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UWS students raise awareness of campus trash

University of Wisconsin-Superior students Kirsten Nevin, left, and Sam Smith, center, point out items that promote sustainability in a display set up by environmental ethics students Thursday, May 9, in Swenson Hall. Looking on is classmate Blake Desmond. (Maria Lockwoood / 1 / 2
UWS students from the environmental ethics class pose under bags of garbage set up to simulate the amount of waste one student produces each year Thursday, May 9, in Swenson Hall at UWS. (Maria Lockwood / / 2

Garbage bags hung from the second floor of Swenson Hall on Thursday, May 9, simulating 204 pounds of trash, the amount of waste an average University of Wisconsin-Superior student produces in a year. The display was created by students in the Environmental Ethics class, who focused their final project on raising awareness of waste on campus.

"We brainstormed a couple ideas and we realized that we saw a lot of trash around campus and it seemed like way too much and it seemed like people weren't recycling," junior Sam Smith said. "We wanted to do some research on it."

It was an eye-opening project.

"One thing that surprised me a lot was that UWS produces 1,475 pounds of garbage a day," freshman Nadia Henegar said. "To me, that's just an insanely large number. That's just one day on campus."

They found that the average UWS student produces more garbage more than the average college student — 62 pounds more. Smith said much of that could be food container waste, as most college students don't prepare their own meals.

"You see at the end of the day on any given day there's tons of trash cans that are just full of these containers and food waste," Smith said.

Another problem was caused by building layout. The students pointed out the numerous garbage cans scattered through the first floor of Swenson Hall. There was a single recycling bin, set in a central spot against a wall.

"The trash is a lot more visible and it's more convenient," Smith said. "It's a lot closer to places people congregate."

That could lead to many recyclables ending up in the trash, the students said.

The class pooled their own items for a table display encouraging sustainability: to-go mugs, reusable straws, mouthwash tablets and bar shampoo, both in recyclable containers.

"Collectively, we're already trying to be as sustainable as we can, but now, we brought our ideas together as a whole so we can learn from each other and become more sustainable," Henegar said.

Staff and students were encouraged to share their own waste-reducing ideas on a whiteboard and sheet of paper. They included alternate transportation — walking, biking or carpooling — as well as shutting off unneeded lights, learning to cook, shopping at thrift stores, beeswax food wraps, planting seeds and composting.

Senior Kirsten Nevin said some of the items and ideas were new to her, and that the display got a lot of attention between classes.

"I think most people go through their day not thinking about the things that they're throwing away and stuff. I know that I didn't before I started looking into this," Heneger said. "Once you realize it, you want to act. We just want people to start realizing it."