

After repeatedly seeing litter on her daily walk to work from her off-campus residence, Federico began discussing the issue in her office and decided she wanted to work on a long-term solution. She reached out to Abby Mackey, the sustainability director for Undergraduate Student Government, and the two developed the idea for the task force.

There are currently student representatives from six organizations including USG, the Office of Energy and Environment and environmentally-focused groups like Students for Recycling involved with the task force. It currently has no funding or budget and plans to use events already planned by the individual student organizations as opportunities to hand out informational flyers, Federico said.

Mackey, a third-year in environmental policy and decision-making, said the groups were all concerned about off-campus littering, but a “lack of communication” had stopped them from sharing their goal previously. The task force, though, is allowing them to support each other’s efforts, ensure resources are not being wasted through overlapping efforts and share ideas and connections.

“Each group has their own resources, and brings something to the table. Like USG has a lot of connections with the administration, while (Federico’s) office has a lot of connections with student groups,” Mackey said.

Federico said while the task force plans to attend events held by members’ organizations, such as cleanups to pick up off-campus litter, the role of the task force won’t be event-oriented.

“We really want to make this a long-term change … and events tend to express more of a short-term change,” she said.

Instead, the task force will focus on educating the off-campus community about the downsides of litter, as well as about ways to keep to the area clean. It also plans to help make recycling options more available to students, including encouraging with landlords to provide more recycling bins to their tenants. The task force reached out to RecyColumbus, the city’s residential recycling program through the Department of Public Service that uses tax dollars to provide recycling carts and pickup services to all single-family households, to get more ideas, Federico said.

Amanda Amsel, an account manager from the public relations firm MurphyEpson that represents RecyColumbus, does community outreach for the program and recently joined the task force.

“Ohio State is so big; there’s so much opportunity for (recycling). It’s just a matter of getting everyone on board,” Amsel said.

Amsel said she has a “hands-on” position on the task force, including writing press releases for future initiatives.

The task force has met once so far, and Federico said members are still “formulating how we are going to go about achieving our long-term goals.”

“Our purpose is not just getting students to think, ‘Oh, I’m not littering because I’m not supposed to,’” she said. “But ‘I’m not going to litter because I really care about my community and the environment.’”

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