SP0138: Laird Hall Zero-Waste Project

Status: COMPLETED Winter 2015 - Winter 2017

In 2013, Laird Hall made great strides towards implementing a culture of recycling and composting among its residents. Now in 2015, this SPF project aims to continue the stakeholder participation process so that participatory waste management can become institutionalised at Laird Hall, and see that the students who participate will go forth with a more sustainable attitude towards waste management at McGIll.

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Waste management at Laird Hall Residence is a complex issue involving a variety of stakeholders; students, janitors, and management staff. In the past, waste management improvements (such as the introduction of recycling and composting options) have been sporadic, driven mainly by the level of student motivation in the current year. These changes have generally failed to consider all the stakeholders involved in waste management, and it has been challenging to make institutionalize waste reduction and waste stream diversion. 

Today, recycling and composting options are available to all students in Laird Hall, but they have not yet reached the level of institutionalisation and cultural acceptance of the ubiquitous trash can. Some of the challenges to this are that: recycling and composting containers are generally less accessible and numerous than garbage cans; recycling bins are removed for 24-48 hour periods for pickup; and composting services come to a complete halt in the summer, breaking any composting habits that students have acquired over the year. It is therefore not too surprising that the previous waste audit of Laird Hall showed that the waste stream consisted of 78% recyclable and compostable materials. 

CERES and Gorilla Composting have been actively addressing this situation over the past years, including as a past SPF grant. This spring, we organised two waste management stakeholder luncheons during which management, students, and janitorial staff discussed the barriers to successful waste reduction. The group received a rich feedback of potential actions, both at the infrastructure and at the education scale, and after various stakeholder consultations and waste audits, composting bin pick-up was institutionalized by Laird Hall in fall 2013. 

This SPF application requests funding for two distinct themes: 1) to implement the stakeholder-identified solutions from the previous consultations, and 2) to continue the stakeholder participation process so that participatory waste management can become institutionalised at Laird Hall. The first, in particular, includes: the installation of three-way compost-recycling-garbage bins in all kitchens to give equal access all three streams; the purchase of compostable paper bags to facilitate janitorial cleaning of the compost containers; and an educational campaign upon residence move-in to maximise the benefits of the new infrastructure. 

Since Laird hall houses a large portion of the U0 and U1 students, the desired outcome of cultivating a culture of sustainable waste management will contribute to improved waste management on the rest of the campus as well.  Throughout this project, the approximately 250 people who live in the Laird Hall residence each year will be exposed to sustainable options and thinking, influencing nearly 1,000 students over the course of 4 years. 

SPF funding will be used to purchase the necessary materials for the project (bins, bags, salaries and event and educational material); costs which will, over time, be transitioned over the residence and students. The SPF funding will allow us to overcome the initial high investment costs, especially of the bins, as the programme becomes institutionalised. 

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  Laird Hall Residence

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Laird Hall Residence

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sunayana.sashikumar [at] mail.mcgill.ca (Sunayana Sashikumar)

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